Monday, January 16, 2006

vignette: someone to watch over

The dragon watched the princess from behind his hiding place on the cupboard, nestled between the oversized Starbucks mug and a lopsided bottled ship. He knew her routine down to the last second, the regular cadence as soothing to him as the soft ticks of the burnished clock a shelf away.

Every morning, after she forced herself out of bed (she was an early riser from childhood, and there are some ingrained things that even heartbreak cannot alter), the princess made herself a cup of black coffee and stood before her catalog of loss. She did this every morning because she felt less vulnerable when the sun shone. When light invaded the secret intimacies of her home, the princess felt she had nothing to hide. At night, however, when darkness only reflected the dismal emptiness within her chest, all she wanted to do was to close her eyes.

“I know you’re watching me again,” the princess spoke in the dragon’s direction, but, as usual, he pretended he did not hear. “But it doesn’t really matter, does it?”

The princess kept the broken pieces of her heart in an old Chinese cabinet, each fragment in a drawer of its own, tagged with short descriptor and a date to help her remember. On a small table next to the cabinet was a box, its velvet interior enclosing a small pile of unsorted fragments, dislodged when her heart shrank at the end of last week’s love affair with the boy with the rumpled hair.

The dragon watched her open the box and upend the contents on a thick tea cosy with florid but time-dulled patterns, her next action as predictable to him as his next breath.

The princess picked up a fragment with a steady hand and brought it to her eye, squinting to interpret the pattern laid down by her own passion.

“If you come back to me, will it be only for a little while or forever?” the princess asked softly. “Tell me.”

The dragon regarded the pause with little hope for an alteration, knowing that what would happen next would occur as it had always played out, day after day after day.

The fragment remained mute and unmoving.

“I thought as much,” the princess said. With a deep sigh, she dropped the piece on the padded cloth, picked up her half-empty cup and went to the kitchen to refresh her coffee, pausing only to glare at the hidden dragon in the bookcase.

When she was gone, the dragon shifted position and yawned before settling down to the sleep for the rest of the day and night.

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