Regardless of how long she stared at the insane mural that lay directly outside of her smudge stained office window, Miranda couldn’t help but feel like she was hiding away from the reality of what she desired so fervently. After all, the images painted upon the wall that resided in the spot perpendicular from her afternoon gaze were of an opposite affliction of anything she had yet set out to be. The fresco depicted a futuristic society, with thin towering skyscrapers reaching up into the atmosphere, flying cars drifting between the buildings as they searched for the nearest docks to station their hovering engines. The colors shifted from turquoise greens to purple tinted mauves, but somehow they blended together, creating a calming sense of urgency. Even though the images transcribed upon the flattened brick were nothing more than a fantasy, an escape that Miranda contemplated longingly, she knew deep down that her life would never be as exciting as the made up revelry that was just out of her reach.
Up against the side of the mural was where Liberty Avenue laid, the cars transpiring over top of it as they came into her view, and then disappeared from sight. The buildings that lined the street were both old and new, some composed of red shaded bricks, while others were made of nothing but the shiniest gray stones. These were the things she stared at, every day without end, the actual image in her eye shifting due to the vehicles passing by, but the reality of what she was seeing never seemed new to her. It always seemed the same.
“Ma’am, this is kind of something that someone would need to show you in person,” Miranda told the senile old woman who she was speaking with on the telephone, as she pulled her gaze back inside her whitewashed office, letting the chaos of the world outside disappear. “If you are unfamiliar with how to use Microsoft Word, or the computer in general, it’s kind of going to be hard to teach you how to copy and paste.”
These were the kinds of conversations she had. Every day.
“But I think I finally got it,” the scratchy voice replied, filtering out of the phone and into Miranda’s ear. “All I’ve got to do is highlight the text, click this mouse thingy here in my hand, and then select copy, and then later push paste where I want it to go into the email, so I can send it to you. Right?”
“Yes, that’s right,” Miranda told her. “Something like that. Just try it out and I’ll let you know if I receive your manuscript.”
“I’ll try!” The old woman said with enthusiasm, clearly unaware how frustrated Miranda was with the entire conversation. She told her goodbye and then slammed the phone onto the receiver, not wanting to make another call any time soon.
As the echo of the phone striking the receiver galloped around her small, unadorned office, Miranda heard another sound. Looking up to the ceiling where it was coming from, she noticed that the large metal air vent was trembling, shaking back and forth, as if it wasn’t attached properly. She glared at it for a moment, and then let the notion of it possibly plummeting from its perch filter itself out of her mind. She didn’t want to worry herself thinking about things such as this.
Miranda worked in a triangle shaped building for a self-publishing company. She spoke with authors from all over the world, each of them proclaiming to her that they were the next big thing, that their books were amazing and that they were going to be famous. The grandiosity of their dreams, and the unnerving disconnect they had with how things actually worked never failed to amaze her. The conversations she had with these authors were pleasant enough for the most part, until they realized they had to pay to get their books published with her company. That was the part in the conversation where most of the authors started to care very little about what Miranda Simon had to say.
She could relate with them, after all, at least in some way, due to the fact that she too was a writer. Or at least, she was trying to be one. She had been trying for years to find an agent, but regardless of how good everyone said her stories were, no one who mattered had found them good enough. At least not yet, or so she kept telling herself in the silent single seconds that continued to pass her by.
A female’s voice suddenly started singing out, and Miranda rolled her eyes as she recognized the tone of Beatrice’s vibrato coming from her office a few doors over. Miranda glanced at the clock, and since it was almost time for lunch, she decided to step away from her desk and emerged into the hallway that would lead her out of the three-sided building that housed her daily pain.
As she closed her office door behind her, she got a strong whiff of a repugnant aroma, and as the scent itself quivered across the sound of singing still emanating from where Beatrice currently resided, Miranda decided to confront her.
“What on earth are you eating?” she asked, interrupting her song as she walked into her office without knocking since the door was halfway open.
Beatrice’s tiny eyes penetrated her fiercely for a moment, but then they sparkled as her oddly symmetrical face burst into a smile. “It’s roasted ox. Do you want to try some?”
“No thanks,” Miranda answered, as she watched Beatrice push a piece of brown stringy meat into her mouth. “I have lunch plans with Henry.”
“Oh! That’s exciting!” Beatrice began, her mouth half full, her singing finally finished. “Where are the two of you going today?”
“Where we always go. Penn Avenue Fish Company.”
“Don’t you ever get sick of sushi?”
“Apparently not,” Miranda replied, already regretting her decision to talk to Beatrice.
