An Ifrit in San Francisco
by Andrea Blythe
One day, when the fog stretches and settles into the city, you will stand at a bus stop, watching cars appear and disappear like wandering ghosts. You will shiver, because the cold has crawled in through your wet jacket, seeped in to your soggy sneakers, and snaked along your skin. There will be nothing for it, but to stand in the shifty mist and shiver and wait.
You won’t know he’s beside you until he’s beside you. You will hear a soft hiss like something sputtering on a spit, and turn your head. You will see him in segments. First, his black, creaking cowboy boots, then his faded jeans, his white cotton tee shirt, his sunglasses blacker than midnight.
The crisp sound of sizzling will be the drizzle of rain rolling off his skin, and you will know the desert in his white sun smile. You will smell the red sand baking, feel your mouth grow scorched and dry, run your sandpaper tongue across your cracked lips, and desperately thirst for the water hanging useless in the air around you.
His smile will collapse in on itself like the burnt husk of a building. Face sharp as wind scoured rock, he will slowly lower his glasses and gaze at you with eyes of napalm, of roiling lava, of fire splitting the hearts of trees, of peppery days filled sweaty sex in ugly backrooms under low, swinging lamps.
It will be too hot in your jacket, too hot inside your skin, too hot with the marrow of your bones boiling, with a flash fire suddenly in your solar plexus, with lightening buzzing about your veins like a conflagration of tiny bees.
Then the slow screech of the bus pulling to a stop, and he will take his blazing gaze and turn away, one slow step up and then another onto the bus. Steam will still be rising around you, mingling with the mist, and the heat will melt into fuming fog with him.
Alone, you will never know a world so cold, so bitter, as devoid of color and substance as the ice fields of Antarctica. As you breathe into your chilled fingertips, you will realize that you’ve missed your bus, and there will be nothing for it but to stand there, shivering and aching, and wait.
Andrea Blythe graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in Modern Literature. Her poetry has appeared in several publications, including Chiaroscuro (Chizine), Perigee, Bear Creek Haiku, and Chinquapin. Read more about her at http://www.andreablythe.com/