This week in Story101, we are being encouraged to write something that is outside of our comfort zone. Being typically far more inclined towards nonfiction with spiritual undertones, I decided to dip my baby toe into the tempestuous waters of fiction. I almost didn’t post it here, but then I thought, “Why not?” And truth be told, I think a little bit of my personal nonfiction crept its way into this story. Oh well!
A cold rain drizzled down, lightly rapping on her window pane.
She shrugged into her favorite red trench coat and rummaged in her closet for a hat, ignoring the voice inside her head trying to convince her to stay inside where it was warm and dry, like any normal person would.
She couldn’t help it. She had to go. Something beckoned.
Stepping out her door, she hoisted her umbrella and headed off in the familiar direction of the tube station.
In spite of the fact that everyone walks everywhere in London if they can possibly help it, the streets were emptier than usual. Perhaps she had ventured out just late enough to miss the frantic morning rush. Perhaps people of more sound minds had ducked into a pub or cafe to sip a warm drink.
No matter. This was the London she liked best anyway – one of those rare moments when the bustling city seemed to pause to catch its breath, as if some inaudible message whispered from soul to soul that at some designated hour, they should all inhale together and hold their breath a moment longer than usual before exhaling and reviving the whirlwind of activity. In these pockets of silence and stillness, she always heard her heart most clearly.
Never mind that she had walked these streets countless times before. Her heart fluttered with the anticipation of something new, something yet undiscovered. She found herself picking up the pace, trying to hurry, as if by speeding up she would somehow catch up to this intangible thing and be able to grasp it.
Down the steps into the underground, slipping through the turnstile, she barely had a moment to wait before the train came roaring through. Once seated, she finally allowed her mind to ask the question that had been lurking awkwardly in the room all morning, knowing it was uninvited but still begging to be acknowledged.
Just where exactly do you think you are going?
And where WAS she going? Her soul had beckoned, and she had responded, simply wanting to let her heart feel alive. Fortunately, there were countless places in the city which invoked this feeling in her, so it was only a matter of choosing one. And settling on the need for beauty and art, she set her course for the National Gallery.
Mere minutes slipped by before that utterly poised voice came through the intercom, announcing the approach of Charing Cross station. She stood as the doors opened and stepped out into the bustling station. The sudden emergence of activity threw her for a moment after the stillness of her morning, but the pleading of her heart was not drowned out. Lifting her umbrella, she walked out into the falling rain, down the street and towards the museum.
The usual queues of tourists and school groups were assembled, but these she quickly passed, heading towards her favorite corner of the gallery. Some condescending, self-appointed art expert had once told her it was cliché to love the Impressionists, but love them she did. The softness of the paintings, the almost-blurring of the lines, the emphasis on the feelings evoked by the moment rather than the reality of the moment itself – how much of her life had been this way? Indeed, she could rarely see a certain garden, feel a certain wind, walk under certain crisp autumn skies without recalling how she had felt in another time or place.
And even as these thoughts filled her head, there came the familiar pang of remembering. Quickly, she scolded herself for at least the thousandth time, Why do you still let this bother you? How ridiculous. You are so far past this. How can this possibly still haunt you?
And just as quickly, there in the comforting presence of Monet, came the realization that some moments were precious gifts, purchased by the savings of her deepest hopes and longings. Losing them did not doom her to a life without other such breathtaking moments, but the fact still remained that something precious had been lost, a truth she was terrified to acknowledge.
She drew in a sharp breath, finally allowing herself to feel the magnitude of what she had given, the pain slowly emerging from beneath the numbness. Before she could muster the resistance to the onslaught of recollection, a tear broke through the hardened memories and slipped quietly down her cheek.