Walking home from a lecture, a sudden urge for a snack caught up with him. Ducking into a convenient convenience store, he found a suitable (albeit overpriced) energy bar to munch on. As he stood in line, he noticed something. The clerk. He knew her from somewhere. From – that’s right, she was a neighbor at the old place.
What’s the protocol? A nod? A greeting? He didn’t know her very well, and he was sure the reverse was also true. Still. Old acquaintances renewed are stronger than when they were a thing. Oh – he’s up. He’s being processed. He’s treated no differently than those in front or behind him.
Probably for the best, he thought as he continued walking. The energy bar remained unmunched for some time.
Meatballs at IKEA, just to taste the stereotype. As the meal came to a close, a couple walked by. The boyfriend was obviously not in love with her, but had not yet done the emotional heavy lifting of realizing it, and probably never would. The girlfriend was utterly oblivious to this, and had planned ahead for many merry moons to come. Based on the look of things, their imminent purchase ranged in the thousands, regardless of which currency they’d use.
Just to taste the stereotype indeed, she thought as she put away the branded kitchenware. A taste of how things could be.
“Love”, she said, “is the greatest pain in the ass. First off, you’re never sure if it’s actually the real thing. So you gotta go find out. If it turns out not to be the real deal, it just leads to everyone involved getting hurt. And if it is the real deal, then that is a metaphysical commitment, with hard work all the way through. Having loved and lost is way worse when you could have made the effort not to lose it”
“Is that why we are opening a pet store?”
It walked to and fro. This was usually an indication that it wanted something, and so too it was on this early morn. Above and beyond the to and fro, it had escalated into rubbing against legs to get the point across. There even was a rare headbuff, signaling that this time the need was dire indeed.
And then it came. The honk.
In truth, it was a very short meow, as if someone had recorded a longform meow and now only partially replayed it. The result being a very honk-like sound, dubbed “the nom honk” by tired minds of earlier morns.
Truly, a hungrier cat never did honk.
The phone buzzed. On it was one new message, consisting of a single word:
In the years they had known each other, a ritual had evolved. Whenever either of them felt down, they would mosey over to the other for some gratuitous cat petting and change of scenery. Nothing much happened during these sessions, other than the taking of comfort in not being alone. The cats, by now more used to it than to anything else in the world, merely purred and accepted the elevated levels of affection.
She answered with the customary affirmative response:
“Tell me a story”
“I have no interesting stories to tell”
“You do not know that. I might find them very interesting”
“But all I have are small fragments of things that happen at the margins. Things that happen, and then you blink and they are gone in a jiffy”
“Reality is a ditty”
“Yes. And now you have a story to tell. About that one time I rhymed”
“That was quick”
“Some stories are long, others not. Tell me a short one”
“Okay. So there was this when time, when I was asked to tell a story”
This song. She had searched for it for years, ever since hearing it somewhere, someplace. Not being able to place it in space and time had not diminished it in any way. It had popped up often enough in her head while she was doing other things, a reminder of something she could not – but felt she should – remember. An unknown companion for the longest time.
And here it was, emerging from a random café, being sung by someone on a small stage better at singing than guitaring. She went in, intending to find out what there was to find out. But first, simply to listen.