Maureen was the kind of person who made you feel, the moment you greeted her, as though it was time to leave. She was pleasant enough, but there was something deeply reticent about her. She had, what could only be referred to as an economy of emotions, or an economy of warmth, when one first encountered her. Yet if it weren’t for her quick dazzling smile, bright rosy cheeks and pixie haircut, and bubbly voice, you’d have no idea she was likely one of the most challenging personalities you’d ever encounter.
I remember visiting her on occasion, at her invitation, and feeling as though I was an encumbrance. Her home was styled in what could be described as shabby casual Swede-lite; even a Scandinavian-inspired look, as austere as that is, could be too much. The blankets on the exhausted futon were more like tapestries, instantly conveying feeling of comfort that can be found in all the best Tudor-era dungeons.
Storage bins for any children were wire farm baskets. She either preferred priceless antiques, which explained why there weren’t any, or she simply couldn’t be bothered with more than a few knick-knacks to “tell her story” as people are wont do to as they stack on the seasons in the same place. Or maybe that was her story.
Physically, she was a tall, elegant ectomorph: long limbs, bony hands, high cheekbones and almond-shaped deep brown, almost black eyes. The flares of her nostrils were indelicate however, and the slope of her nose betrayed any chance of her ancestors interbreeding with anyone outside the third line of the family, as her family hailed from the Mayflower “Plymouth Rock, that sort of thing,” days. Her nose just looked tired. Tired of being the 44th same after all these years. It was pink on the tip and around the nostrils. Her wispy salt & pepper bangs obscured a formidable brow line and her lips were still quite pink and full.
She believed in reusing tea bags. She was a devotee of the library system, never buying a book when she could always borrow one. The feeling of “temporary” whenever you entered the home at first seemed typical of military families: sounds bounced off all smooth reflective surfaces: windows, picture frames, mirrors, walls painted in high gloss, doors. The absence of rugs, save for a bath mat in the front hall during “mud season” was the only indicator of knowledge of floor coverings. Gauze tab curtains over the windows effectively announced “there’s nothing to see here” to any prospective thieves casing the neighborhood. On a mint-condition, vintage 60s-era mahogany coffee table, a spotless bubble-glass vase was filled with dried flowers, thus avoiding any water spill during chasing sprees between her toddler daughter and the cat, Mrs. Bingley. Although Maureen and her husband Chet were not military, they were regimental.
One phone in the house. One sofa. One chair. One rug. One mirror. One painting. One lamp. One bookcase. One cat. One child. One friend.
I noticed, when I first visited her that the heat had recently been turned on. I could smell the strong scent of dust motes and lint burning off the furnace elements as heat pulsed through the house. It was February, the bleakest month.
I’m trying to get back into fiction for February. I don’t know if I will continue this “story.” Tell me what you think!