by Joseph Heiland
You ask me: Do you think it’s going to fall?
No, I say.
I rub goose bumps from my arm. Candy wine stains my throat and teeth. I take a swig and set the bottle down. Pink liquid cascades up the glass neck and sloshes back down. Somewhere near, a dog barks three times. We go rigid. Shrieking wind circles the building. In my head the breeze takes form — ever-loosening tendrils that move through the air, whistling through cracks in bricks and gaps in fences like breath through exposed teeth. Always searching for a tune.
After a moment, we relax.
You’re kneeling on the balcony, arms raised overhead. You’re holding a Nikon D3100. You lean it this way and then that way, searching for balance on the corner railing. You fidget with the angle of the shot. You twist the lens and peer through the eyepiece. (Something’s off — either ISO or aperture.) You try again. I look over the railing at the street below. The road is narrow and full of cracks. They run like ripples all throughout, congregating in a small valley at the base of a hill. On either side, narrow buildings rise up and are eaten by clouds. When I close my eyes I can hear a conversation taking place around the corner. I focus on their articulated babble, trying to make sense of the language. Too many consonants, I think.
Okay, you say. I’m ready.
I take another drink. The same dog barks, but this time we’re prepared. You press the shutter release and throw your hands up. For ten seconds we hold our breath, hoping to still the rustling leaves. Everything quiets. Your hair (which had been dancing all night) falls to your shoulders. The sky tenses up. The clouds freeze, half-lit by a yellow moon.
The shutter clicks, and we release. I take another drink and offer you the bottle.