I feel like I’m losing sight of what I want to write about in these stories, and they’re feeling more arbitrary than they did at first. I decided to go back to a short serialised piece in the hopes that working on one idea across a few weeks might help me find some direction again.
Driftwood – Part One
Like a piece of driftwood that will never make it out of the ocean.
Naomi feels her body tense up as she chastises herself. What pointless thoughts, she thinks pointlessly.
She selects the red jumper. It will last the longest.
She takes out a few sizes, tries them over her t-shirt. Medium is probably right, she concludes. Tries the small again anyway. Over and over, chasing an impossible surety. She can feel the eyes of the other shoppers on her, feel them pressing into her tired shoulders, even though she knows that nobody is looking at her. Not looking at her for her obsessive indecision, at least. Maybe they’re looking at her for her nape or the bottom of her skirt or the crease of her chest or some other terrible fucking reason, but even if they are, they’re thinking nothing of her painstaking back and forth over the selection of a jumper.
Naomi takes the medium; at least then if it shrinks it will still definitely fit. It doesn’t fit as well as the small, she knows that, but the risk is lower. A risk she could not care less about, but one that sends spikes pulsing through the back of her head regardless.
At the counter, there’s a line. Naomi joins the back of it. Waits patiently, all the while thinking of going back for the small and carefully, carefully resisting. What would people say, then? People have joined the line behind her; she’s in the middle of it now. Can’t leave the middle of the line. How will she get back? She’ll look so stupid, so very stupid. The medium is fine. It’s fine it’s fine it’s fine it’s fine…
She clutches the jumper under her armpit. Lets it get sweaty, lets herself seep into it. That way she can’t swap it over. Not now. Not like this. She’ll just have to pay for it and take it home and wash it and let it shrink and then wear it like a normal person.
Naomi once stole a jumper. She was much younger, probably sixteen. Her friend had dared her to do it. Told her to do it, even, given her very little choice, really. Looked her in the eye and told her just to take the jumper, so Naomi had stuffed it down her top, stuffed it down there awkwardly and haphazardly, and used her fierce stare to dare the security guard to grab her and search her. Easier just to let her steal it.
And so she had. And she’d never, ever worn it. Put it on top of her wardrobe, instead, and pretended that it didn’t exist.
Finally, Naomi approaches the front of the line. The cashier serves one more customer, and turns away to get a new roll of paper for the EFTPOS machine. Naomi waits, patiently, for the cashier to turn back and see her and serve her and for this to all be over.
But before that happens, Naomi hears a voice.
“You’re in my way.”
An old woman’s voice.
Naomi turns. Behind her waits a forty year old man, texting.
“You’re in my way.” There it is again.
Naomi looks around further, searching for the source. And she finds it. Ten metres away, not even in the line for the register. An old woman, with a walking frame, her hair bleached white by age and the sun and smoke. She trembles slightly as she clutches the metal frame. Cataracts are beginning to fog her pale eyes.
Déjà vu peeks its way out of the back of Naomi’s mind, sweeps through the front of her head and dissipates. As soon as it’s gone, Naomi forgets it ever existed, but still feels colder for it.
“You’re in my way.”
The woman stands in the middle of the department store floor, metres from anyone, free to move where she wants.
But she stares directly at Naomi, who is in her way, and begins to laugh.
Slow and purposeful.
And as she does, the lights on the third floor of this department store, the floor that Naomi is on, turn out one by one, along with seemingly all of the lights in all of the world.
And with that it is dark – pitch black – and silent. Naomi feels the jumper under her arm. Wonders where the old woman is.
And hopes that the lights never come back on.
Words copyright Matt Vesely. Image by Tom Burke, http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Driftwood.jpg