Word Count 500
Black on White
By Sam McManus
I read your words, and you’re smiling. Not the you in front of me, sitting across the desk, a space
too small to contain what, for you, passes as enthusiasm. But I see you, the you who hides in
corners, the you who eats papaya in the afternoon because you can. I see you in the words, but
not the way you wish, how you hide behind the prose, and the poetry, and the loose attempts at
script writing. I see you in the words the way dreams, and consequence, and shifty vagrants see
the dawning of a new day.
You come every day. I sit here restlessly waiting. We hardly ever speak, but I know you
intimately through the Calibri on the page, through the starts and stops of your hesitation marks,
when you edit, when you think no one but me will see. I look over your shoulder as you attempt
to curl up into a ball to escape notice, and yet I see you as few hardly ever will, as distinctly
human, as a fully realized woman who believes she’s still a girl.
And you’re perfect. You twinkle like gum wrappers tossed in the gutter, diamonds in the rough,
shards of prosody slipping through my hands. I try to hold on, to grip these pages tightly so you
don’t go, so you don’t leave me lost in half-thoughts, trapped between the thoughts and the
words, like so many nights before, when the shadow of you keeps me company far longer than
you ever do. I imagine I take up residency inside your mind, sliding cocoon-like into your
memories as if I have always been there with you, twins in a womb.
We do this dance, but sometimes I think I’m the only one shuffling my feet, that I’m the only
one wanting this as much as I do. I hope that I’m fooling myself, that in the grand scheme of the
universe, this idea of us can be so much more than these imaginations. I sit as close as I can,
when I’m not looking over your shoulder, my eyes dancing across the page, but really on you,
hopeful you’ll say my name, that its melody will tickle your tongue, but you never do. You
usually nod when I offer my advice, placing pen to paper, making marks delicate like silk. I
could watch you write forever.
But the clock is our enemy, the minute hand as devious as Prometheus. I read your words, and
the smile flickers, then fades. Not from your face, it is always quite neutral. From all the space
between us I forget is there, just around the bend, waiting for the singular realization to creep in
once more, the thief of words, and hearts, the consequence of the new day arriving before the old
has lost its way.
You hide within yourself, and I cannot reach you. So I tuck the paper deep into my inner folds,
and I wait until tomorrow.