2.05.2010

#fridayflash Glass Door

He waited inside the glass door, looking out at the woman taking pictures of his truck. He spent much of his current life waiting behind doors, or stopped behind a convenient SUV, while people discussed his truck with looks of disdain and wonderment. Patience was a virtue, he told himself. He knew if he came out and headed towards it, she would hurry away. She’d probably feel bad or embarrassed at getting caught, so he wanted to avoid that. He certainly wanted to avoid any confrontation or discussion. That happened sometimes, too. Do-gooders, nosey-parkers and assholes liked to talk to him or at him. Regular folks just avoided him. Regular folks were okay, but would only talk to him if they didn’t know. It was kind of a catch-22, but it didn’t matter.

The woman finished taking photos and looked around the parking lot. She had a slightly worried look on her face. He wondered if she was worried about getting caught or about him. Her face turned towards him once but she didn’t see him. That was normal, too. He was forgettable; he blended into brick walls and glass doors. He blended into whatever was there. The only time he was visible was when he was near the truck. Life was funny that way. You could wear the camouflage uniform, put bushes in your helmet and paint your face the color of dark forests – the enemy saw you anyhow. You wore a ridiculous thrift-store conglomeration of ill-fitting seconds, walked in a shuffling gait, probably could use some human contact – and you became invisible to friendlies.

She walked to her own vehicle, fussing with her camera. He watched as she maneuvered through the lot and drove away. He stepped out into the dissipated light of the cloudy day and shuffled towards his truck. His leg was giving him pain today, which was nothing new either. After coming home wounded from Vietnam, pain was his only companion. The only one he could trust, anyhow.

He clambered into the driver’s seat and shoved his store bag into the tumbling avalanche of junk that threatened to engulf him from three directions. An empty, flattened box of HoHos slid down and landed between his legs. The HoHos box wasn’t even his. He had found the box on the ground just like all the other junk that almost completely filled the cab of his little truck. Staring at the colorful box, he wondered again why he did this. His eyes closed.

It took up the empty spaces. The junk filled the emptiness where people – a wife, a friend, a grown child – should be sitting. Instead, his wounds scarred over externally with detritus. He packed himself into his own spaces like a sardine. It felt better that way. Open spaces unnerved him, but filling them with the cast-offs of living people made him feel protected and safe. Soldiers with ragged limbs, blown off jaws and those desperate eyes couldn’t fit between the crumbled McDonald's bags, snack wrappers, plastic food containers and free flyers that wedged his world as tight as he could make it.

His left hand moved over his eyes, while the right grasped the HoHos box. Sighing at himself, he crammed the box into the pile on the dashboard then started the truck. He’d be home soon and could sit in his chair amidst a towering canyon of junk. Be safe, but alone – the two thoughts chased perpetual circles in his mind as he drove out of the lot.

31 comments:

  1. I like slices of odd personalities such as these. This is original and well thought-out. It makes sense when I think of it, of how to fill that quiet and space. Life is so mean. Thanks for sharing this!

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  2. This means a lot to me as I've been obsessed with spaces lately. You did a wonderful job creating this character, his motivations and fears. This read makes me want to pay more attention to the invisible people..and also makes me want a HoHo! :-) Nice one.

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  3. A beautiful, tender portrait of someone most of us try to avoid. It's a tragic story, but you've given him some degree of comfort, which made me happy. You've also explained hording in a way that's understandable and compassionate. Wonderful! ~ Olivia

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  4. A thought provoking portrait. Very nicely written.

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  5. i had a feeling that truck might inspire a flash. hard not to mull over the person who owns it and what might have led them to it. i love the character you built and his accessibility to the reader. you made someone most people would immediately cast away as foreign or just plain disgusting, someone we can relate to. nicely done!

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  6. Nice slice of life. Pretty moving actually. If I had a criticism it would be that the whole "ragged limbs, blown off jaws and those desperate eyes" line feels needlessly sensational. I'm not sure how to put this into words but it's as if you're cheating yourself by using Spielbergesque shorthand to show horror, when you've already displayed a talent for nuance. Does that make sense? It's 100% not a damning criticism, I just felt a shift in tone.

