Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Short Story: The Experiment

[The idea for this story came to me last night as I was trying to fall asleep. It was a recently rare night of insomnia, but it bore fruit.]

The Experiment

G rinsed the razor in hot water then glanced up at the mirror. He had missed a spot, just under his chin. One careful last stroke. Cleanly shaved, he looked much younger than the 43 years he has lived.

He rinsed his face and patted it dry with a towel. No nicks.

He finished his coffee and put on a clean shirt, white, button-down, no tie. With his bald head, Levis, and Asics running shoes, he fully resembled a student.

* * *

G emerged from his flat into a street vibrant with activity, sounds, scents, and people hurrying here and there. The morning was crisp, early autumn, but not cold.

As he reached the corner, he stopped and leaned against the side of a cafe, out of the line of traffic.

He stood there quietly, seeing, hearing, smelling the city, but none of it registered. His attention was on his breath.

* * *

Time passed. Some pigeons gathered near the door of the cafe. People came and went with fresh coffee, warm pastries, always in a hurry.

More time passed.

* * *

An older woman approached G carrying a handful of bus schedules. "Excuse me, young man," she began, "can you tell me which bus I need to get to the library?"

"I'm sorry," G replied.

"Why" she asked. "Don't you know?"

"You seem to be lost," he said. "I can feel the anxiety in your voice."

"OK. Can you tell me how to get to the library or not?"

"The 43 will be by in a few minutes. Just ask the driver to drop you off at the library."

"Thank you," she said, and walked down the street to the bus stop.

* * *

The sun was nearly overhead now. G hadn't moved from his spot. A barista came out every once in a while to make sure he wasn't pan-handling her customers.

* * *

Sometime in the mid-afternoon, as the street was starting to get busy again, a young man walked toward G with a mock swagger.

"Hey man, can you spare some money for beer?"

"I'm sorry," G replied, pulling a five dollar bill from his pocket.

"Why you sorry? You helped me out," the kid said.

"You seem alone. I can see the pain in your eyes."

"I ain't alone. Whatta you, a queer or something?" The kid backed a couple of steps away.

"I'm sorry," G replied.

"Quit saying that. You better be sorry if you trying to pick me up. That ain't my thing."

"I'm sorry you're so afraid."

"Man, whatever." The kid walked toward the bus stop down the street to pan-handle the workers heading home for the day.

* * *

The pigeons were gathering again, hoping for crumbs from the evening rush. The day was fading, cool air rolling in from the Sound.

* * *

G hadn't moved from his spot.

As darkness crawled over the city, a police officer approached and stood silently in front of him.

"We got a call that you've been standing here all day," the officer began.

"I'm sorry," G replied.

"You're sorry? Have you done something to be sorry for?" The officer's hand rested on her baton.

"You seem so hardened, so contracted. Your job must be very hard."

"What are you, a shrink? Please move along or I'll have to cite you for loitering."

G stepped away from the wall and began the short walk back to his flat.

* * *

G took off his shoes as he entered his home. They were placed next to a pair of dress shoes and a pair of Asian flats. Everything was in its place.

He took off his shirt and hung it on a hanger behind the bedroom door.

Turning on the sink, he splashed cool water onto his face, patting himself dry with a hand towel.

Looking into the mirror, G Said, "I'm sorry."

He turned out the light.


Anonymous said...

Very nice. The ending hit home. Thanks for that.


william harryman said...

Thanks Aeryck,

I had actually written a different ending, but when I was typing it into the post, that was the ending that wanted to be there.