My name is Charlotte. Just Charlotte, the rest really isn’t all that important. Nobody really remembers the rest anyways…
It rains here, all the time it seems. All the overcast makes things look like they’re in hazy technicolor…like the pictures I pick up at the drugstore, when they’ve finished deveolping. I don’t know why, but I’d rather live in technicolor than what the rest of the world is swimming through.
I took a picture yesterday, when I was on my way to the George C. Gill Technical Business College, over on Harris Avenue. I was waiting for the bus, and there was a little dandelion peeking out from a crack in the sidewalk. I pulled my camera out and snapped it quickly before anyone could see. They don’t allow cameras at George C. Gill’s. I’ve been warned many times. I think they’re afraid that someone might find out what kind of typewriter’s they teach their students on or something terribly silly like that.
I really just like to take pictures of flowers anyway.
Its Saturday again, another family visit. I usually find myself anticipating Saturdays, then dreading them entirely. But, Saturdays seem like the only time that I feel like someone is listening to me.
I float around in this world seemingly unnoticed. My instructors at George C. Gill’s only pay attention to the pretty girls up front with the ratted hair and excessive lines of rouge streaking their cheeks. They giggle and swing their hair and have no ambition to be a secretary whatsoever.
I sit in the back, paying attention to my typewriter. Sometimes, I type out all the mean things that I wish I could just jump up and scream at everybody. Then, I just tear out the paper and crumple it up, pretending I had made a terrible error on my assingment and put it into my handbag when nobody is watching.
I really hope I make a good secretary. My mother wanted it so much for me. My father said it was an admirable career for modern girls. My brother just laughed. Now they all laugh silently in the mausoleum.
Its a cold day at the cemetary. The patent leather on my shoes is streaked with the squish of mud underfoot and my socks are wet from the dew laden grass. I hesitate for a minute at the entrance to the mausoleum, adjust my hat, and wonder for a minute what all of this means.
Why every Friday after being dismissed from George C. Gill’s I walk down to the dime store and pick out little paper orchids. Or why I live in an empty, silent house. Or why the old Hudson sits rusting in the garage because I have no idea how to drive it…my father never got a chance to teach me.
Its cold in the mausoleum. Its always cold here. There’s an eerie draft that lurks around, like the dead are whispering sad wishes through it and sending them through your flesh.
I brush my fingers over their names. Its the closest thing I have. I say my hellos. Tell them how my schooling is going.
If my mother saw me, she’d think I’d gone mad. It was improper to be so foolishly morbid. That, and I had forgottten my white gloves.
I placed the delicate little blossoms next to each of their names, and silently wondered where all of the previous flower offerings had gone to. They dissapeared every week mysteriously.
I had been so absorbed in my ponderings that I hadn’t noticed I wasn’t alone. I glanced inconspicuously over my shoulder. There was a solitary figure, a young man, slumped against the cold marble wall, lighting matches from a matchbook, and holding them up to a cigarette, and watching it burn as it dropped from his fingers. I stood there, transfixed, watching him do this repeatedly.
I accidentally dropped the metal container that I had been filling with flowers. It crashed loudly to the floor. He looked up. I bent down and quickly scooped up the mess, embarrassed that he had caught me staring. He stood up, walking slowly towards me, an arm outstretched.
I jumped up, and ran. I was scared. I looked back once, and he was still standing there, just watching me run away from his outstretched hand.
I ran all the way home. I didn’t even stop to take the bus. I just kept going. Something inside of me just kept making my feet pound the pavement until they became raw and blistered.
I burst through my front door and quickly locked it behind me. The house was dark even though the windows were open. I stepped through the rooms as if I had never seen them before in my life.
What happened back there? I couldn’t begin to explain. But something happened when I watched that stranger sitting there, lighting cigarettes to watch them burn. The look on his face when I ran haunted me the most.
It was if the whole world had betrayed him. I felt horrible for running away so rudely. But it was if those very matches had ignited some fear deep inside of me. And then I thought back to his haunting expression, and I recognized it from my own reflection in a mirror.
That’s what it looks like to be alone.