Sodium Vapor Lamps by Julia Berke

we step out into the street and i immediately grope around the inside of my purse, silently cursing myself for even bringing one. “you’re always just fumbling around in there, not grabbing anything you’re looking for,” i think to myself as my hands find their way over a book i brought along for the subway ride and in between a pair of socks and a pack of gum. i finger the edge of my keys to make sure they’re still accounted for.

i find the devious little lighter, spark it and inhale deeply. you’re talking about something, your holiday spending time with your family or some show we used to watch together. i’m focusing on the crack in the sidewalk that separates us and nodding slowly letting out “oh cool”s and “no way”s every so often. the waters begin to rise. i take a long drag from my cigarette as you tell me you got kicked out of that band. i don’t know what to say because i knew it was inevitable, so i look at the ground and brush some dirt off my boot. ‘wow, no way...’ take another drag, turn to face the street and exhale, closing my eyes wishing i was anywhere but here.

the ocean that separates us is too big, too vast to traverse on a tiny vessel made of unmet expectations and unwanted criticisms of the world. i think about how in the first month we started dating, you joked that beginning a relationship was like a job interview. you have to convince the other party that you’re not crazy so they let you in. you passed your interview with ease; you captivated me with charm and sensitivity, but little did i know that what was boiling in those deep brown eyes wasn’t compassion for your fellow man, but a pain and disgust with the world that you refused to compromise.

everything was wet and yellow that night. your eyes were wet with the incredulousness you felt towards your never-ending plight. the streets were wet from the rain that had happened or was happening. everything glowed around the sodium vapor lamps and light passed through smoke. the two weeks after it happened i was devastated because it’s much easier to cling to things that are familiar than to let them go and change. i thought you were my rock. you were the center of my immediate universe, my sun, maybe, and it all flipped. suddenly. you were cold and calculating. you were a shadow, you were gone. and now, two months after i walked you to the front door after wine, tears, and macaroni and cheese, we’re standing under this yellow, wet light, and i’d rather fall overboard again and again than continue through the storm.

the last time i ever spoke to you was at two in the morning, in between four or five beers, outside of a venue, might have been on the lower east side around the corner from delancey

or was it houston?



Julia Berke has been a New York Islander for all her life, by way of Long Island and then Manhattan currently. She is finishing up her undergraduate at the Gallatin School for Individualized Study at NYU, concentrating in The Spiritual Experience of Watching Film. You can find more of her writing at joliajerky.tumblr.com and check out what she finds beautiful at juliashootsfilm.tumblr.com.