City Street Lights
A Short Story
By Andre Demers
The snow was perfect by the lamp post; if I could’ve afforded a camera I might
have stayed there to capture its purity. The gentle flakes continued to fall as I slid down
the lengthy hill, skipping and skidding until I reached the muddy crossroads at the
bottom. There was a pair of headlights advancing as I crossed, but I deftly maneuvered
around them. My mind was peacefully blank; no thoughts could slip inside while I
waited so expectantly for the good news. The door had been taped with a flyer for the
show. I waited for Randy to arrive and then we talked. We had both received parts in the
show we deemed the best, and this good news was the only reason for our trek this late
on the snowy night. I couldn’t contain how it felt to know, like that Christmas Eve when
I snuck down after my parents had fallen asleep. I no longer believed in Santa Claus, so I
waited for them to pass out before running down to check out the loot by myself.
We couldn’t talk about the show for long, there were too many names we didn’t
recognize or didn’t care about. We gathered snow around our feet or slid along the curb
outside the locked door while we delayed our inevitable return to the dirty dorm.
Standing in the snow on a Thursday night made me feel excited by the possibilities of the
weekend, already beginning all over campus. The lights low, the music loud, the drinks
in beautiful glass bottles- all seemed so close and reachable. One more night and this
weeklong struggle to compete on the page and on the blackboard would be over, one
more night and the drunken foolery would begin. Would I see Sarah again?
Randy liked to mention whenever he noticed that Sarah was tanked in
public. The dance two months ago had been out of control, but I arrived late. Randy was
smoking outside when he felt up to mentioning Sarah’s condition, and I thought there
was something like ridicule in his voice. I was never around when her parties occurred; I
might have never crossed her mind. We passed in the night several times, I was always
awake and she was always trashed. Because of these encounters, I said I knew who she
We met the falling snow with our eyes rising upwards- our tongues outstretched
to chase the drifting globules of crystal and ice. Another car passed in the murky dark,
sliding through the pillars of light cast down by the shimmering globes above us. Two
men approached us, fading in and out of sight. We knew they were cocky Ben Landry
and Mike James. Ben was always a loud bastard.
“Turkel, I need a hug”, he called out.
I began to slowly charge towards him but he intoned softly.
“Not that kind of hug”.
I couldn’t tell what he meant. He shrugged and looked away. He told me that the
paramedics had come for Sarah on the steps of our hall. She was visiting and drinking in
the rooms below when she was called from home. When she was in the sixth grade, her
boyfriend gave her a ring and promised that they’d be together forever. Seven years and
nine failed relationships later, she was drinking herself to oblivion when he died instantly
in a motorcycle accident.
“I’ve never seen anyone melt down so fast,” Ben said. “It was a horrible mess.”
I couldn’t do anything but stare off into space as the guys talked circles around
me about the night and the ambulance that took Sarah and her friends to the hospital. All
the illusions I created about her faded softly as I stood there in the golden city lights. My
jealousy burned on my conscience: I had never paid attention to her beyond the cheap
brews and the men she danced with. I drew out my phone, but didn’t make a call.
Instead, I took a photo of the city street light above the scene where we stood- the friends
departing, the winter descending, and the tragedy of her love speeding far away with her.
It seemed the perfect time to let the sun rise again.
- Music:jeff buckley - Grace