The night air was fresh. She was returning from a jog, one of the many activities she tried and failed to integrate into her daily routine. Slowing to a walk, she crossed the street, stepping on the pavement she crossed every weekday to make the bus when she was young. She walked up the steps to her home and was about to enter when she recognized the pristine silence surrounding her. She paused, doorknob in hand. Her memories of life here were marked by the vibrant sounds of the community: laughing children, barking dogs, and occasional sirens in the distance.
Tonight, however, the silence was suffocating. She felt as if she were living in a ghost town, a cul-de-sac of empty homes and lost souls. She heard a faint rustling behind her. Removing her hand from the doorknob, she turned around to face the street.
The moon shed a soft light on the streetlamps, homes, and mailboxes around her, smoothing their edges. But there was something, something in the center of the street, that was not illuminated. She had no sense of what it was, other than that it reflected no light. She began walking back down the steps. As she moved closer, the object began to reveal itself in greater detail, seemingly growing outward, slowly morphing into a human form. Her jaw tensed.
Continuing forward, she stepped up to the edge of the sidewalk. Now only a few feet in front of her, it was clear that it was a man. She tilted her head to the right and squinted. A tall man, dressed in a tuxedo.
She wanted to say something, but couldn’t.
The silence persisted. She extended her leg to step down onto the street. When the ball of her foot made contact with the road, the man became visible to her. The light on his upper body and face had no origin, but it shone upwards, sharpening the edges of his figure. Startled, she removed her foot from the street. The light dissipated, but the tall man remained. She wanted to look around, to see if anyone else was here, but she didn’t want to take her eyes away from the man.
She cautiously placed her foot back down onto the road, and the light returned. She looked at him carefully. His arms rested at his sides and his upper body curved, like someone had a hold on his chin and was pulling down. She noticed slight tremors in his head. It was trembling from side to side. He was looking at her, but she couldn’t bring herself to meet his stare. The corners of his mouth were bent, forming a smile.
She knew this man, or at least sensed a vague recollection when examining his body and face. She could recall a warm sensation in her chest, the result of downing a shot of vodka. She went on a date with this man once. She learned of him through a mutual friend, and they met up at a bar. He went out of his way to meet her, as he lived far away. She remembered the face he made when he saw her expression when he entered the bar wearing a tuxedo. That night, from what she remembered, was uneventful. She went home afterwards and fell asleep. She woke up the next morning to a phone call from her friend telling her that he was murdered later that night in a home invasion. Her friend was crying too much to hear her when she asked if his home was the one invaded, or if he was one of the invaders.
He blinked, looking down at her. She was puzzled, inspecting him. She had seen pictures of his funeral online. Few attended it. She said his name. He remained motionless. Her first thought was to call someone. Maybe this was a misunderstanding, an insensitive prank of some sort. She reached out to touch his arm. His suit was brittle and cracked at her fingertips. She pulled her fingers back.