Monday, November 21

No. 54

The black painting of my flat, the door held open and a stranger passes, my key stiff in the lock. I shut myself in the darkness and when the footsteps recede down the hall I turn a lamp on. I am safe. What did the stranger see? Did the stranger remark to himself that I was alone and must be miserable to return home as such? I am beyond miserable. I have swept so far past misery that I no longer feel much of the world at all. Stress and alcohol cause terrible blotches and boils on my skin. Before the mirror I am unsightly! A ghoul! I was alive, but now I don’t feel it. Walking along the streets I tremble fear; all is frayed. So I get home and I get drunk; then I paint, but the painting is terrible. I drink more and I paint but the painting becomes worse.
When there is a knock at the door I am drunk enough that I am not afraid to answer it. There are two men, deliverymen. They hand me a parcel—‘Number fifty-four is not in. Can you sign for it?’ My hands tremble. When their footsteps recede down the hall, I read the addressee. It is a beautiful name, an exotic name, a woman’s. Indeed I knew where she lived, just five doors down; outside of her door she had placed a mat stolen from a yacht club, and her blinds were never raised; in the mornings, when I walked by on my way to work, she was listening to music and getting ready. So that was her name. Even with my internal voice, the wavering thoughts, I was mispronouncing her name.
The parcel stood next to my front door. I did not know what was enclosed within the parcel, but I was sure it was exciting to receive a parcel. Even to receive this parcel was exciting, despite it not being mine. I set back to painting but the painting was a disaster so I destroyed it and put it into the bin. Then I drank more and masturbated. It was not especially appealing to me to eat, but I thought that I should.
In the morning the parcel was still there. When would she come to collect it? It was becoming a bother to have the parcel.
That night I went to a pub and wondered—What if she knocks to claim it and I am not there? With a name like that she was probably leading some exquisite social life, something to envy, rubbing shoulders with young architects and artists, photographers, lingerie designers, people with things to contribute. I got drunk and returned home. The parcel was still there. Looking at it I felt a curious responsibility. I had signed for it, indeed, and now it was my responsibility. Checking that it was stood safely against the wall, I went to bed.
Two nights later she came to collect it.
Again I was in a bad place, a horrid bleakness had overwhelmed me and I was drinking again because it was something to do; I could not write and I could not paint; I could do nothing and so I was useless.
The knock (knock-knock-knock) swung by a delicate wrist.
She was in front of me, the owner of this marvellous name. She was all smiles. They were gentle, effortless smiles. She said hello. She started to commend me on my t-shirt (a band) but I was anxious and did not wish to be seen by anyone, especially her, so friendly; I was bent down to retrieve the parcel. I handed it to her without saying a word and slammed the door as she smiled still and said good-by.
What had I done? It was appalling. I went back to my sofa and sat down.
It has been weeks now and I think of her. All day I feel choked by this city and how impersonal everybody is, yet when confronted with this wonderfully charming person, I was as rude as those I can’t bear. A hypocrite! She had been so jolly and I had struck her down. Perhaps she went back to her flat and thought—What an awful man, so rude. Perhaps she became miserable, too, and ate soup for dinner and put a sad song on her record player. What had I done? Surely I could have been polite and said hello. It is done now. I am no good.
I can’t walk past her door – avoiding the yacht club mat – without thinking of how rude I had been to her. It torments me constantly. Memories of what she looked like had fled me, but I cannot shake how friendly she had been and how I had shut her down. Often I think about writing her a note and sliding it under her door—‘Dear no, 54. A month ago you collected from my flat a parcel of yours that I’d signed for. You were so friendly and I was so rude. For that, I apologise profusely. Everyone in this city is so damn rude to each other and I was rude to you and how you were to me I do not wish to discourage. How you were to me I want everyone to be to each other. It has been eating me up how rude I was to you. Keep being how you were; it’s lovely. Again, I am sorry. Apologetically, no. 59.’
But I probably won’t ever send it.

2 comments:

  1. I'm still here, still reading. Wanted to let you know.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know who you are, but thank-you, truly. It means a lot to me.

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