Tag Archives: minimalism

Why Do You Dance? – Part One

unmade-bed1

*

The room was small. It was slightly rectangular in shape, and about eight feet in height. There were doors and doorways leading to other rooms, but this was the central room. You could tell that much from the furniture, the composition and the heavier looking door with the peep hole on the far wall. The apartment itself would have been called a ‘studio’, and this room would have been a living room in the day, and a bedroom at night. The walls of the room were an off-white that was once just white. The scuffed lacquer of the dark hardwood floors still reflected the light, albeit with a dull haze. A single bulb hung from the ceiling by a chord that matched the walls in color. It pressed a spotlight onto the center of the room. This was where she stood.

In the corner was a bed. The sheets lay ruffled and slept in. They still bore the rough outline of a deep sleep. There was a bedside table next to the bed. The lamp was on. It illuminated the small square surface of the table. There was a book titled ‘Norwegian Wood’. A glass of water sat there too. There were thousands of little bubbles inside the still water. A small astray with several crushed lipsticked butts sat full, between the glass and the book. The drawer on the bedside table lay half open. Inside thick black eyes smiled and peered out from a large glossy photograph, hiding in the still darkness that held back the light.

There was a window next to the bed. The heavy drapes were drawn but for a bright crack. Through that bright crack was a semi-suburban neighborhood, backdropped by the Hollywood hills. From that window one could see parking lots, pylons, chain metal fences, and the odd black silhouette of a palm tree blocking the light from the sun. Through the crack a beam of sunlight stretched across the dark hardwood floor. Speckles of dust from the heavy old drapes filled the beam of light. The drapes swung slightly from a breeze that crept in through the heavy window that was propped open by a plant pot. The pot contained a cactus, parched in dry cracked earth. It looked hours from death. The late fall breeze smelt crisp, mixing with the light scent of the stale cigarettes was being whipped around the room with nothing to cling to.

Clothes lay in loose piles on the floor. Some were waiting patiently to be folded. Others waited impatiently to be cleaned. There were lots of deep reds, browns and blacks separated by splashes of laced pink and bold childish yellows. Bras lay exposed and open on the floor. Thongs sat delicately crushed atop dresses and tucked in jeans . The chord from a hairdryer ran across the floor, under a pile of clothes, and out next to a bag of makeup that sat across from itself in front of a full length mirror. The bag was part of some carefully planned clutter. There was a circular space in the center of the mess, framed by mascara, lipstick, a flat iron, and a stagnant amber liquid inside a long stemmed wine glass.

At the other end of the room a heavy drape was nailed to the wall. The nails stuck out at odd crooked angles, clinging to the heavy, deep red cloth. A teal green sofa sat in front of the drape. It had space for two sitting, or one laying. It didn’t have any cushions on it. About four feet from the sofa sat two brown boxes stacked on top of one another. A laptop sat on the boxes, pointing at the teal sofa and the burgundy drape. On either side of the laptop sat a tall free-standing light that pointed at the sofa where someone sat or lay.

There was a doorway without a door that led to the kitchen. The shadow of a person moved around in the kitchen floor. It was long and thin, and moved in controlled motions. The thin dark lines on the floor looked and moved like arms. A naked girl walked through the doorway and stopped in the center of the room. She looked around the room. The light from the crack in the drapes cut a line directly up her body and between her large breasts that hung slightly from her chest. She pushed her hand deep into her thick black hair and cradled her head as she scaled the floor. As her eyes moved across the clutter she caught sight of herself in the mirror.

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Descriptions – Part Three

You can find part two of this story here.

 

**

“So, you’ve got a skillet and a measuring cup. Anything else?” the lady asked me, looking over her little reading glasses at the receipt she was writing.

“No.”

“Okay, let’s call it $10” she said, smiling.

I smiled too.

***

He sat down on that old chair with his drink. He looked around the dark room. The outlines of things were all around him and frames hung on the wall. In that thick darkness they were just vague descriptions of some faces that could be recalled from memory. There was a single streak of light coming in from the crack in the drapes. Little speckles of dust floated in the light, making their way back to the carpet again. He took a big slow drink. The dust speckles whipped up and around with the path of his arm. He closed his eyes and breathed in through his nose as the oaky liquid sank into him, and the old damp scent that covered the room hung like a heavy leather cloak drying.

