An Evening in St.James

February 27, 2010

Spiral Staircase
Picture by Martin Haesemeyer

She could not remember what she had been thinking, months previously. Why had she bought the ticket for the formal dinner at the prestigious club? What should she–socially awkward little girl–do in such a place? She must have had some reason–but for the moment it was lost to her.

Pacing throughout her little house, she was pulling her hair, wondering what she should do. Too much had been invested already for the horn of defeat to be blown. She had no option but to attend, as she had intended, all those weeks ago.

A dress was waiting for her in the depths of her closet, a dress bought for that very purpose. It would be a pity to disappoint it, that grey, formal little thing that suited her so well. So she put it on.

She tamed her eccentric, long hair and twirled it in two braids to form a compact bun, the weight held in place with what seemed a thousand pins. A white flower of silk was planted next to the secured wheat hair, and she allowed pearls to flow around her neck and droop off the lobes of her ears.

Indeed, she was beautiful, especially with both sooted and powdered eyes. Still, her lower lip trembled with fear. Biting it–knowing fear is best conquered when challenged–she draped a beige and pink coat over her shoulders. She looked a bit like her grandmother had done when her age. She liked it, always having found her grandmother in possession of an aura of self-assured elegance.

The sun was setting when she stepped outside, the clouds having been whisked to form strawberry meringue upon the powder-blue sky. The heels of her shoes tip-tapped the ground as she walked, feeling heads turn as she passed.

Two hours later she stood outside the elegant, albeit majestically menacing door. Her name on the guest list would grant her entry; this evening she belonged inside. Yet, her heart raced in her chest. She was frightened, pacing the street up and down, and back and forth, attempting to calm her terrified nerves.

She had done this to herself to learn what was painful not to know. Social ineptness knew only one cure: staring fear in the eye.

So, she entered. Her name granted her entry, acknowledged with a bow. Her coat was hung among others, and she entered the room.

She was taller than everyone, towering above them like a giant lost. What was worse, however, were the evening gowns that swept across the floor. Her heart sank in her chest as she looked down on her own, much less conspicuous as she had feared a gown would be overdress.

A few familiar faces welcomed her, and introduced yet more. For a moment things were going fine with conversation and introductions–until she ran out of words. She blushed, feeling insignificant yet again, disappearing into a corner from which she was pulled so the charade could start anew.

Entering the dining room she found people were missing from her table. It worried her. But it was the last of her concerns.

But things changed when the person next to her turned out to be the friend of a childhood friend, and so, with something in common, they spoke for most of the meal.

The dinner itself was enjoyable. Despite the price it was not up to the standards she knew from home, but far better than anything she would have served her solitary self–had she decided not to go.

A salad for appetiser, chicken with mushrooms for the main course, and panna cotta for pudding. She had never had the latter before but she enjoyed it. Over the course of that evening, she had grown ignorant of the intimidating nature of novelty. She did not like the coffee however, despite telling herself having a cup would be sophisticated. She found some things cannot be forced; which she knew, but desired to change.

She ended up talking with people for two more hours, being proud of herself during the course of the conversations, reproaching herself when swirling across the room, not daring to approach anyone. A kind person took her under their wing, helping her along. She was most grateful, finding she was straining herself to do what came so easily to others.

It was delightful to talk, and for once, she felt that she had something in common with her partners of conversation. What was more, she felt that she belonged.

As the evening–for her part–neared its end, she was given the card of someone who desired to see her again. She accepted it, not because she intended to, but because it was a token of acceptance she would treasure.

She bade them farewell, and was escorted down the stairs by the arm of a young gentleman. She was even kissed adieu on the cheek, blushing after she had disappeared into the darkness before the clock had struck midnight.

Although she was Cinderella, with a last train to catch, she had failed to forget her shoe. That was for another evening–when, she did not know. This, had only been the beginning.

As the tip-tapped home anew, amidst the silence and darkness that reigned during the young hours of the country night, the moon was translucent upon veiled skies. She smiled at its awe: she had actually enjoyed the evening she had not been certain she even wished to attend.

Having partially conquered her fears, she had proven she could do more than she had believed. She had grown stronger the evening–that evening in St. James.

Growing a Story

February 21, 2010

Maple in Bloom

Once upon a time, the date since lost, a whisper crossed her path, so faint it was barely more than a tentative suggestion. It happened every once in a while–that an idea breathed into existence–but very few managed to plant their seeds and take root in her mind. This particular story, and a few before it, however thrived in her thoughts–what set them apart from all others impossible to say.

That seed which had been planted would be well-cared for, as its progress from insignificance to greenery was delightful. With both love and care it was encouraged to shoot into the air, and to grow greener as its first leaves sprouted. She watered it with imagination and talked to it about notions. It thrived from the attention.

