My angel stood at the window, she had her back to me. I told myself it was so I could not see what she could. My angel turned to stare past me and then walked towards the door. I sat on the sagging bed and looked warily at my reflection. My reflected eyes were red, held in a face contorted with hatred, and my body was larger than I remembered. The glance down to my real body, once she had left the room, made my stomach give a violent lurch. She saw me bigger than I was – she was afraid of me. This realisation was much harder to take than her sadness, or even her anger.
As much as I didn’t like to leave, I had to get out. I hated the street, all the new people, each with their own new perception, my body constantly deforming to keep up. I lurched along the street, unable to keep steady on what seemed uneven limbs. I closed my eyes but all I could see was the angel, her back to me, light shining softly through her white wings. Stumbling into a dingy bar where no one could see me in the low light, I asked for the cheapest beer.
I watched a woman I hadn’t noticed loom towards me through a thin, white sheen that had appeared in front of my eyes.
“You shouldn’t, you know," she said, “it’ll kill you." I thought for a moment she was talking about the barely touched beer, clasped reflexively in my left hand. Then I realised she pictured me with a plastic bag over my head.
“Why would you do that?" I asked, not expecting her to understand the oddly muffled question.
“You’re too young to show your face in here."
“That’s not what I meant," she cut me off but her expression still told me to leave.
The white sheen disappeared as soon as I stepped across the threshold. She had given me an idea though, perhaps a bag over my head might be a good idea. But as I passed the slow decay of the city’s garbage, all suffocated by plastic bags, I changed my mind. The piles had been almost beautiful when the angel was here, full of potential that I would never have noticed myself.
Liquid burning down my throat made me realise I was still drinking – draining large amounts of clear vodka from a bottle. The arm holding the bottle was dressed in what must have once been corduroy, but was now dirty, green cloth. Lank hair fell into my eyes as I turned to see what had caused this sudden change in appearance. Three large-eyed children stared unashamedly at me. They had obviously broken off their scavenging to watch me, still clutching bald dolls and torn books. That the children saw me as some dangerous drifter made me laugh, but the laugh made me feel sick, so I continued back to my house as a drifter, people averting their eyes if they noticed me at all.
Sitting inside, not bothering to stop the drafts because the cool brush against my skin was making me feel so alive, so ready for anything, especially for the angel. After what must have been hours of distraction, lying to myself, and sitting, trying to control my buzz, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the angel flitted past the door and everything became dull grey and brown shadows – she always seemed to do this, completely overwhelm my perception. Only she could do that. She wandered through the house, playing violin with a rapid blurring of arms, aggravating both our hung over faces.
“I’m going out drinking…swimming I mean," I said, but she couldn’t hear my fumble over her song.
Diving into the dark night water of the lake, my hands were engulfed in a glassy reddish-yellow light. I surfaced to find the source of what I assumed was my magical appearance. A beautiful woman with admiring but piercing eyes watched me from the bank. Her gaze reminded me of the way the angel watched me in bed, loving the way the thin white sheets covered without hiding anything. It seemed a long time since the angel had seen me glow. I went back under, experimenting with the coloured light under water, then walked home, watching the light fade and drip from my body.
She wrapped her bathrobe around me when I stepped in, making it rain on to the floor. It was the first time we had touched in two days – I opened my mouth, but she pressed her finger to it. I remembered she had said once that she could understand people much more easily when they weren’t saying anything. I let her watch me in silence for a few moments, then I walked down the corridor when I couldn’t stand the scrutiny any longer. I had no way of knowing how she saw me in those few moments and as disconcerting as the ability was I had come to rely on it more and more.
I decided to write a letter, but all I could think to do was break pencils, pushing each one with my thumb holding it in a fist, the satisfying snapping sound coming over and over. I looked out the window, and she was standing under the bare armed tree, the old leaves swirling around her, occasionally catching on her wings. When she saw me she walked away, out of view, but a few moments later I felt her behind me. She took my hand and we stood in front of the mirror, I looked like myself again. I didn’t say anything and smiled at my angel.