A Thousand Words

suitcase in the hall outside the neighbour's door

The other evening I came home, and, stepping off the elevator, saw this. No one around, couldn’t hear any voices from inside the apartment, door closed, suitcase just… sitting there.

My brain offered up half a dozen stories about how the suitcase came to be there before I even made it the short distance to my door. So I thought recording snippets of a couple might be a fun exercise. I couldn’t tell if they felt cliched, or just familiar, writing them. There is… more than a hint of autobiography throughout.

Picture 1

Tea had seemed like the most important thing in the world, just then. Once they’d parked the car it seemed imperative that they get their coats off and the kettle on as soon as possible.

A phone call at your desk on a Wednesday afternoon when you’re wrangling a spreadsheet macro and forgetting again to water your desk plants. And the voices spew information too quickly for the next few hours, under sickly greenish lights. Fell down the stairs? Visiting Marie?

And your sister arrives… some time. You fleetingly wonder who called her. Right, that desperate hug and the questions before she even lets go, her coat still so cold from such a brief time outside. Did you change the sheets in the guest room? Most of the arrangements will be done by the time your brother-in-law and the kids, among others, arrive on Friday.

You forgot where you put the parking garage ticket until you were nearly in tears. And now, long after you’ve forgotten to eat dinner and your sister has forgotten that she hates drinking black tea, her coat has fallen off the chair where she dropped it and her suitcase is forgotten in the hallway.

Lacing your fingers around your mugs, perhaps the steam from the Darjeeling will open your brain the way it opens pores, and help you process that you are technically a newly minted orphan.

Picture 2

It still somehow felt like a video. Making eye contact just after she pushed through the doors, rushing through the crowd, and a hug that threatened to meld the two of you. Followed by a kiss whose awkwardness could be easily forgiven with its enthusiasm.

I mean, my God, it had been a year. A year of emails and text messages and Skype chats and even the occasional package delivered to the office containing random evidence of her appreciation of beauty. But through all that she remained just… media, in a way.

You don’t remember a second of the walk to the parking garage, and almost nothing of the hour’s drive home, though you tried, desperately. Listening intently to her tales of travel, shaping the sound of her accent in your mind. Sneaking glances at her profile and trying to memorize the curve of her lower lip without losing your concentration on the road entirely.

She made it easy on you once you’d turned your key in the lock. She had you pinned to the wall, and to her. You never had a chance to do that thing with your foot to keep the door from banging.

And finally, she became real. But not until the next morning when, after slithering out of the warm cocoon you’d made of the bed, she returned minutes later, laughing and pulling behind her the suitcase, which, tellingly, had spent the night in the hallway outside the door.

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