I know I said that I would be using prompts from the jar, but hear me out…I was scrolling through prompts and I saw this one. As soon as I read the sentence the story sprung up, I had to write it right away. I really love those moments when the story takes over, I guess that is why I love writing, to reach that moment when I’m not even aware that I’m telling a story, the story just…is. It isn’t much but here goes…
This is the fifth door he has knocked on but they answered the same, hello? Oh, no we haven’t, sorry. Some didn’t even look at the paper in his hands. Maybe it was the way they trembled or how terribly crumbled the paper was. He should have taken better care of the paper. He should have taken better care of her. He goes to the next door and knocks, the words fall from his lips automatically, just tumble out. He feels like he is just an observer to this dialogue, and already he tuned the other person out. He is ready to continue his routine when the person stops him, yes yes she looks familiar.
He stops. He needs to fix his face. Needs to find the right emotion. Relief? Hopeful? Happy? He settles on hopeful, he turns around and let’s out a sigh, hand over his chest. That’s great news to hear, he says. The man, older, possibly retired, lets him in and tells him, to wait right here, in the living room. It was crowded with little knickknacks, like ceramic shoes, roosters, and a display of bells that would seem better fit in the place of some rich English elite, crammed together on shelves and tables. The couches even had the annoying plastic that sticks to your skin even on cool days. The man comes with what he presumed to be his wife. She’s short and smelled of very old perfume, old not like vintage but old as in expired. He didn’t even know if perfume could good bad, but if it did she was wearing it. A light blanket of dust had settled over the souvenirs, the old woman tells him with pride she gets a bell from every city they had visited. He didn’t even know cities carried the same brand, or is if type, of bells. They make small talk, the old woman gives him coffee in a rosy China teacup. He leaves it on the table, no need to give others another clue of his whereabouts. He asks where she was last seen, the couple look at each other and think. They go hmm. They go umm. The plastic crinkles as they shift to think more comfortably. The woman gazes up and to the right, staring at the only empty corner of the room. Her husband shakes his head, mumbles, then shakes it again. Finally, before the awkwardness set in, the old man snaps his fingers and tells him it was about three days ago, at the supermarket. His wife nods encouragingly, yes yes, she says, that was definitely her. Pretty young thing with the big eyes. Sweet thing, poor thing, they said. Gave them a quarter for the shopping cart.
Was there more? He lets them think a bit longer but can see from their scrunched up faces, there was none. They have nothing more to offer so he goes. He thanks them for their time, shakes their hands. The old woman drew him into a hug, pulling him down to her bosom. He chokes on the scent of her floral perfume. She pats him on the back and tells him that they’ll keep an eye out for her. He says thank you again, not because he’s thankful but because that was what was expected. He doesn’t feel like continuing down the block but he knows they are watching, shaking their heads in pity and wishing him the best. So he continues with his rehearsed lines and accepting their bland replies, but no one else seems to have remembered her, just that old couple. That unfortunate couple. He’ll make sure that no one remembers seeing them.
I’ve been reading “The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz and it leaked into here. It took awhile to get used to Diaz’s writing as he didn’t use quotations when people were talking, but looking back it reads more conversational, well at least to me.
I found it interesting that towards the end, I was substituting “him” with “me”, like “wishing me the best”. It was weird, to say the least. I mean I am “him”, in a sense, but without my notice, I did become him.
Am I making any sense?