fiction

Arizona Sunset [short story]

Arizona Sunset. Rated PG. © Elyce G 2011.

Everyone had told Donovan that an Arizona sunset was not something to miss. They’d said it was the opulent blues, the deep-seated golds that soaked the skyline, dripping down behind shadowed Saguaros and barren Palo Verdes, their yellow flowers scattered around thorny trunks. They’d said it made the heat worth it, made you forget about the months gone by without rain.

*

Everyone had told Donovan that an Arizona sunset was not something to miss. They’d said it was the opulent blues, the deep-seated golds that soaked the skyline, dripping down behind shadowed Saguaros and barren Palo Verdes, their yellow flowers scattered around thorny trunks. They’d said it made the heat worth it, made you forget about the months gone by without rain.

It wasn’t the rain that Donovan wanted to forget as he sat on his balcony watching the sun sink lower and lower over the horizon. The towering palm tree that grew right up past his balcony swayed in the light afternoon breeze, a gentle sweep of air that did nothing to relieve the heaviness of the heat surrounding him.

A drink, once cold, but now barely luke-warm sat on the table next to him, but Donavan couldn’t be bothered to drink it. Behind him, a slim tabby cat pawed at the sliding glass door, meowing silently through the glass.

He couldn’t be bothered to turn around either, and he sighed, sinking down into his sagging plastic chair and pushing a hand through his light brown hair, scrubbing at a piece tickling his nose.

The sweat beaded at his brow despite the fact that he hadn’t moved in over fifteen minutes, but the heat was oppressive, no matter how ‘dry’ it was. He’d long since shed his jacket and slacks, opting for clothes that were neither black nor had cuffs. It didn’t seem to help much and Donovan wondered for what had to be the hundredth time in the last month why he’d picked Phoenix, how he’d ended up there, if he’d even ever wanted to be here.

The answer to that wasn’t something he’d admitted to himself yet and he had no plans to.

The cat behind the door meowed again, unheard through the glass.

The sky was tinged with blue now, fading from the brilliant gold to a pale orange and drifting into blue in a way Donovan had seen before but somehow never like this. A little yellow flower from a neighboring tree tumbled across the grey cement of the balcony, pausing a second before plummeting over the edge.

Donovan watched it fall, swept away along with everything else in his life, and if anyone said he was being overdramatic, he wouldn’t have had it in him to correct them. Who would say it anyway? He didn’t know anyone in Phoenix beyond Chutney, and she spent most of her time sleeping.

His tee shirt was starting to stick to his skin as he shifted in the chair. He didn’t get up, though. He was reminded of a sauna, of the heat pressing in on all sides, and for a moment, he felt relaxed. He could sit there forever, could fall asleep in the sagging chair, the sun burning his feet, the cat pawing impatiently at the door behind him.

His eyes closed as the sun washed over him, hitting an angle that seemed to suspend the moment, hovering somewhere between day and night and not quite in either. There were things he didn’t want to think about but it was hard every evening when the sunset hit and he found himself alone on his balcony. Reflection had never been his strong point, though, but evasion certainly had been.

The sound of a door sliding open was what made Donovan open his eyes, blinking at the darkening sky and looking over at the neighboring balcony. The woman there smiled at him, tucking back a piece of brown hair.

“Hey, Don,” she greeted him and Donovan pushed himself up in the chair slightly, sweeping back his hair again.

“Char,” he replied, green eyes avoiding hers and turning back to the horizon.

“Any word from home?” she asked casually, and Donovan glanced her way. Her expression was sympathetic as though she understood, but Donovan wondered how many people actually did understand and why they always had to pretend.

A breakup was a breakup, plain and simple. He wasn’t running away. If anything, it was the other way around but there was nothing he could do about it.

“No,” he said finally, fingers closing around the arms of the chair, mind halfway between getting up and staying put.

Charlotte had that look that Donovan had seen a hundred times in the past month and his patience was wearing thin. He didn’t want anyone’s pity.

The plant on Charlotte’s balcony was yellowing and starting to keel over on itself. In the mornings, Donovan had seen a bird pecking at it curiously as if hoping it was edible. He was fairly sure it wasn’t.

“It could still happen,” Charlotte started, and it was her words that propelled Donovan up out of his chair, the soles of his feet burning on the concrete. “Don’t give up ho—”

“I have some work to do,” Donovan interrupted, turning to the door, and the cat meowed again.

He didn’t need anyone to tell him it was just a matter of time or that the phone call would come. It wasn’t coming and he wasn’t fooling himself.

“Oh, okay,” Charlotte replied, and if there was one thing Donovan was glad of, it was that he’d finally gotten neighbors who knew when to butt out. “Have a good night.”

Donovan nodded and slid open the door. The cat immediately tried to leap out but Donovan grabbed her around the middle and pulled her back in.

“Ah, ah, Chutney,” he reprimanded her, dropping her back on the carpet, the door shut behind him. “You’d fry out there.”

Glancing back out the window, he sighed. The blue had spread, reaching up to the tips of the Saguaro. If he pressed his hand against the glass, he could almost feel the heat melting through, but the air-conditioning blew hard enough to ruffle his hair and he dropped his hand.

The cat rubbed up against his leg, meowing again and peering up through wide, yellow eyes.

“You know why I don’t hear anything from home?” he asked, heading for the kitchen, and Chutney trotted after, tail held high behind her. Rummaging in the pantry, he came out with a can of cat food. He glanced down at the cat winding around his legs and licking her lips. He grabbed the can opener. “Because this is home now.”

The cat didn’t react, only meowing louder as he set down the dish.

This was home now, he told himself, watching the cat gorge herself. He said it but that didn’t stop him from checking his phone as he turned away and left to his bedroom as the last rays of sun dipped and vanished over the horizon.

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