Even though he’d been here as long as he had, the scent of age was slightly transparent. The new paint smell now hid a few feet below the surface. Over the years it had drifted out of the little crack in the window, and slowly sank into the old carpet he laid over the varnished pine. Every time he stepped on that old carpet he could feel the hard wood beneath, and smell that old sour scent rising up, leaving the new paint trailing behind it. When he sat on the chair a plume of dust-speckled smoke being pushed up and around him, consuming his body. He would let himself sink into the chair and be embraced by the scent of use. He could faintly smell the people that sat in it before him. He could smell the rooms that it had been in before this one. And I think he could faintly smell himself. Something about those deep breaths said that he was in there, somewhere.

He sat forward in the chair and reached for the old lamp with the watercolor shade. He pulled the dainty little beaded string. Light burst around the room and brought detail to everything. The warm golden hue bathed the faces on the wall, pressing a white ball of light on the glass of the frames.

Noir shadows, exaggerating every expression of the room, pushed up to the ceiling at fierce gradients. The corners of the room remained dark. From that heavy darkness I watched him take another drink and scan the faces on the wall.

He put his hand on the lamp and tilted it, moving it slightly, turning the shadows at their base. He looked at every face on the wall, allowed every detail to sink in again, and moved on. The light came around to the corner in which I sat. I felt its warmth cut across me. I watched his eyes scan across the photograph next to me. His eyeballs twitched onto every feature. They moved to me. I saw his lids widen from behind his glasses. His hand slid into his coat pocket and pulled out two photographs.  He held them up and dropped the light onto them. I fell into darkness. The light lit the photos and reflected back to him. The shadows cut thick black lines across his face. He lifted the light back to me. I saw that a little smile had formed on his tired face.

He stood up and started walking towards me, lifting dust and pungent scent up from the old used carpet. He picked me up off the mantle piece and lay me face down. I felt him unscrew the back of the frame and pull me out. His fingers felt drunk, clumsy, impatient. He took me back to the chair and sat me on his lap. He put down pictures of these two older people. They were new. I hadn’t seen them before. He carefully opened the drawer on the little side table next to the old chair. He took out the picture of that little black and white boy again. He looked at the picture. The corners of the photograph quivered in his hands. A tear formed in the corner of his eye and burst across his lid, before sliding down the contours of his expression.

He placed the little boy down carefully next to me. We looked a little alike. I was a year or two older maybe. We both sat, on a knee each, under the older people. He looked at all of us together. Another tear rolled down his face, caught on the tip of his smile. He threw back the last of the whiskey into his mouth. The rounded edges of the melting ice cubes hit his lips, and slid to the bottom of the glass. He looked to the ceiling and started to weep. We lay on his lap as quiet as tears, together, just transplanted memories that sank like diving bells into the scent that drowned us all.

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Descriptions – Part Two

You can read part one here.

*

“You got something good there?” I heard someone say. I dropped the postcard into the box and closed the lid.

“No. Just things. Nothing valuable.” I said, as I pressed my hands hard onto the top of the box. I felt my shoulders arching up a little, and the lid depressed into the box. I felt the paper inside crunch a little again.

“Old boy had some nice suits,” he said, leaning over me and pawing through the jackets. The smell of mothballs and dust whipped up, past me in a breeze, masking the smell from the shoebox as he pulled out a blazer. “What do you think?”

I turned my head around. The man was about 60 years old. He had a magnifying glass around his neck. In his hand was a porcelain swan. He held it by its neck. His other hand held the tweed jacket up to his front. His bottom lip was pushed out, waiting for me to say something.

I tried smiling.

“Suits you.” I said.

His lips curled into a smile and he turned to the mirror beside us. I looked at him holding the man’s jacket.

“You know, I think you’re right. Not for me though. This is Harris Tweed. Quality.”

He folded the jacket over his arm and walked away.

“Happy hunting, There’s some great stuff here.”

I nodded and tried smiling again. I watched him walk towards the door. He stopped and looked at the pretty porcelain models on top of the almost empty bookcase. He lifted up his magnifying glass and bent into a long, thin ballet dancer. He checked out every angle. He turned her over and looked at the bottom. He put it back down and shook his head as he walked out, into the crowded hallway.

