This is a piece I wrote a while back, sort of a moment captured, which I once imagined would be the beginning or middle of a story.
She flaunted her flaws unapologetically. She wore no make up, save a touch of her usual red lipstick and the smudges of last night’s kohl below her eyes. Absentminded, She fingered the rim of her cup, the foam long since having cleared.
The café was rarely more than a third full just past 10 am on a weekday morning, and the peace was welcoming. Perks of working irregular hours, she thought, before catching herself. Perks of not working at all, she corrected herself bitterly.
She stared at the empty chair across from her. It was unoccupied, as it often was, but today she felt the emptiness. Biting the inside of her cheek, she tried to clear the vague displeasure from her mind. It brought an irksome discomfort; though the solitude that she embraced once before had returned abruptly, it wasn’t wholly unwelcome.
So caught up was she in the nothingness of her current existence, that she didn’t notice the waiter approaching her, until there was a clink of china as he set her breakfast gingerly down before her.
With one sweeping movement, she transferred her hair from the nape of her neck to the side, the tumble of curls obscuring her face from the window she sat adjacent to. Giving her food a sideways glance, she knew that despite her sour mood, she was ravenous.
You asked me when you’d be my muse.
You asked it laughingly, playfully.
My injured pride kept me silent. The lump in my throat held me back.
Can’t you see? All I create; all my words, whether they be written on paper, or scored into the crevices of my heart. Every letter. They are all yours.
“Oh, my dear, of course I love him. But I am a writer and he is my muse. We are not meant to be together, I am simply meant to admire him.”
– Amelia Jones
Even as I was living it, I knew that day would be one I wanted to remember. I drank you in with my eyes, savouring each pixel. I tried to record every hesitation and punctuation, every word being slowly etched in my mind. Even as I was living it, I was recalling a memory. I let everything else melt away; the excess data. I wanted to slow down every second, to breath in your presence, to file away what it felt like, for later.
Months and months, and even years later, however, that day seems to have slipped from my grasp. Maybe what we deem to be significant is rarely so. Or maybe it was a sign, of things yet to come.
A languid, washed out amalgamation of sounds and pictures is all that remains. The lines blurred and the noises warped, making me wonder if it ever was. Or was it what it feels like; a bittersweet reverie.
Below, the baubles and sparkles give the shops a cheerful face. They beam welcomingly in their adorned splendour. Yet, upon a closer look, the buildings give away their age. Chipped signs, peeling paint, or the plethora of wires over head; all may catch the eye, but none take away from their dignity in the least.
The buildings stand shoulder to shoulder, like old friends. Like toothless old men they wordlessly pay tribute to days long gone. Precariously tall, they overlook the street with ease, gazing at every shopper and passer-by.
Assembled in rows, single file; your gaze shifts from the back of the head in front of you, to the floor and back to the head again. The distinct scrape of a chair, a muffled cough, a stifled yawn; all cause frequent peaks in the almost silence, bridged only by the sound of occasional murmured words of encouragement.
Orders are barked; those so often repeated that you listen now, more irked than chastened by the edge of the commanding voice. For a while, it seems that the pounding of your heart is all you can hear. You shift our implements between your fingers, adjusting them till you feel adequately comfortable.
The silence now is punctuated by the shuffle, snap, shuffle, snap, as the invigilator places the papers on the desks before you, coming ever closer.
Click. Nibs out.
Pens placed to the surface of paper.
On your marks.
And after a moment or two of hesitation…go.
Tongue between his teeth, nothing could distract him from his task. He chiseled the ice, shaping with as much precision as possible. Flakes flew in and out of his vision, all the while he worked. Moving the tool deftly in his right hand, he pressed his left against the surface for support, which was becoming increasingly numb. He ignored it, thinking of it as a mere inconvenience. The frosty flecks splashed on his face, but even that didn’t bother him. In fact, he rarely paused, except to wipe the drops off his brow. Even the frantic voices behind him didn’t deter him.
It’s not worth it, leave it! He mentally brushed away his wife’s concerns. The end would no doubt justify the means, no matter how long it took. He had to be forceful, yet gentle enough so as not to damage what was becoming increasingly visible under the layer of ice before him. His tool was dented by sheer force, but he couldn’t let that stop him. When his left hand was completely devoid of sensation, he slowed down.
Finally, it seemed he’d removed enough of the ice.
“I told you I could do it” He grinned now, turning to look at his wife.
Triumphantly tossing the spoon aside, he unstuck the last precious red ice lolly from the back of the freezer. He then kneeled, and handed it to his wide eyed three year old son.
And then she realised, letting go was something she could tell herself to do, but could only actually do partially; for he was etched into the crevices of her heart. His name was a thudding echo in her pulse. He was part of her, he made her, whether or not she thought about him anymore.
A monument in the landscape of her memories, he would be something that she chose not to frequently visit, though he stood there eternally.