By Eli Altzman
He asks if she has a light. When she answers, her voice stays in the air with her pale breath, noticeable for a second before dissolving. She digs deep through the contents of her bag. Just as he starts to think he's wasted her time she produces a lighter and offers it to him.
     As if plucked from the sun, the lighter flicks on, an orange minaret of warmth in an empty expanse of winter. The wind is howling to summon its pack; the flame shimmers-swaying this way and that, burning high and diminishing, dodging the swirling lashes of the wind. He inhales his cigarette as he slogs back to his apartment, wading through fatigue. She remains at the station, standing in wait for a late-night train to drag itself into the hollow cathedral of a station. 
     The smoke warms his chest. It gives him something to burn. It has an old warmth that casts the mind back into the soft embrace of memory. He thinks about the woman with her lighter as the winds shove him around as he walks. He thinks about having to walk the same route through the cold every night, braving the hostile chills, or maybe letting the wind carry him off on its drafts to an unknown place and future.
     It's burned down the filter by the time he reaches the front door, so he flicks it away into the night before he swings it open. He trudges up the stairs to his apartment and prays to whoever is listening that his legs don't collapse under his weight. He prays that there is someone to listen. He opens the door and makes small talk with the woman whose side he vowed to be at years ago. He has stood there like a sentinel but they both have been worn down. The heat in the apartment stings his cold-tempered face and makes him wince. His breath is still smoldering and he tastes it in his food. He smoked when they wandered in their youth, back when the wind couldn't budge them with hurricane gusts. Now the air feels heavy. He knows she can smell the smoke on his breath, but he has grown out of trying to deny it. Outside, the clouds are diving and billowing into each other in the dark sky, riding the air like buckling steeds. Inside, the warmth has grown stifling , the air still, the silence undying. They've said next to nothing tonight; they've had nothing to say for years.
     They have fenced themselves in with each other. They want to run against a wind that's unable to move them. But not now. Now, the air will stop in its place, and they will walk back to their bedroom in silence. A window is open there, and the chilling wind from outside has nested comfortable, swirling about like an eel through water. Come the morning, the air will have the old warmth, but the man and his wife both know that it will soon dissipate like smoke in the wind; back into the infernal heat that haunts their apartment like an ancient specter.
     At the station, the woman with the lighter will raise her heavy eyes to see the anticipated train barrel in, blowing gusts of air into the cavernous station. The doors slide open, and she moves along. 

Read Issue 18