The Only Thing Moving Was the Mail / by Sarah McEachern

I was dancing in Rome when the moon turned red and started wandering into the day. Everyone in the company was terrified. And hungry. Only a few restaurants that stayed open. Ballerinas drinking watery soup, none of us saying anything. All the trains stopped. We didn’t know how we were getting home. The others fretted, clogged up the lines calling their boyfriends and mothers. I bit my nails to the quick. I wrote you letters and letters so my hands would quit shaking, but I couldn’t mail any of them because they shut down the post office.


The director of the company hired a private driver and all twenty-six ballerinas were shoved onto a school bus. We bumped over borders until we were back in Paris. It was bleak there too. And now the moon wasn’t just red and staying. Instead it was moving, closer and closer to the sun, which continued its rotations. If I held my hand up, they were separated by my three middle fingers at high noon and that was it. There were letters falling out of my mailbox when I got to my apartment. All from you. They had turned off all the phone lines in Berlin. The only thing moving was the mail. I sent you all the letters that I couldn’t send in Italy.


You were biking home in Berlin, home from the job you hated. It was dark and there were only the streetlights. Everything became red, and when you looked up it was the moon. They had ordered the cars off the streets, stopped the trains, closed the metro, cut the tram lines. No one was moving. You were trying to get to Paris. You wanted us to be together if this was the end.


They were closing streets in Paris too, getting everyone to go back to where they came from, so they knew where they were. They were closing monuments. The bells stopped at Notre Dame. They boarded up the Louvre. All the gates of every park were closed. By the time my company was back in Paris, every store had been emptied of food. There was no noise from the streets, no one outside. The cobblestone went untouched. We all stayed inside. We opened our windows and shouted to each other if we had heard any news. I traced my hands over the words in your letters again and again, pretending our fingertips were touching.


The phone worked, but only if you were calling French numbers. The radio was crystal clear. The television running the same news report every few minutes, the President telling us not to be scared, just to stay inside. The mail was still being delivered, and everyday I got letters from you. Different postmarks. Trapped in the Black Forest. Somewhere on the border between France and Germany, no one working customs, all the officials gone. Somewhere in the East of France. The moon was three fingers from the sun from where you were. How close were they for me?


My apartment was two rooms: my bedroom and the living room. The kitchen was to the side. They updated us via the radio every hour, and in between played classical musical, seemingly without any rotation. I knew it was supposed to be calming. It aggravated me. I was cold in my apartment without you.


The last time you were in my apartment with me, which was three months ago, we had spent the entire day in my bed. We couldn’t step out, because the floor was lava. When we had to go to the bathroom, we had to climb over my desk and jump onto the rug to get to door. It was one of the most perfect days I could recall. I was never scared hopping over the lava, into the kitchen to bring us back fruit from the kitchen, because you were there, telling me where to put my feet next.


I couldn’t dance in my apartment because it was too small. For food, everyone in Paris was getting small boxes of weekly rations dropped off each week in front of our doors. This went on for three weeks. With every new box, the portions got smaller and smaller. I had read most of the books in my apartment already. I was going insane without you.


Your letters stopped when there was only one finger between the moon and the sun. It was snowing in Paris. I wasn’t sure if the post had stopped or if you had stopped writing. Everyday at noon, all the church bells sounded. Everyone walked to their windows, holding their fingers up to the sky to measure the distance. Without their noise, I could have thought I was all by myself. I closed my eyes, and replayed you whispering my name to me.


It wasn’t snow but ash. We didn’t know why it was falling, so we left our apartments to go into the streets. I breathed in, and instead of the air feeling fresh, it smelled like sulfur. We were all sitting on the curbs, everyone in the city, not knowing what to do or feel. Panicking felt like too large an emotion to perform together. The children were making castles and driving their toy cars through heaps of ash, pushed up into hills and mountains. I danced in the street to entertain them. This is how you found me.


Sarah McEachern would rather be reading. She is the co-editor of Sarah Lawrence College's alternative literary magazine Broken Yolk. She can sometimes be amusing on Twitter.