Two posts in one day is not the norm for me but I just had to slip this story in for Search Engine Stories this week. I am hopelessly late.
The prompt last week was somebody in the city loves me.
Here is my story….
The distance between one moment of solitude and another can be short in the city. People with no names vanish into doorways. Lone trees, planted as an afterthought, lean back from the road in an attempt to avoid the detritus from traffic. Birds, scrawny and bedraggled, hover on window ledges, flying to the ground half-heartedly when crumbs are scattered.
The buildings are grey, looming, cold, catching the sighs of office workers as they scramble to face another day. The queues for coffee, newspapers, invigorating juice stream outward with military precision. Expressions are blank, unreadable. There are those who have accepted their fate.
Mobile phones blink, whistle, purr. Thumbs grow calloused from texting. Laptops jostle for position on café tabletops. People have two hundred emails to answer before five, forty requests for social networking friendships, but still go home alone.
I see them every day. I work in a doctor’s surgery right in the middle of it all. On my first day the doctor said :’Welcome to the hustle and bustle.’ He was right. The patients never stop. They are stressed, they are depressed. They are too fat. They are too thin. They are too busy. They are too lonely. They are overwhelmed. They are underappreciated. The emotional symptoms outweigh the physical. The requests for drugs, remedies, plans to take it all away, the ache of just being alive, never stop.
The doctor makes a fortune. Fifteen minutes – sixty dollars. Another fifteen minutes, another sixty dollars. All day they come and go. They tell me their problems like I am a bartender. I go home weary. The doctor counts his receipts and claps his hands like a child at a birthday party. He goes home happy.
Every evening after work I have a shower. It is a precaution. They say rare diseases are on the rise in the city. It’s because we are cutting down all the trees. The diseases gather under doorhandles and climb the walls of hallways, waiting to pounce.
The hot water is soothing. Particles of water splash against the tiles and fall, quick as mercury, to rejoin the larger flow being driven down the drain. Separate an atom of water from its brothers and it will curve and push and plunge around your fingers until it is once again a part of the whole.
Every night it is the same. I am drying my hair after spraying in the conditioner that smells like wildflowers when I hear the pop of the cork. It is Maxime. He has prepared a dinner for me. He is letting the wine breath.
Tonight it is wild mushroom risotto and white wine with the softest hint of vanilla. Maxime is a chef. He spends all day listening to people remove ingredients from dishes he has researched for weeks before adding to the menu. No cheese, no onions, no bread. Only green peppercorns, no black. No rosemary, only thyme. Your beef stock is too beefy, your tomatoes too sweet. Your lettuce doesn’t have the crunch I’m looking for, your egg yolk is not quite yellow enough.
Maxime and I drink our wine and laugh as the sunset throws orange splashes against the windows. We remember the knots we had in our stomachs when we woke up in the city on our own, like a hand pressing down on our very souls. Now we smile at the demands of our working day , changed from being one to being two.
We met at the arthouse cinema that has the old gum tree out front. Gumnuts crunch all over the pavement. For years every time I pass I gather handfuls of them and take them home to the special jar I keep by the window. They look like tiny caps, bonnets for the creatures of the wood who have nothing left but the solitary tree that stands with courage facing the road, bark bleached white from exhaust fumes and too much glaring light.
Maxime was going to see Jules et Jim. I had my heart set on Amelie. Our eyes met and we spent all night talking instead. Just like that.
Maxime had been alone for years. So had I. We settled in together and dreams that had previously been spent were revived.
Every morning with my freshly brewed mocha latte and my roll still warm from the oven, Maxime leaves me a gumnut from the jar that I know he has kissed. All day I keep it in my pocket, cradling it in my fingers when the day closes in. It is a form of blessedness, of revelation. For as I turn the small object in my fingers I am released and I know, deep in my heart, that somebody in the city loves me.