Wraiths of Vapor

by James Claffey

 She arrives after 10 o'clock Mass with a gift; a glass jar with a dozen  formaldehyde-brined baby squid. He takes her in from head to toe, her dark, curly hair, the gold-hooped earrings, the cheesecloth blouse unbuttoned one button below modesty. This morning, sunrise long past, his heart beats faster as he takes the jar of dead sea creatures from her and places it on the mantelpiece above the boarded-up fireplace.

Outside, the rain begins to fall, large drops on the dry concrete pavement. The girlfriend stands at the window outlined against the curtains, her face a murky puzzle, her lashes in stark relief as she sings in a low voice. She is in a hurry, he thinks. How she stands teetering against the windowpane, arms about her waist, and they watch the falling rain through the grimy curtains. She has a medicinal smell to her. He notices the rustiness of the lid and how the seal might not be good, but not wanting to hurt her feelings, says nothing.

The rain hammers the windows, an unorthodox pattern on a sad Sunday morning. The Lord's Day forecloses any possibility of their shedding their clothes and taking to the narrow single bed against the far wall. The flat is quiet as they stand by the window and witness the rain evaporating from the hot pavement in wraiths of vapor. He presses his body up against her and the soft wood of the floorboards creak in surprise at his boldness.