Somebody In The City Loves Me

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.

17 thoughts on “Somebody In The City Loves Me

  1. this makes me think about despite my love of solitude,, a human is a nice thing to have… and i mean that in the most innocuous of ways.. someone to share dinner with,, a movie,, silence….

    lovely as always dear selma…..


  2. PUNATIK – you’re making me think I should dust off the screenplay I have sitting in my drawer. It is a dream of mine to make films. I have wanted to do it since I was a little kid. Thanks for the encouragement!

    PAISLEY – I agree. Someone to share the day-to-day things is nice. Just little things like someone making you a cup of tea when you’re tired can mean so much. That said I have some friends who now live on their own and prefer it because they no longer have to be embroiled in fighting everyday. There are benefits to both states.

    VIC – thank you so much. I am really grateful for the feedback!

    MELEAH – you really are such a source of support for me. I can’t thank you enough!

    EPIPHANY – awwww, hon. You really do say the loveliest of things!

    LISSA – thank you so much!

    MARY – that underlying twist always has to be there with me, I suppose I don’t really trust happy scenes. I’m always thinking: ‘Where’s the catch?’ I think that happiness has many facets to it and I like to delve below the surface a bit. I am so glad you liked it!


  3. Selma, Yes. You do write stories that are gorgeous, beautifully spun, and eloquent.But your true skill as a writer is that your ability to weave thoughtful social commentary into the gorgeous, beautifully spun eloquence of your stories without distracting from any of the afore-mentioned aspects of your writing. And the social commentary is never overly didactic nor preachy. In sum, you marry very well exquisite form with astute content, elegant style with meritorious substance. Cheers, DavidM


  4. You’ve done it again Selma. Such a great take on this (for me)rather “difficult” prompt. I came up with nada…

    I loved this story. It was moving, funny and heart-warming.

    Hugs, G 🙂


  5. DAVID – I am going to print out your comment and hang it above my desk to keep reminding me why I write. I am thrilled by this. You are the best!

    GERALDINE – thank you so much. I will admit that I found it difficult too. Despite living in the inner city and liking it, I still see a lot of loneliness and disenchantment. It was hard to apply a romantic, happy ending theme to that often grim reality of urban life. It it an amazing thing, however, that if you give things time – the stories come to you.


  6. How I would love to have your imagination and the ability to describe the imagery in your head to your readers. The first part of the story seemed a bit depressing and grim but it ended with what we all long for, a little bit of hope and love. Just beautiful my gifted friend.


  7. My dear girl what a wonderful piece!

    “People have two hundred emails to answer before five, forty requests for social networking friendships, but still go home alone.”

    This is so sadly true, it really hit me in the gut. This is such a wonderfully hopeful light in my day! Such a gift. Cheers & bravo!!


  8. GYPSY – thank you so much, hon. That really means a lot to me!

    KAREN – I am thrilled it made you feel that way and I can see now that there is an element of that about it. A good relationship does that, doesn’t it? Makes you feel that no matter what, you are safe. I really appreciate your observation.

    KAYT – well, you brighten my day regularly. Glad I could return the favour!


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