By Kaitlyn Folkes
Leonard had been living in Brooklyn for nearly three decades. He spent most of his time in silence. Silence fro0m the world around him, and silence, especially, from himself. Every morning he’d wake and follow his customary routine. Ever so delicately, he would peel himself out of bed, step into his trousers that were slightly too large and his suede loafers that were slightly too old. The lights would flicker on, as Leonard would comb his thinning hair back and splash the running water onto his face. He would gather a sharp intake of breath before stepping onto his front porch. He’d be careful not to breathe in too much of the city for fear that he would find some memory interweaved in the morning air. He would collect the papers from a small and weathered welcome mat. As he did this, he would stop and stare at the well-worn mat until finally releasing a dreadful sigh. In that instant, he would let his shoulders droop off unevenly as he resignedly relived his memory, or his grief, or some other clenching feeling that cannot be described by petty language- one deep and ancient in the ache of his gut that left him no choice but to burst forward with longing nearly every morning. As he felt the wind kissing the nape of his neck and listened to the sounds of the rising city, he would fleetingly and unwillingly remember his past. As he regained consciousness, Leonard would start shaking his head violently as though he was capable of physically ridding himself of the past. Just for good measure, he would pull his scarf tighter, too. Then, he would warily place the papers under his right arm and quickly forget it all again.
Leonard drank one cup of black coffee every morning. It was in these small details that Leonard kept himself wound tightly together. Safe. He walked to work at precisely six forty-five in the morning weaving around the city clinging closely to the inside of his coat. It is a shame that no one was there to count the number of times Leonard clenched and unclenched his fists. He would arrive to work and open up shop. He did these things alone.
Leonard kept a humble job as a shoe repairman, and was well practiced in his craft and well known, too. His customers knew that he was kind but could not help but feel pity for him, for the way his eyebrows creased together painfully as he was lost in thought, and for the way that he slowly counted their change and signed their receipts with shaking hands, only looking up to give them a brief smile. Quietly he sat, all day, under the glow of an old lamp as he meticulously stitched worn shoes together as he made up lives for them. Leonard became so accustomed to observing others, instead of interacting with them, that he could easily predict their mannerisms and attitudes as he dreamed up vignettes of his customers. He spent so much time daydreaming about these stories and interactions that he would create, he almost forgot to be lonely.
After the death of his wife, Leonard began to believe that he was made of glass. He imagined himself falling apart silently, like some fragmented prayer said to an unknown god. Quick gestures terrified him. His heart would nearly stop at least five times on his walk to and from work, in grocery store, while feeding the cat, or while picking up the laundry. Sometimes, he came so near to shattering that he would sense a familiar electric pulse tingle behind his breastbone, buzzing outward in his chest, slowly slipping down his arms, stuttering at his palms, escaping through his shaky fingers. He would wait patiently and secretly wish that his agony would have ended just then, in the middle of the milk aisle, or when passing a barking dog, or from the unfamiliarity of the sounds of his own name as the laundress would call out to him.
Leonard liked the idea of mending the broken. This is what he did every day. He hoped that if someday he were to break miserably and embarrassingly, someone would scoop him together, tug at his heartstrings, pull hard, and start stitching.
This is part of a larger piece to appear in later issues of Buzzsaw Magazine.