Written for a friend, with the title 'Daydreamer Eyes' as a prompt. Originally written as a short story, but I thought I'd upload it to see if anyone wants to have some fun with it...
As a species, humans have an obsession with eyes. Go on, ask anyone which body part is most attractive, what they notice first. Dollars to donuts they’ll say eyes. Sure, more than a few of the people that say that are lying so as to appear sensitive, afraid to admit to their callous obsession with breasts or their preoccupation with weight. But everyone knows that eyes are the windows to the soul.
Take Ingrid for instance. The story I’m about to relate is as much hers as it is mine, and I like to think we’ve really made a difference in each other’s lives. I met her at work, and in spite of everything it was the eyes that won me over.
I should explain- I work in the paint section of a big hardware store, Portman DIY. The pay’s not the best but a guy with a background like mine can’t afford to be picky, especially not these days. Growing up I wanted to be a doctor, but I guess things don’t always work out the way you plan them. This is no sob story, and I’m pretty satisfied with my life. I mean, I’m a people person, and working on the shop floor you meet a hell of a lot of people.
Like I said, I met Ingrid through work. I’m a “color adviser”, employed to tactfully prevent people from making heinous mistakes with their interior decoration. There I was, loitering in the paint aisle when Ingrid came strutting into my life, this wiry little woman wearing- I kid you not- a fluorescent yellow dress, bright pink tights and scarlet boots which squeaked on the linoleum floor. Watching her pass by the thousands of color swatches was like an acid trip. She came to a sudden halt by the reds and oranges and swivelled on the spot to face the display, looking bizarrely like a soldier on drill. Of course, she had my complete attention and I was inspecting her thoroughly whilst trying not to look like I was staring. She was mid-thirties, like me- way too old to be dressed like that, and not what you’d call traditionally beautiful either. I mean, her hair was all over the place, she had kind of a beaky nose and, if it’s not too rude to say, there was a little bit of a mustache going on. Plus she had on these massive black sunglasses even though it was mid-October and we were indoors. She stood there in silence for a beat or two, head tilted to one side in an exaggerated show of contemplation. Then she pivoted on the spot again to face me. With every movement she became more absurd to me. She seemed to have escaped from the pages of a children’s book.
“What’s your sexiest color?” she said. Her voice, though mercifully free of those awful Cockney accents I’ve encountered in London, was oddly petulant- a jarring affectation of childish confidence.
“Uh- I’m sorry madam, was that-?”
She slowly, patronizingly slid the sunglasses down to the bottom of that hooked nose and surveyed me over the frames.
And that was when I fell in love. Those eyes! How could I ever describe them? We were standing together in an aisle awash with every shade and hue imaginable, yet no paint could ever match the brilliance of those perfect irises. They weren’t Sea Blue or Lost Lake, Windsor Blue or First Dawn. Those eyes were piercingly bright and so beautiful it made me want to weep. They were eyes too good to behold this earth, eyes made for the hazy stare of a perpetual daydreamer- an artist or a poet maybe.
“Your sex-i-est col-or,” she said, sounding out her syllables the way British people sometimes do when speaking to retards, deaf people and Americans. “Look, my younger sisters already have husbands and ever-growing broods of bawling infants. It depresses the fuck out of me. I want my walls to be seductive. And I need your help. That’s your job, isn’t it?”
“Of –of course, madam. Now, er, what sort of color do you think you might you be looking for?”
“Stop calling me madam. You’re not making me feel any younger. It’s Ingrid. And I want you to tell me which color is sexiest.”
Startled by her directness, I fell back into my customary sales patter.
“Well, people say that reds are passionate. Celebration is a popular choice, or you could go for Ruby Starlet, which is a little subtler. But, er, if you really want my personal take on things I’d go for something more calming, like a…like a blue,”
“A blue? Well, it’s different, I’ll give you that. Are you honestly telling me that blue is what gets your engine running?”
“In all honesty, mad- er, Ingrid, my job is to know the colors that go. I can find the best match for any one of these samples, but if it’s an aphrodisiac you’re after then Dulux is just not your best bet. And don’t take this the wrong way, but only mechanics and people I’m sleeping with need to know what “gets my engine running” ,”
“Call me, then, and we can talk about it over coffee.”
I know, right? People just don’t say things like that to total strangers in hardware stores. And people with any degree of professionalism don’t, in general, use their working hours to plan dates with random crazies. But I was enthralled by those eyes, and more than a little intrigued by her manner. So, oh-so-smoothly, I pulled out a Portman DIY company biro from the pocket of my uniform and let her scribble a phone number on the back of one of the little color samples. I didn’t even try to kid myself that I’d resist- I waited the couple days that dating etiquette demands, then I called her.
To my surprise, she took little persuading to come straight to my place rather than going out to a movie or meeting me at some godawful branch of Starbucks, as is the usual custom. I hate those places; the whole thing becomes a charade, both parties playing the role of A Person On A Date. I like a little more privacy when I’m getting to know someone.
Of course, it puts a little extra pressure on me to do things this way, because I have to do the work to impress. My house is poky in the extreme, but it’s actually pretty neat, and naturally it’s beautifully decorated. And I really am a good cook.
She showed up at my door Friday night, a little later than we’d planned, but then my house is pretty hard to find. She strode into my cramped hall without waiting to be invited in. At such close quarters I could detect the wafting scents of a dozen different toiletries, an intense smell redolent of overripe fruit.
I took her coat, a disgusting orange thing with huge toggles. I led her into the living room and brought through some wine, and we perched awkwardly side-by-side on the couch. She was dressed in a manner that allowed her, rather impressively, to clash with everything in my house at once. We talked- I told her she had beautiful eyes, daydreamer eyes; I asked if she ever wore blue. She shrugged noncommittally.
“Blue doesn’t get you noticed. I like things to be loud and straightforward,”
“Well, I’m neither of those things,” I said, a little nervously.
She laughed- it was a barking, almost masculine laugh, too big for my tiny place.
“Yeah, well it’s your job to think colors always have to match. Personalities don’t,”
“Don’t you like to have matching sets, though? I don’t want chaos in my life,”
I found myself opening up to her, telling her about the toy cars I collected as a kid, how I refused to open the crayons I got one Christmas because I couldn’t bear to disturb the perfection of the box. She responded in kind with trivialities of her own; I was fascinated, but I confess I can’t remember any of it now. We were so engaged in conversation that I started to worry that my carefully prepared tagine was going to burn. We went through to the kitchen, and though we were already companionably tipsy, I offered to get some more wine.
Back in the hall, I unlocked the basement door and descended into the darkness. The wine rack on my left was pretty well stocked; I like to consider myself something of a connoisseur, and it took me a while to select a bottle. But my real collection, my life’s work, was on the shelves of the right wall, in eight identical jars.
They’re arranged by the color of their contents, with approximately matching color swatches pinned up next to them. I even got the old Dulux slogan engraved right across the edge of one of the shelves-
WE KNOW THE COLORS THAT GO.
A tremor of excitement ran through me as I glanced at them, my pride and joy. Sure, it’s a modest collection at first sight. But- just think of it!- each one of those jars is brimming with formaldehyde, and seven of them house matching pairs of beautiful, unique, magnificent eyeballs. I went to considerable pains to get them, I can tell you- though not as much pain as their original owners endured, of course.
The eighth jar was there, already waiting, already labelled: ‘Daydreamer Eyes’.
I ascended the stairs.