Mary Lynn Reed

Where We Once Belonged

Emerging from the subway, the sharp wind catches my coat and pushes me sideways. Duffle’s gripped tightly in my fist as the sweet tease of tomatoes and fresh-baked dough tempts around the corner, just ahead of the garbage piled high for morning. The key is heavy in my pocket as taxis speed past, a steady stream of fares knowing exactly where they are going. I ascend the dark staircase, slowly, letting my eyes adjust around each corner. Soft glow under a door on the second floor, late night movie music rises and fades. Third floor stands silent with flickering florescent; muscles in my legs start to burn but my speed picks up as a door groans and an old woman’s flashlight questions my presence. She knows I don’t belong, even as I mutter, Good Evening, and take the next flight two steps at a time. Don’t pause again until my sneakers find the fifth landing and my fingers snake back into my pocket, for the keychain with the gold heart and whistle. The key that is not mine but knows its place in the heavy brass lock. The sweet creak of opening, stepping inside. Falling into the low-riding sofa. Wet palms gripping thick grooves of upholstery. Head fitting softly against stuffed elephants and teddy bears. Fish tank gurgling in the corner. The radiator clicks its deep, regulated welcome, as I breathe—in and out—and count the hours until your slow, rhythmic knock of reunion.

Mary Lynn Reed is a writer, mathematician, and editor. Her work has appeared in Mississippi Review, Colorado Review, Smokelong Quarterly, and many other places. She lives in western New York with her wife, and together they co-edit the online literary journal MoonPark Review