Fiction · 09/02/2020

A Man in New York Remembering

“Fly, then,” she says.

All quiet. Eyes are on me. The winter says I’ve got three seconds to learn how to float, or she will shrug my life out. At worst, she will go back to the party. The night will then follow her and we won’t know what to do with ourselves. What makes her cruel makes her irresistible.

Everybody on this barren roof knows I will try. An earthquake can take the best of us. Swords, noble knights, a snake bite, or spider venom, all on the wrong side of life. The air will, therefore, take me. I don’t know how to land. Three seconds is a short time to learn the history of flight. I take a small step. My right foot is on the precipice. What I write will erase me.

“İsmail, don’t be ridiculous. Come down.”

“Do something, you idiots.”

“Hanna, what is wrong with you?”

What doesn’t kill the bird also makes it fly, my friends. Somehow, it all comes down to memory. The sparrow knows because the mother sparrow knows. My eyes are shut. My thoughts can speak in another language. I was a stranger with all of them. With her, the conjurer. I’m a foreigner on my own, remembering the wrong men I’ve been. So be it.

“What are you guys staring at? Someone hold him.”

“Step aside.”

“Don’t.”

It’s the space after the period that makes a sentence. My wings are a hurricane. Hanna, give me your hand so I can fly.

+

This is how a new man is made in New York—at night, among friends, with a lot to sacrifice. It’s a long conversation about love and stories and games. We keep in mind that repetitions construct us.

“Was it the language,” she may have asked. “Or the words? Maybe the letters.”

“The end keeps coming back,” I may have said.

She watches, I wilt, the gap between us is farther than I can close. Only a couple of inches from the inevitable plunge. What doesn’t make us draws a man from scratch. I tell her I hate New York at life junctions.

“But I see the cliff,” she may have said. “And the belief holding the cliff together.”

“All I see is the downfall,” I may have said. “And the past rendering my fall tangible.”

Is it the song or maybe the touch? Doesn’t matter now, does it? History keeps telling someone else’s story. She shrugs at my landing and goes back in to offer another man some quality wings. I nod and friends grab me in the middle of a February fall. Neither of us meant it anyway. I’m in and alive for a better era.

Leave me alone. Please. Leave me. I will now sleep for centuries. Wake me up at another time. I will go back to sleep if I still can’t fly.

+++

Ali A. Ünal is a writer from Turkey. He received his MFA in creative writing from University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2017. He has several publications in his native language. His first publication in English, “Everybody Needs Some Saving,” appeared in Quarterly West. He is currently a Ph.D candidate in English at University of Louisiana at Lafayette.