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Three Very Short Stories

I imagine these as three distinct stories. The characters of one are different from those of the next, although they may have something in common (dark thoughts, too much time on their hands). I imagine them taking place in different cities at different times. The idea for the first I got from something that happened years ago in "real life." The second I based on a few lines of one of Julio Cortázar's stories (although I hope I added something of my own to it), and the third, while owing something to José Emilio Pacheco, is really merely the result of wondering if you can "feel" somebody looking at you.

1. Living in that house never bothered him. In fact, he liked it. He liked the old furniture, the steep stairs up to the attic where he could escape and dream. But she never liked that house, because, as she said, she could feel the ghosts of people who had lived and died there decades earlier. She could feel their presence on the sofa, in the dining room, in the bedrooms upstairs. Maybe something bad really had happened here, and although the bloodstains had long since been scrubbed away, something terrible and invisible remained. But if that was so, he couldn't feel it. Eventually they moved to a newer house that didn’t have all that spiritual baggage. But he always wondered if she really could feel something or if her mind was playing tricks on her.

2. He checked in to the hotel, an old inner-city hotel, sort of dark and gloomy, that once had housed offices or perhaps had been somebody's house. He liked the quiet. He liked the old keys attached to big wooden numbers so that you wouldn’t forget to leave them at the desk on your way out. After two days in the hotel, he noticed that in his room there was a second door. He didn’t see it at first, because it was behind a dresser. Behind that door was another room where possibly somebody like him was also sitting and thinking. Once upon a time, people would go through that door, slamming, shouting, talking. But those days had passed. The occupants from those days had long ago passed into the shadows. But there was some pleasure in the thought that the door’s wood remembered those days, just like an old athlete’s body remembers the motions of its youth, even though it can no longer perform them.

3. He wasn’t exactly stalking her, because he had no intention of even talking to her. He couldn’t explain this obsession. While beautiful, she was by no means exceptional. A year ago they had had a chance exchange of words, nothing out-of-the-ordnary, but since then he hadn’t been able to forget her. He doubted that she even remembered him. The city was small, and it wasn’t impossible, with a bit of persistence, to gradually learn her schedule and her habits. He developed the custom of sitting in a certain café, making sure he was there by 4:30, because he knew she would be passing by. She would be going home from work, surely to another man, perhaps to a life as banal as his own. Although he always tried to hide it, he made sure to follow her with his eyes from the moment she came into view until the moment she faded into the street. He wondered if she could feel him watching her, especially when one day she turned suddenly, looked at him, and smiled. He returned her smile, but then quickly went back to his feigned reading of the newspaper. That was the last time he ever saw her. He kept going to the café at 4:30. But never again did she pass by.



May 2018



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