Fiction by Kate Faigen

On the edge of town, there’s a gold wall that shimmers like sequins in the sun. Young people come in droves to take pictures in front of it. At the perfect time of day, like witching hour, they emerge—to dance, to shout, to strike poses they’ve perfected in front of mirrors.

Across the street from the gold wall is Fred’s meager apartment, a little brown building that holds his little one-bedroom, where everything inside of it has succumbed to old age: the sunken couch, the slanted bookshelf, Fred’s curved back. 

Every evening at dinnertime, Fred eyes the straight-spined young people beyond his window. The sight sickens him. He groans until he has to cough, gripes about kids worshipping at the altar of bullshit. If he peers for a little too long, he can recall resembling something of a kid himself. That’s when he looks away.

But one day, just as colorless as the last, Fred notices something more unusual than usual. A girl with an overstuffed tote bag stands to the side by herself. She doesn’t have a boyfriend or a girlfriend or a best friend like the others do—she simply takes her place, alone and happy. She’s so enamored by the gold wall, in fact, that Fred swears he can hear the smile on her face. So he decides to send a message. 

He thinks of the right words and scribbles them down on a piece of paper. “When you get older,” it reads, “the glitter of life goes away.” Then he folds the paper into an airplane and opens the window.

As the plane soars toward the crowd, Fred chuckles, imagining the tip hitting an unsuspecting eye. But the strange whistle of the plane’s flight hushes all activity. The young people look away from their iPhones and gaze upward, following the airborne object like confused toddlers.

It dips and turns, then rises again. Someone reaches out a cautious hand. Another slowly points—there, there it is. Then they begin to grab at it, mouths slightly ajar, determined. A gust of wind picks the plane up high and its next moves become unpredictable, creating panic and fun. Just as the excitement swells, tote bag girl leaps into the air like a left fielder and makes the catch, landing in awe.

They circle her, marveling at what’s in her hand, shifting positions to examine every angle. Then, in perfect, eerie unison, they look directly at Fred—the source of the plane, the wondrous engineer. Frightened, Fred inches back from the window. He was not to be found. But for some reason, he slowly lifts his hand and waves like they do. Then he watches.

The young people don’t unfold the paper airplane. They simply pass it around, holding it carefully, this wildly, magnificently new thing that could be kind of like gold.

<strong>Kate Faigen</strong>
Kate Faigen

Kate Faigen works as a copywriter in Los Angeles. You can find her on Twitter: @k8faigen.