High Pressure – Sodium Lights


She couldn’t remember the last time she’d seen the stars. It may very well have been before she moved to the city, when she had still lived out amongst the cornfields. She had left home and run here as fast, and as soon as possible; casting aside her family and friends in search of excitement, fame, fortune. Maybe even love, she was no longer sure of that. Now she looked back on that life with nostalgia. There were no stars in the city. There was only the omnipresent yellow glow of the sodium street lights. The lights that overpowered the ephemeral glow from the stars. Most nights the moon was barely visible.

“Hey, HEY, Goddamn it Florence, are you listening to me?” She snapped out of her reverie.

“Sorry Jimmy, yeah, I’m listening. I guess I haven’t had enough coffee this morning.” Florence said and she pulled her robe tighter against the morning chill.

“I asked you, ‘Where the FUCK are my car keys?’ I got a meeting with that money guy, the one that Ruben knows, this morning. I don’t wanna be late.” He ran the palm of his right hand over his pate as if he were smoothing down nonexistent hair on his bald head. “Do I look OK, baby? This could be big. This could be the break we been waitin’ for!”

“Uhm, yeah Jimmy, your keys are right behind you, on the counter.”

Jimmy turned and scooped up his keys. Squeezing her ass as he walked by, he said, “Make sure you’re not late to work again. Don’t piss Mr. Chesterfield off. We need your job, Doll.”

“Yeah Jimmy, I’m good.” She said to his back as the door slammed behind him.

Florence took her mug to the chipped Formica table and sat down. The dream was dead. She knew it was dead but it was difficult to admit. She stood and threw her coffee cup at the sink where it shattered; then she turned and went back to the bedroom to get dressed and plan her latest escape.

She called Chesterfield and told him she was sick. She would not be in to work today as she was going to the emergency care center and would no doubt have to wait for hours. “Bring a note from the doctor when you come in tomorrow.” He admonished.

“I will sir.”

She dressed and went to the salon. A hundred and twenty bucks to perm her red hair but she had to do it. At home again she put on fresh underclothes and changed into her good black dress, the one Jimmy made her wear when he wanted to show her off to his boys. Then she took the number 13 bus downtown. It was late in the afternoon, but still light when she disembarked and looked around. The tallest building downtown was just a couple of blocks over and she headed towards it.

The doors were glass and polished brass. The lobby was marble. There was a desk to her left by the banks of elevators. A pimple faced kid wearing a badge that said ‘Concierge – Toby’ pushed his blond hair off his forehead, “Yes ma’am, there’s an observation deck on the roof. Just take the number 8 elevator to the top floor and you’ll find stairs to the roof.”

“Thank you, Toby.” She flashed her award winning smile causing Toby to smile and blush.

She walked to the lift and, in turn, made her way to the roof. Pay per view binoculars lined the railings. The railings were capped with heavy steel grating placed to prevent accidents. She went to the east rail and put a quarter in the binocular but was unable to find the building where she and Jimmy had lived for these last few months before the quarter ran out and her view went dark. There were only a few tourists with her up there and they were all looking west at the sunset. Removing her shoes Florence climbed the railing and looked at the sky. The yellow glow of the city reflected back and she shook her head. There was no light, no light from the stars.

She perched on top of the safety grating, sitting and looking at the sky. Time to go, she thought and dropped her shoes. She paused, took a breath and quietly slipped after them.


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