Excerpt from Garden of Remembrance by Alan Hlad, published in The Bleeding Lion, A Journal of Contemporary Arts & Letters.
Her eyes are the color of cinnamon, or sage. One or the other.
I finish my glass of whiskey, light a cigarette, and rest my palm on the pile of dried petals. Squeezing crisp buds with my fingers, bent like twigs in water, I extract any remaining oils and hold them to my nose. Behind the taste of malt whiskey and burnt tobacco, I notice the faint smell of her favorite flower, Casablanca Oriental Lilies. And I remember what she looked like, if only for a moment, before her porcelain skin disappears along with the floral scent in my nostrils.
I adjust my dark glasses that conceal my opaque eyes, hardened from the habit of obeying the rules of social acceptability. I notice it’s snowing as the sounds of passing cars are muted by the blanketed road. I reach for the bottle. It feels lighter, considering I started before dinner while listening to Madame Butterfly, which is still playing softly on the stereo we purchased over forty years ago. A penny is taped to the stylus to keep the needle from skipping.
The music stops. Deafening silence sucks at the air, broken by the splash of whiskey hitting the bottom of my glass. With the click of a spring, the needle rests on the album with a static sizzle. The singer’s angelic voice floats to my ears, carrying me away to another time, another place.
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