Friday, April 9, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I was in and out of the car so much yesterday it took forever for me to write my 3WT post. And then, by the time I got home, I had only 5 minutes to post it before the router went, here it is, late.  My apologies. I understand from her blog that our 3WT host, Quilly, is under the weather and under the blankie. Hope you feel better soon, Q!

The words:

  • acersecomic, n. — someone whose hair has never been cut
  • uberate, v. — make plentiful or nourish
  • snilch, v. — to eye someone or something
My Story

Pacing nervously up and down the corridor, Philip tried to convince himself that the yelling he was hearing had nothing to do with him. It had nothing to do with the woman he’d brought into the emergency room. The note of urgency in the ER personnel voices must be connected with some other patient. After all, the woman he’d brought in wasn’t bleeding or obviously hurt. She was just . . . different.

He had first noticed her four weeks earlier when he headed out for a morning run. Pursuant to his New Year’s Resolutions that he was finally following through on in March, he began a slow jog.  “I hate this,” he muttered.  As he turned the corner at the end of the street to head for the river he saw a huddled shape in a doorway to his left. The fog was thinning enough that he discerned the shape was a woman, wrapped in a multi-colored scarf. “Not my problem,” he thought, and continued on.

The next day was sunny so he had no trouble at all seeing her in the doorway. The scarf was an interesting pattern of shapes. His ex-wife had called them amoebas, Philip remembered. But true amoebas weren’t a regular shape like these. Philip then mused upon the possible origin of such a pattern. Was it borrowed from Eastern cultures? Did they represent heavenly bodies? Such were the meanderings of his thoughts until the run was finished.

The third day he noticed the background color. It was a smoky charcoal. Leaning into the slight breeze he wondered whether smoky charcoal really was killing the planet. He mused upon the idea that electric cars were more efficient, yet needed to be plugged in to some kind of power generating device that operated by coal burning. From there he considered whether the early charcoal makers discovered its use by chance, and how they might have devised a way to actually create charcoal themselves. These thoughts became so serious that he ran past his front door a few paces before he realized he was home.

On the fourth day, he noticed that the amoebas were different colors. Amber, Umber, Vermilion, Cerulean, Viridian . . . the colors just rolled out of an ancient memory of his brief stint as an artist. They were so fun to say that he chanted them as he ran. Once he reached the river he began to think of famous artists, and the colors they used. Monet, Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Vermeer . . . their names were almost as fun as the colors, so he chanted them as well.  The run that morning seemed almost too brief.

A few days more of noticing the woman sent his thoughts further afield. The interesting thing was that each day he noticed something new about her scarf, and the thought it produced kept his mind active while he ran. He hardly noticed that his running had become less labored.

By the second week he began to notice the woman herself. He thought he could see that her hair was an ashy blond. From the way it showed on her forehead, and from the braid he saw sticking out below the scarf, he thought of her as an acersecomic. Like the Nazarenes of old, only female.  The thought of the Nazarenes' strict dietary laws sent him off on another tangent. Just how did this woman uberate herself?

On the fourth day of the second week, she looked up as he went by. Her eyes were a startling turquoise color.  He broke his step and REALLY looked this time. She said nothing and he felt an invisible hand move him forward to continue his run. It wasn’t right to intrude upon her solitude. That thought occupied him throughout the run. Just how much solitude does a person kipping in a doorway want?

On the Sunday of the third week, before he headed out for what had become a morning ritual, he put together some croissants with ham and cheese. He had never seen her teeth and had learned from the newspaper  that many homeless people had teeth problems, so he chose light pastry with thinly shaved ham. He had read that fresh water was also a problem, so he added a full water bottle. As he rounded the corner and looked at her customary station, he saw that she was heads down in the scarf once more. He paused, placed the bag at her feet and went on.

Each of the following four days were the same. Whatever Philip had for breakfast, he made an equal portion for her, and left it for her as he went by. He did not try to speak to her or snilch her in a way that implied intimacy or curiosity. She never commented, never reacted, and never looked at him again as she had the day he had seen those startling eyes.

Philip’s morning routine had completely altered. Instead of the three to four cigarettes, black coffee and stretch on the back balcony, the intrigue provided by this woman had motivated him to change his pattern. He was healthier, his clothes were hanging better, and one of his work colleagues had mentioned that Philip was acting like he was in love because he had become so uncharacteristically pleasant to everyone at the firm.

On the second day of the third week, Philip rounded the corner, glanced at her customary spot, and continued a few feet before the doorway’s emptiness registered on his brain.  He stopped dead. She was not there.  Nonetheless, he walked back to the doorway, and put the breakfast bag down in case she had just stepped away for a minute.

The next day was a repeat of the prior. He rounded the corner, with her breakfast, and she was not there – but neither was the bag from the day before. He put down a fresh bag with breakfast and continued.

The third day of the third week, Philip found himself gazing at the breakfast he was making for her with annoyance. “If she’s not going to be there, I’m wasting my time and effort!” he thought. Immediately shamed, he continued the preparation and included some fresh blueberries as a quiet apology. “Who do I think I am?” he muttered to himself. Couldn’t she move without his permission? Perhaps the police had told her to go somewhere else. Or by chance the owners of the house (Philip had never considered them before) had come out early and told her to shove off.

For two more days, he prepared a breakfast and left it in the empty doorway.

Finally, he could stand it no longer. On the 21st day since he had first seen her, he stopped at the door and pushed the bell.  “RRRRRRRIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNGGGGG!”  The urgent noise seemed to echo through the door and into the building. “RRRRRRRIIIIIIIINNNNNNNNNGGGGG!”

Philip was jerked back to reality.  The alarm was in the emergency room area. The fervent voices were several notches higher on the urgency scale.  He tried to look in as the doors opened to admit or spit out specialists and technicians garbed in hospital green.  No one had a word for Philip.  He wasn’t even sure who was on the gurney they were crowded around.  A tall gowned figure stepped back from the table for a moment. At that moment Philip was able to see the figure on the gurney flutter its eyes.

They were turquoise.


Jill said...

Wow! You so had my attention! Great job.

Nessa said...

A very startling story. I wonder how she will change his life now.

SouthLakesMom said...

Jill, from an English teacher, that's a compliment indeed! As I look back over it, I can see places where it's choppy. Ah, what seems brilliant the night before is often . . . NOT! Thank you anyway!

Nessa, that's exactly the thread I'm trying to capture. We think we're changing others' lives, but really, we're allowing them to change ours. I think I like this story beginning enough to stay with it some more. Hopefully next week!

Aoife.Troxel said...

Lovely story.. I want to read more!

juliana said...

wow, this is a powerful story.
i like how the strange woman influenced phillip and i hope we haven't heard the last of them :)

Anonymous said...

Wow that is just awesome. Just loved it my friend.

Anonymous said...

I'd love to hear more of this story.

quilly said...

Wow! This one grabbed me and kept me. I want to know more. I want to know the woman's name, why she was sitting on the porch, more about how much she's impacted the man's life and more about how he has impacted her life and ... wow!