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  7. Thank you, everyone.

    Anton - that line was bugging me as well. Thank you for nailing exactly what it was. I'd change it to "Ragged soldiers with desperate eyes" but I always feel as if that's cheating somehow, changing it once it has been posted. I appreciate it, though - thanks, again.

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  8. I have actually seen a car like this! It belonged to a woman and there was only space for her in the driver's seat. Junk everywhere.

    This is a very well done depiction of a character living life of "quiet desperation" the only way he can.

    Wonderful.

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  9. You've made an empty colourful cardboard box a sacrament and the hoarding of junk a communion. What an elegy to our social ills CJ. This touches deep currents: loneliness, invisibility, materialism. I read this three times - Anton is right, you do have a talent for nuance. The best spiritual piece about a trucks since Stephen King's Maximum Overdrive(!)
    ~Simon

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  10. How coincidental is it that this is the first thing I read when taking a break from collecting trash in my house? I was seriously getting disgusted and had to escape it all, (which is, admitedly, why there's so much trash to collect in the first place). ;)
    You did a wonderful job of describing his world, both physical and mental. Well done!

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  11. Fascinating and original portrait. I scrolled down and saw the photo that seems to have inspired this. You should put the two together.

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  12. A very interesting slice. Vivid and entertaining.

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  13. I've been doing some decluttering recently and it's amazing the psychic hold that *stuff* has on us. Very interesting take on this concept ... using stuff (especially other peoples' discarded stuff) to fill an empty emotional space. Well done!

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  14. "Be safe but alone." Your story was filled with poetry, CJ. Sad and lonely poetry. "His wounds scarred over externally with detritus..." So many beautiful lines. And how nice that you translated a moment in a busy parking lot into such a deep and dark comment on the human condition. So many people would just walk by that truck. You, you took it in.
    Thank you, CJ!

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  15. This was eloquent and moving.

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  16. Poignant, carefully written, with flowing sentences throughout. I especially liked: "The junk filled the emptiness where people – a wife, a friend, a grown child – should be sitting."

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  17. Wonderfully written! What a sad and poignant slice of life. How many people like him have we all unknowingly encountered in our lives?

    Great work -- thank you!

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  18. Sad desperation. Wonderfully written, very realistic.

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  19. I came back to read again (still fantastic) and saw the picture of the truck - so intriguing!

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  20. As usual, I am late to the party and so much has already been said...however I do want to add my appreciation. You executed this beautifully.

    "It took up the empty spaces."

    That is one of those knocked out of the park things.

    (I am a little sad because I can't see the truck photo anywhere. Blogger hates me.)

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  21. Thank you everyone for the great comments! heh The photo that was the inspiration for this is from my blog post "Slife Two", which you can get to on the right sidebar under 10, Feb.

    The reason I didn't add it to this flash piece is that it is very distracting (maybe just to me?) and I wanted the story to be the center of interest. Obviously, feel free to check it out yourself though!

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  22. You did a great job in describing this interesting story. Great job!

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  23. Hoarders. There addiction to collecting junk is as powerful as one addicted to drugs and alcohol. All your stories have such a nice flow to them. Good job.

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  24. Wonderful portrait of such a lonely soul. I love the next to last paragraph where you connect emptiness/trauma/collecting junk. "He packed himself into his own spaces like a sardine" is vivid, playing nicely and effectively with the cliche.

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  25. Poor fellow. This was very vivid.

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  26. Lovely cameo of someone with a very desperate life. Wasn't quite sure why the woman was taking a picture of the truck at first, but I think I get it now...

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  27. Well told - great work :)

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  28. Loved the bit about being invisible to friendlies.
    A very gentle but firm portrait of this fellow - he comes across as someone we must feel for (and do)

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  29. I admire what you have done here.I like the part where you say you are
    doing this to give back but I would assume by all the comments that this is working for you as well.

    auto glass replacement

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    Replies
    1. I like this blog so much for talking about interior glass doors. Nice try of sharing your thoughts about it. Thank you and keep writing!

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