“Well I just think uncooked fish sounds unappetizing, if I’m being honest. I much prefer more normal food, like this,” she said, lifting up another piece of the strangely scented meat.
“Beatrice, you’re eating roasted ox, I think that’s anything but normal.”
She laughed at Miranda’s suggestion. “Oh! I guess you’re right!”
“Anyways, I’m going to leave now,” Miranda said bluntly, exiting the space which Beatrice occupied without saying goodbye. As she continued down the hallway the sound of singing started up again, albeit this time, it sounded muffled, as it passed through the lips of someone who had their mouth full.
It didn’t take long for Miranda to traipse down the stairs of her building, leading her down to the ground floor and out to the city street she spent most of her day looking at. It was a short walk to the sushi restaurant where she was meeting her boyfriend, so it wasn’t long before she arrived there. She spotted the back of his head, and instantly thought that it looked ridiculous.
Henry wasn’t ugly, but he wasn’t really that attractive of a man either. As he turned around to greet her, his cowlicked hair shifted itself away from her, so that his plumply delighted face could approach her with a perfectly set smile.
“Right on time,” he said as he embraced her quickly.
“I try to be,” she said silently, as the hug ended.
Henry worked for PNC, the largest bank in the city. Although Miranda thought his job sounded awful, comprising of the computation of numbers and monetary advances she never desired to think about for long, she couldn’t really judge him for it. After all, she didn’t only hate his job, she hated her own too.
Once they had retrieved their sushi from the two stern Asian men who made it, they left the cramped restaurant and walked to the park they always ate at in the summertime. Its concrete beds were overlain with benches surrounded by vegetation of the flowering variety. They sat down at their usual spot, underneath a pink colored tree, whose blossoms swayed in the warm brisk wind.
Miranda listened to Henry talk, as she usually did, trying to digest his words without regurgitating the sushi she plopped into her mouth piece by piece. It wasn’t that she didn’t like Henry, as he was possibly the best thing that ever happened to her, but in recent weeks, she felt as if she no longer wanted to be with him, for no real reason at all.
“And so, they offered me the position in Seattle, and-”
“Wait. What?” Miranda asked suddenly, realizing she hadn’t been listening to anything he had been saying up until this point. Apparently Henry hadn’t noticed.
“The job interview I had a few weeks ago, I got it. But they decided it’s not going to be in Pittsburgh. It’s in Seattle.”
“I think that’s the only Seattle there is,” Henry said, as he chortled uncertainly.
“Of course, I guess I’m just kind of surprised, that’s all,” Miranda told him as she set her empty carton down, chewing the last piece of sushi still within her mouth. She swallowed and then said, “So…what are you going to do?”
“I think I’m going to take it. Under one condition…”
“I want you to come with me,” Henry said somewhat sheepishly, his eyes darting from hers and then away from them, unsure if what he proposed had enough weight to convince her to move to a coast across the country.
“You do?” Miranda sputtered, choking on the only two words she could force herself to spit out.
“Of course I do!” Henry replied, taking stride in the conversation as he reached out and grasped both of her hands in his. “I wouldn’t want it any other way baby.”
The sound of the word she despised rang in her ears as she contemplated what he had offered. She wasn’t a baby. She was a woman. Should she go with him? Or should she stay in Pittsburgh, aimlessly letting her days meander away as she tried to teach old women how to use computers while her nostrils were affronted regularly with the stench of eccentric meat?
The truth was, Miranda was unhappy in life. Her job was close enough to what she wanted to be doing, but it wasn’t quite there. It wasn’t enough to satisfy her. Henry was great in some ways, but his very nature made her unwillingly recoil at the most random of times. She had grown up in Wexford, a suburb of the city, and hadn’t done very much traveling at all. A part of her wanted nothing more than a new start in a new metropolis, a place where she could focus on her writing, honing her craft in the way that she had never been able to before. Miranda wanted to take Henry’s invitation to move across the country seriously, but something was holding her back. She was terrified of change, regardless of how monotonous her life was, it was what she was used to. It was constant. And anything other than that, was something she couldn’t quite bring herself to understand.
“Oh, Henry. Wow,” she began, stuttering. “I mean. I’d, well…it’s just that…”
“It’s just what?” He asked, shifting his wait so that he was on the edge of his seat, the bench barely underneath his large buttocks.
“I don’t know. This is a big decision, let’s be honest,” she said as Henry nodded, trying his best to agree with her even though she wasn’t saying much. “I guess it is something that I am going to have to take some time to think about. I’m not saying no, but I don’t think that I’m quite ready to say yes. But that doesn’t mean I won’t.”
