Romare Bearden, Late Afternoon (1979)
Afterwards her sister called. Partly she wanted to make sure I was ok; but also she was still
She'd been at work, 101 Spear Street, high up. The building manager said that her floor had
swayed fifteen feet in either direction. People were injured by flying furniture:
the metal leg of a heavy desk pierced the foot of a co-worker. She'd evacuated down
dimlit stairs to find a street scene glittery with broken glass, as if the heavens had snowed
It was the wrong moment to talk to me. We were on different emotional planes. I was glad,
still satisfied by the echo of my landlords' panic. It made me seem flip, and, I
Sunset over the city. Skinny boy sits in a bay window with a
telephone to one ear. Outside, Masonic Street is littered with bricks and dust, faux
facades fallen like nightgowns around the ankles of the now-naked buildings. There are
cracks in the sidewalks. People cluster
around parked cars, listening to news on the radios. To the left, smoke rises beyond the
crest of a hill: later we learned it was the Marina burning.
Shaky voice in the receiver. People near her were hurt. It's difficult for him to focus on
that. There's his own malicious satisfaction. But also there's the background sounds behind
her voice. She's at her sister's boyfriend's apartment, in the Tenderloin. There's a party
going on: loud voices, the clink of drinking glasses. That's the leitmotif for the year: the
clink of drinking glasses. A young woman's voice rises, in a characteristic childlike sing-song
he knows well. It comes near the phone, talking loudly, laughing. Then, drops into the
background as she passes. That was her way of saying hello.
It's difficult for him to talk, after that. She's left unsatisfied by the call. They're
each glad the other is unhurt.
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© 2002-2013 Mark Phillips.
All rights reserved.
Published 12/02: SoMa Literary Review.
This writing is fiction. Please don't confuse it with reality.