What follows is an excerpt from “Find Frank,” a novel-in-progress:
There is something magical about walking through a city of a half million people when the streets are still and empty and the air is silent. Every footstep sounds tremendous, every breath invasive. The few people who dare to walk through the tranquility do so tenuously, tiptoeing over soap bubbles and taking in tiny, quiet breaths. They reach their apartments and exhale loudly as they flop onto their couches, letting their purses or gloves or keys fall heavily by their sides. They are free to talk now—to pace loudly and listen to music and breathe normally—but for a few moments the stillness remains in their ears and limbs, vibrating softly as they slip out of the fairyland world outside and into their carefully decorated, heated, well-lit, electronics-filled apartments.
Not every night is enchanting and still in the Tempest City Warehouse District. Most summer nights are not. But when the temperature dips enough to make people hustle from A to B to C, clutching their frosty mouths with their hands, desperately seeking the warmth of their homes, the streets open up. The sidewalks know no owners. They stretch lazily—the streets and sidewalks—past orange brick buildings and open-faced arts studios, past a piano shop and a vinyl record store, past vacant cafés and lonely vintage shops. The artists are not bustling or creating or drinking in cafés and brewpubs. They are tucked away in their lofts, hugging their bodies for warmth, letting their minds slip into the waves of their television screens.
Craven watched the empty sidewalks from five stories up and thought about the three a.m. calm. It was something she enjoyed immensely, something she loved being a part of. In early winter, she often found herself slipping out her apartment door and padding down the street, listening to the creak of snow under her boots, feeling the untethered wind stinging her bare cheeks. The air was sharp and unforgiving, but Craven bit into it and continued walking, always ending up at the edge of the Warehouse District, where the sidewalks grew narrower and the streetlamps crackled and haphazardly flicked their tepid light. Then, she would turn around and make her way back through the safety of the Warehouse District—back among sculptors and musicians and craft brewers. That was where she belonged—among the city’s artists.
But tonight, she did not wander. She did not desire to taste winter’s chill on her tongue or feel her skin contract against the cold. She did not long to be a part of the mystical fabric of the late February night. She preferred watching tonight. Watching and drinking glasses of bourbon and wondering if she should be frightened or amused by the patient in Jackson, room 3E.
Probably both, Craven thought as she made her way to the kitchen, grabbing a tray of ice cubes from the freezer and plopping a few into a tulip glass. She retrieved a bottle of Wild Turkey from the liquor cabinet and poured it slowly over the rocks, listening to them hiss. When the glass was full, she picked it up, along with a new pack of cigarettes, and wandered over to an ancient couch with over-stuffed, beige cushions and a series of claw marks on each arm from Gus the tabby.
She settled in, set down her vices, and frowned at the night sky.
Copyright 2014, Kate Bitters