Henry stared at her for a minute, his chubby cheeks unmoving as the small sprouts of scruff that pushed out of them seemed to somehow grow faster. He took a deep breath before he spoke again. “I understand Miranda. It is a big decision, and I respect the fact that you need some time to think about it.”
Really, Henry wanted Miranda to tell him yes right away, but he should have known better than to have expected that. There wasn’t a single bone in Miranda’s body that could be classified as spontaneous.
“I should be getting back,” she said then as she stood up slowly, waiting for Henry to do the same.
“Okay, yeah. I probably should be too.”
They pushed their faces together and forced their lips to kiss. The taste of fish bounced back and forth off of their mouths, but Miranda didn’t mind. She loved Henry. At least, she told herself that she did.
Separating in different directions, they both walked back to their perspective places of employment. Henry back to the towering skyscraper covered in glass, Miranda back to the squat little triangle that was built in a time before even her great-grandmother existed within.
The rows of buildings on Liberty Avenue shone in the light that dripped down from the heavens, the glass reflecting the sun and spreading it around upon the faces of the citizens who moved within its reaches. Her short heels clacked on the sidewalk as she moved, but Miranda tried not to focus on the sounds they made, instead she let the noise of the city overtake her, as she tried to imagine being in another place, so far away.
She’d never been to Seattle, but that didn’t mean she was incapable of using her imagination. She’d seen pictures of it, of course, and although the main thing that kept popping up in her mind was the formation of the Space Needle, she knew there had to be more to its landscape than just that. Perhaps someday soon she would find out.
The fluorescent beige office buildings began to blend into one another as she got closer and closer to her office, not wanting to return to work, but refusing to allow herself to wallow out on the streets any longer within the throws of possible change. Miranda made her way into the lobby, and back up the stairs to the second floor where her chamber of dismay remained.
She was happy that Beatrice was no longer singing. Instead, she was loudly talking to someone on the phone who didn’t seem to understand English. Miranda gathered this from the way Beatrice was speaking, slowly enunciating each of the words that rolled off of her tongue as if she was talking to a child or a canine companion.
She plopped down upon her black leather swiveling chair and tried to ignore the rattling noise that was coming once again from the vent above. The sound she could do without, but since it was being caused by the cold air flowing out from it, the only reason her office wasn’t a muggy hotbox, she decided to not let it bother her.
Miranda reached for the telephone to make another one of her endless calls, but instead of creating something outgoing, something came in to her.
“Thanks for calling Lamar Publishing, this is Miranda, how can I help you?” It was the way she answered the phone anytime someone called.
“Miranda? I thought your name was Melissa?” A woman’s voice contemplated.
“No ma’am. It’s Miranda. Whom am I speaking with?” She asked, although she was sure she recognized the voice.
“It’s Miss Terry. We were just talking a little bit ago. I can’t figure out this damn scissor game. This copy and paste or whatever the hell you call it,” the old woman told her, clearly frazzled from her lack of progress with the computer she didn’t understand.
“I’m sorry you are having trouble with it, but I’m afraid I don’t know what else to tell you. As I said earlier, teaching you how to do it would be much easier in person, but obviously I’m unable to come assist you in Lubbock, Texas. Do you have a friend or a family member who could help?”
“Oh. Maybe. I don’t know,” she answered, her voice on the edge of frustration.
“Well, don’t give up. I’m sure it will work out. We look forward to reading your manuscript,” Miranda lied to her. No one was ever going to read her book.
“Okay. Thanks Melissa, you’ve been such a peach. Goodbye!” And then the old woman hung up, before Miranda could once again correct her about what her name actually was.
She sighed then, heavily and without restraint as she placed the telephone down. She closed her eyes and let the darkness succumb for a second before opening them again. She allowed her gaze to drift out of the window she faced, the entryway to the city she would probably never escape.
The metal air vent fell down then, rattling continuously as it gave in to gravity’s wishes. It landed on Miranda’s head, causing her to grunt in pain as the harsh impact of the metal barreled into her skull. She fell forward, the force of the blow causing her to knock over her computer screen so that her head fell down on her desk. She slumped over, as a thick wave of blood began to burst through the wound that had been inflicted.
Miranda’s eyes fleeted back and forth as she teetered on the edge of unconsciousness, unable to move, unable to scream, unable to do anything. She wondered if she was dying, but she didn’t know. She stared out the window, looking at the futuristic purple and green mural that could always grasp her attention. The flying cars painted upon it burst off of the brick, and flew away from the spot where they had once remained.
But Miranda couldn’t break away from anything.
She couldn’t deal with change.
She couldn’t be dead.