The Waning Moon
by Vanja Artak
She pushed the stroller out of the apartment building, careful it didn’t hit any of the bumps outside, or the cans that the teenagers had spilled everywhere. She couldn’t have her waking up. Not now. Looking out at the setting sun, she couldn’t remember if he had come home that day. Was he on the couch right now? Or was he out somewhere, living somewhere else he hadn’t told her about?
She pushed the stroller down the street, careful that the wheels didn’t roll into the gravel by the sidewalk. She wondered why there was even gravel there, but then she remembered that it was probably there to choke the earth beneath it and make it impossible for plants to push through as little seedlings. After all, they paid monthly for someone to remove unwanted weed around the apartments. They called him the gardener, though she had never seen him. She couldn’t pick him out of a line-up if she tried.
She pushed the stroller farther down the street, past the school that looked like white tombstones stacked on one another. The large windows were pale with moonlight, and she wondered if the school would be a good hospital. If a girl was assaulted there, young and foolish, could she be resuscitated on a cafeteria table in school? Could her life somehow be saved by the plot advancement in a Shakespearean play coupled with the Pythagorean Theorem? If not, at least the biology teacher would have another specimen for the collection she imagined he had at home, fermenting in the dark like the breath of a drunk high school jock.
She pushed the stroller across the street, into the part of the neighbourhood you didn’t visit after dark. There they were, in gangs of three and four and a million, it seemed, young teenage boys with their backs against her, smoke rising from their lips like souls tasting the air around them. It was all drugs with them, she thought, and alcohol and rape and beatings, and when that wasn’t enough, they would find the girl with the most to lose and put her up against a dumpster in the pale moonlight.
She pushed the stroller a bit farther out, to the dumpsters where she stopped for a minute. The moon was waning, and there was something about the empty, dark hole through that white pearl in the sky that made her think of death and the future, how somehow there was a choice between the two, even now. The dumpsters rattled, and she pushed the stroller homeward.
She pushed the stroller past the bad neighbourhood, past the school, and back to the apartment building, letting the wheels hit all the gravel, all the cans, and every single bump in the road. She walked inside the apartment building, leaving the stroller outside, empty like the dark hole of a waning moon.