But mind as matter sometimes tires of offering nourishing soil for memetic creatures to grow, and at times the little story was all but forgotten; looming in the murkiness, awaiting the time when the sun would part the clouds anew. It always did, was patience only a celebrated virtue.

She did as well as she could when it came to caring for the sprout that grew from the seed that coloured her mind, and it accompanied her everywhere, as if it was a creature she led around the world on a leash. It sat next to her on the train, and skittered by her feet when she walked. It perched on her shoulder, beneath the umbrella when rain was shed from silver skies, and it basked in the sun when it smiled, wrapped in her long hair.

Though she never understood it wholly–no matter how much she tried–the tale was her best friend and constant companion. Though she doubted its future more than she should, she never the less believed in it; hoping others one day would treasure its mature glory as much as she had enjoyed its inquisitive youth.

So she kept watering it with her thoughts, and nurturing it with her notions. One day (she knew it was so) the story would grow a bud–the first sign that it soon would be finished. With more care than ever before invested in it, it would thereafter grow the most delightful flower; each petal a page upon which its contents had been written.

It was the dream of seeing the flower, and to understand its nature, that encouraged her to continue wasting her love on the creature-tale. That, as well as seeing what seeds the resulting fruit would sow to start the process anew–in a far future. For, the sufferings of a writer are always a delight in hindsight.

Candy Coated
Image by jakevol2 on Flickr.

The entire day had been spent in front of the computer, that modern marvel that had replaced the versatility and charm of pen and paper with sterile pixels. Chemical formulae, mathematical equations and labelled compounds had each figured on the back-lit screen, each as important as disinteresting. Fundamental as the concepts were, they had failed to appeal to her curiosity and imagination.

Despite the occasional diversion, in the shape of more inspirational writings on evolution, individual thoughts, or general prose, she felt the day had been a waste. Surely, a lot had been accomplished–but nothing of value. The day could have been spent in countless more appealing ways: the map on her wall could have been coloured and life granted to her imagination’s continent at last, or its inhabitants could have been allowed to speak and contemplate–to come to terms with who they were and what their desires were.

The notes scattered before her–with their chemical compounds and skeletal formulae–tasted bitterly in her sight. It felt silly an entire future could depend upon something that so evidently was not for her. Having forgotten who she once had been, she had failed to savour the challenge. As long as she managed to rise with the earliest birds the following morning and travel for hours to attend an assessment a mere half-an-hour in length her efforts would not have been in vain. Beyond that, she found her mind preoccupied with other desires and dreams.

The indoor air had grown stuffy, the illumed room an isolated space outside which darkness already had fallen, the skies a fading blue as the sun dipped beyond the clouded horizon. Failing to mimic the splendour of the sun the street lights spilled copper onto the ground. In an instant the decision was made, and even before she had risen and collected her pink-lined coat from where it had spent the day; in the shadows of oblivion.

Exiting her little cavern of light–the home she once had feared she never would find–she wandered aimlessly into the evening, swallowed by the mild air and veiled by the murkiness. The atmosphere was perfect; cold enough to numb her senses, but without painfully nibbling her fingers and nose. No mists accompanied her breaths and her thoughts were clear–cleared, perhaps, for none swirled beyond her eyes.

Blackbirds sang in the rose and blackberry thickets the winter winds had stripped of their grandeur. Yet, symphonies were delivered from within their blackened expanse, the birds marvelling over the beauty of the evening. Their melodies reminded her of the songs she had savoured in another life; one lost, but never forgotten. That life had been lived in-between dusk and dawn upon the misty fields of mid summer. It had been an untroubled life, and as such, destined to never last beyond the span of summer itself.

Peculiarly, the birds spoke in a different tongue. She knew their vowels and the other-worldly sounds that emanated from their silken throats, yet, there was an element to their tune that was foreign; ethereal in the silver context. The many miles that separated her lives were evident in the accent of the avian musicians, so soft it was barely perceptible, its nature impossible to palpate. Still, despite their novelty, the sounds soothed her senses, the spring evening reminding her of those long-lost summer nights.

Poor Little Thing

February 11, 2010

Borboleta - Butterfly
Picture by Giba N.

Although it had snowed overnight, spring was in the air. The small birds tittered in pinnacled canopies, the sun casting warming beams upon an otherwise bare landscape. In a flower-bed a few daffodils mirrored the glory.

But that was outside the city. Within it, the sun was all that whispered of spring, the golden light causing her figure to cast a shadow upon the ground.

At one point her shadow fell upon what seemed like nothing but a fallen leaf to the thousands of feet that hurriedly threaded upon the crowded path.

But she saw what it was, wishing she never had.

The first butterfly of the year had escaped someone’s notice, it having met its fate beneath the feet of a city-dweller, blinded by the concrete.

It saddened her for the rest of the day.