I opened up the box and looked inside. I tried to find the postcard again. My eye was caught by a glossy, once bright blue sky shining at me. I pulled it out. It was a photograph of a man standing on the beach by a lake. He was a little tanned. He had been in the water. His hair looked like it had dried in the sun. He wore these blue and red shorts. I looked at his face. He was squinting in the sunlight. He had a slight smile on his face, like he was about to stop.

I lifted my glasses to my forehead and pulled out the little diamond loupe I picked up from a sale I was at way back. The photograph turned to group of soft edged blurs. I brought the magnifying glass to my eye and looked for his face. I put the loupe away and slid my glasses back down my nose, bringing clarity back to the room.

I turned the photograph over. Right in the center read “Bill and Me on Lake Erie”. The handwriting was different. It looked feminine. The letters curled. They were careful and perfect, but slow, almost regal. There was a date written in the corner. July 3rd 1971

“Bill, and Me” I said to myself

I turned the photo over again. I looked at his face and that faded smile. He was ever so slightly out of focus. Like one of them had just moved. I turned and looked around the room. There were people picking at Bill’s clutter, deciding if they wanted to make it their own. I looked at the pictures of people that he knew that hung in frames on his wall. There were lots of people smiling. I imagined those people coming through this house after Bill died, taking the things they wanted. I wondered if they’d missed this box. I looked back at Bill, on his own, almost smiling. I looked back at the faces in the frames on the wall.

I went into my jacket pocket and pulled out the photograph of Margaret that I’d brought with me. I arced my back a little. I cast a shadow over the two photographs. I looked over each shoulder. I held them next to one another. Margaret’s picture was taken maybe a year or two before. Something about her look told me that much. Bill looked a little more modern. But I couldn’t be sure if I was mistaking age for modernity.

As I looked back and forth between the two pictures, keeping an ear on the people behind me, I thought that they worked. I imagined Margaret taking a photo of Bill, and Bill taking a photo of Margaret. Their expressions weren’t so different. But Margaret’s was a little happier. Like that smile probably continued after the shutter was closed. Maybe that’s what made me think her picture was older.

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Descriptions – Part One

I found what I was looking for in an old worn shoebox. The shoebox was in the bottom of the closet. The closet was in the corner of the study. The study was at the back of the house, over looking the over grown garden. I knew that they would be somewhere like that. I’d checked under the bed in the man’s room. I’d looked in the drawers in his dresser. I looked on his messy, cluttered desk. I knew that they would be somewhere. Somewhere hidden, so that they didn’t interfere with anything around them.

I pulled out the shoebox and looked around before I opened it. There were people mulling around, picking things up and checking price tags. A lot of things didn’t have price tags. Some people liked those things. I was one of those people. I could hear them in the other rooms haggling over prices of things. I heard people saying things like, “Oh, this would be nice in the den” and “I wish this hadn’t been painted white”.

I looked back at the shoebox. It was an old thing. Maybe from the early eighties. The old price tag was still on the box. The corners had been frayed and bashed in. They had started to burst out of their shape and show their little card fibers. I could smell the box over the smell of mothballs and the carpet. It smelt like old paper that had been soaked in the rain and dried in the sun. Everything in the house smelled so old and stale, but this box had a little freshness still trapped inside it.

I opened the box and saw a mass of paper and cards and receipts and pictures. All the paper had turned a light brown and a little crispy, like it had been blasted by time. I pushed my hand down onto the paper. I heard it crunch a little, like dead leaves. I started carefully picking through the box. The same handwriting marked everything. It was the handwriting of an older man. It was sharp and pointed. It was elegant. Thought was given to each dip and swoop of the pen. I started to flick through things, pulling something out now and again to look at it. I looked at strips of paper with thoughts and reminders written on them, postcards, from Paris, Rome, Cairo, letters, from Ohio, Delaware, Ontario, and photographs, from places I didn’t know.

I pulled out a postcard. It was a painting of some 50s saloon bar in Vegas. I turned it over.

“We need to talk when I get home. I’ve been thinking” it read. There was no address, no stamp and no sender information. Other than the handwriting.

I sat the box down and stared at the words again. I ran my fingers across the back. I felt the bumps in the ink like braille. I closed my eyes and breathed in. I smelled everything in the house around me, and imagined the man that lived there, and what he’d been thinking.

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