Literary Orphans

Come Winter by Andrew Bertaina


The slender street lamps illuminate the banks of snow on street corners. Icicles are forming under the eaves. In the distance, garbage trucks grind over the ice and salt. But it’s warm in the study, where I have patiently been writing you for months.  I turn a page in my journal and run my fingers along the ridges of a pencil. I write to you of the shades of snow, from purest white of first fall, to the corroded black after exhaust, dirt, and time have passed. I write to you of how the Maple tree on forty fifth turned first, red and brilliant against barren Autumnal skies. I write to you when I am tired or confused, or pensive. In short, I write you.

In winter, the clouds seem cruel and thick. Though I know that clouds are non-entities, incapable of cruelty and that it’s just a mood I’m in. I miss and think of you often. Why don’t you join me this winter and explain the differences between clouds—cirrus, contrails, orographic and cumulus?  I’d listen to you as if I were a small child, sleepy and indulgent, content to have the world constructed for me by your voice. Our days would be like this: you sit in the window and read a book, while I read on the bed. When we are bored of the books we are reading, we’ll look out the window and talk about the people walking by. We’ll describe their interior lives, children, pets, and loves, and then we’ll forget them and kiss.

The letters aren’t all strange like that. Most of them are mundane. I’ll tell you about the new goldfish I bought, Henry, who is so silent, or the notes of a Bach piece that slip through the wall.  Sometimes I’ll tell you the truth and write: I am lonely; I am lonely; I am lonely. And then I stop. I remind myself that this feeling will pass, as every feeling passes. That you too, will some day pass from my mind, like a meteor burning through the night sky, brief and brilliant, then gone.

This winter I plan to forget you. Life is full of failed projects. I painted a picture of you on my wall instead. I am a poor painter and got all the details wrong. Your lips are thinner and pinker than the ones in my picture. Your hair has shades of red that I cannot capture. I could not remember the color of your fingernails. How strange it is to have forgotten anything about you. I wonder what you’d think of this painting, of this early winter snow, of damn near everything.

Just the other day, I read that the universe might be infinite. And it almost comforted me to think of the endless chances we’d have if that were true. Surely in one of them your fingernails would be drumming along my spine, keeping time with the snow and the Bach. I don’t believe the universe is infinite. I believe this is our only chance to go about the messy business of life. In the end, all that will be left of us is our bones. And whatever remains of me last, a clavicle or a metatarsal, will burn for you through the long quiet.

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Andrew Bertaina currently lives and works in Washington, DC.  His work has appeared in: Hobart, Literary Orphans,The Journal of Microliterature, The Broadkill Review, Big Lucks, Whiskey Paper, Fiction Southeast,  OxMag and The Wilderness House Literary Review. He is currently a reader and reviewer at Fiction Southeast. He likes gardening and reading books by the window.


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–Art by Joanna Jankowska

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