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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Visitor

to a certain somebody

He came by yesterday. Now that she didn’t have to care for her mother anymore, part of her brain was unoccupied. The part that picked up the soft unobtrusive sounds that every house has. That side of her heard his knock on the door and –as in a reflex- let him in.
With a friendly smile he entered her room and made himself comfortable. She vaguely thought she recognized his face and he exuded an air of familiarity with her, so she made him coffee.
“Do you take cream and sugar?” she asked him.
“I’ll have both,” he replied. He spilled powdered cream on the floor. He stirred his coffee so erratically that the drops landed on the table, where they mixed with the sugar crystals that had fallen next to his mug.
While her PC was starting up, she turned to get her coffee from the dinner table. She wasn’t sure… did he retract his hand from her mug? Had he put sugar in her coffee? His smile was open and warm. Instead of asking him, she probed her coffee with a spoon. No milk no sugar, the coffee was just fine. She took it with her to the desk with the computer. “You’ll have to excuse me, “ she said, “there is something I must write down, before I forget. ” He nodded understandingly.
She wrote her lines, tasted them by reading them over again. It felt fine. The right amount of sweetness and bitterness combined. She sipped her coffee. Strange, it tasted a bit drab. Annoyed she looked at her story again. What had she been thinking of, when she wrote it? It wasn’t all that good. She closed the program without saving the new lines.
Her uninvited guest had opened a small suitcase. From it he withdrew a little standard and some sticks of  incense. “You don’t mind, do you?”
“No, no” she didn’t dare forbid him. Besides, in the past she used incense herself now and then. She opened her mail application. To see if a certain someone had dropped a line to her. A little life line.
“When did you get his last mail?” The voice of the visitor was so close, it seemed to come from within. So she wasn’t surprised at his knowing what she was looking for. “That was yesterday afternoon.” She answered casually.
“Oh, that’s over 24 hours already,” the visitor pulled up his eyebrows questioningly. Then , with an innocent  face, he lit the incense. “That’s not his habit, is it?”
She got a little irritated, but had to admit her guest was right. It wasn’t his habit.
“Well, of course at some point email is a little limited. Boring maybe. Some people get at that point sooner than others.”
She felt her mood sinking several degrees at that last remark. Because it reflected her feelings exactly.
"Come. Smell the incense. It'll cheer you up." The visitor invited her over to her own dinner table. She inhaled a little deeper than usual. Couldn't really make out the scent. The smoke of the incense was no good either. It was thick and spread through the room evenly, making everything look more grey.Good incense sends its smoke up in bursts of curls, twirling and spinning, bending and stretching, like a group of acrobats and ballet dancers. Making smooth turns like the well chosen words in some of her stories.
Was it really that good, her writing? Wasn't she just being childishly uncritical about her own work? What about her latest 'sequel'? The struggle she went through and her main characters still tiptoed around each other, stiff as garden rakes. She had really overestimated herself when she started that tale. When, when would she ever learn to see her impotence sharply and come down from her cloudy horse? She walked over to her computer. Selected all her stories in the directory. Her finger went over to the delete button. Just then she heard the locks of her guest's suitcase snap shut.
"I'd better leave now. Don't want to keep you from throwing away the rubbish in your life."  He tucked the suitcase under his arm and went for the door. There he turned around one more time.  "And I would stop being so 'honest' and open  if I were you. It makes you a bit of a ... woman with low standards, you see. That will turn away everybody."  His eyes weren't friendly. They were cold as steel.
Her finger didn't touch the provocative button. She needed her hand to support her head as she sank down on the chair behind her desk. Since she was alone, she might as well have a cry now. Through her tears she saw the mess the man had left behind.  Sticky coffee stains mixed with incense ash on her table. The box of the incense on the floor, in the midst of the powdered cream. She picked up the package with two fingers only. Her eyes caught the name of the fragrance he'd used:  "Ingratitude".
With a shock she remembered him. They did know each other well. He was mister Doubt. Just dropping by to make her an uncertain somebody.


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