Everett was happy to be home, as he almost always was. Everything about his home (and even the fact that he had one) was a matter of much happiness to Everett, who could remember a time not so long ago when home had been more about emptiness and silent spaces.
As it was now, Monica met him at the door. She spoke softly, as if she did not want to be overheard, but a brightness had dawned on her face when she saw him there on the step. Bridging the distance between them quickly, she kissed him. Monica’s hair was straight, brown and almost always confined in an elastic. Whenever Everett jokingly suggested she set it free, she laughed and did not do so, not the next day or the one after that. She did not see herself the way Everett saw her.
Michael sat in the tiny cube-like office, waiting, and gazing idly at the stack of magazines beside him. It was a curious assortment to accompany the front desk of a mechanics shop. There were various fashion magazines, a tabloid or two and, oddly enough, a magazine whose cover boasted of good old-fashioned cooking to warm up the winter months. It was not even winter.
Michael would have imagined there would be something to do with cars, or some kind of vehicle. He would have expected an image of a monster truck or some desperately flexing man trying to prove to the world his ultra-masculinity. Instead, Michael flipped through a few pages which presented conflicting arguments as to “who wore it best” and told one how to get their lashes just right. This was useless, of course (Michael’s lashes were already perfect, as he joked to himself; he thought the joke was quite funny), but it passed the time. And besides, Michael did not care much for cars either.
Dr. Pamela Lewis did not often think of herself as the doctor, or even a doctor. In her mind she was only Pam. And most of the time, this was enough.
As she peeled off her white coat, her hair also escaped from its confining clip and spilled over her shoulders: reddish-brown hair that fell in smooth, measured waves. Although Pam was not old, she felt old. Her feet hurt. There was a tingling, half-burning sensation running up her back from standing or stooping all day. Jostling in her purse for her keys, Pam peered into the dark tinted window of her car. The surface reflected her face back to her, in part. The glasses were what did it, she decided. They accounted for the feeling or appearance of age. When she had been really young, Pam had not worn glasses, and the frames around her eyes were still vaguely unfamiliar to her, as though they belonged to someone else. It was also true that they did not fit quite right. The glasses would predictably slide a little down Pam’s nose when she was speaking to a patient, giving her the air of an elderly librarian.
The room to which the nurse led her looked like all the other rooms that Ann had seen before. She set down the baby carrier and waited. Margaret smiled up at her. Some people said (never in Ann’s own hearing, but then, there were other ways of finding things out) that Margaret was a funny name for a baby, especially since Ann had thus far refused to abbreviate it with a nickname. Too formal, they said, or too much of something. But Ann felt the name imbued her sweet daughter with a great measure of dignity, as good names are able to do. “Margaret,” she said softly, and Margaret watched her mother with eyes of laughing joy.
There was nothing distinct about that room. It was exceedingly sterile, as a room in any doctor’s office should be. White walls gleamed and a white tiled floor could almost have reflected her face back to her as Ann stared down at it. On one side of the room there was a chair perched beside a computer, and a few feet away was another identical chair. This chair belonged to Ann. That is, this was the chair on which Ann was currently sitting.
Roger had already been to the hand sanitizer three times. The first time had been a force of habit, as he passed through the door and saw the dispenser protruding from the wall. The second time had been his response to a particularly violent cough from the person sitting beside him. And the third had merely been for something to do.
Roger didn’t understand why some people positioned themselves so close to other disinterested (and might he add, healthy!) parties. After choosing an appropriately isolated chair, Roger had initially congratulated himself on his aloneness. But these accolades were short-lived. A stocky man who was hacking incessantly decided it would be perfectly fine for him to sit right next to Roger. He did this even though there was a whole row of empty and unblemished chairs stretching out against the wall. Although Roger attempted to indicate this with his eyes, the stocky man remained in a phlegm-filled daze of obliviousness. Roger then turned his gaze with a hopeful intensity to the bin of paper masks on the counter. Alas, to no avail. When Roger had made the journey to the dispenser yet again, he returned by another way, to a different corner of the room.
This short story is the first post in a new fiction series called “Person to Person.” Read more about this series here.
The train station was located on the precipice of an open field. The field was not an ordinary field (at least to Diane, it was not). It was an ocean, teeming with colour and light, and probably life, somewhere deep, deep below the snow. For Diane, many things depended upon light and colour. The white sheet of field was animated by prisms of sun on its surface and icy glistening patches. As the sun began to slip irrevocably towards night, the colours became more dramatic: very like the pastel shades of pink and red that were somewhere buried deep in her suitcase. Yet it was unfortunate that this was the way it always went: the colours were most vibrant before they disappeared.
And the sun set so early in the winter. Diane had never been over-fond of darkness, which she saw as an end, or at least as a temporary absence. On that particular day, the approaching presence of dark (which she knew to be coming, though her eyes, drowning in the visual splendour of sunset, could not attest to the fact) was especially foreboding. For, once the landscape was lost to the sun, it would be lost to her as well. The train would have long since departed by the time the cycle of light started again.