This snap fiction story (what’s that?) was inspired by trash, literally. On one of my walks with the dog, I spotted a bright red sofa out on the curb, loaded with other paraphernalia, waiting for the garbage collector.
Here’s the snap I took and the story that I recycled from these “wasteful” ingredients. Enjoy!
A Stencil in Spacetime
Edda hadn’t thought about what happened since—well, since it didn’t happen. It’s funny, she mused, how some missed opportunities stay with you, coasting on the wake of your life like a promise unfulfilled. And then there are those that dry up, crumble and are swept away with the rest of the everyday minutiae.
That awkward tangle on the sofa with Brent—just after she’d moved in, as she recalled—had fallen into the latter category. Crumbs all the way. And now here she was, moving out again, jettisoning the jetsam of a handful of fallow years she had passed through by osmosis rather than propulsion, finding that single crumb that had escaped the broom of oblivion.
Brent. My god, Brent, she thought.
One last time, Edda surveyed the room she’d called home since she last saw him. It’s odd, she pondered. Remove an object from a room, and a person familiar with the space will struggle to identify it. They may have a itchy sense that something is off, but rarely can they pinpoint what disorients them. But when you remove everything from a room, as she had, the entire space becomes a stencil in spacetime: a hollow outline into which you can only reimagine all the foibles, flukes and assorted happenstances that you called “life” and that have now become unmoored, volatile, ready for spring cleaning.
This vacant apartment, she realized, was like a framed childhood photograph that has almost completely faded to white. A few ill-defined wisps of color remain, but in your mind’s eye you can still reassemble the portrait it once was—and even recognize yourself in it. But Edda knew that these pockmarked stucco walls, this glue-streaked floor, these bulbless ceiling fixtures were just a blank canvas for someone else to begin sketching their days and nights onto.
As she locked the door behind her, sealed up the key into the designated envelope and pushed it back through the mail slot, Edda smiled and let herself wonder what Brent was doing now. His reappearance in her thoughts, she knew, was more of a third-episode cameo than a season finale reveal. In the intervening years, she was sure, he must have shed a few red sofas himself, sprinkled with memories of Edda-ish tangles of his own.
Their friendship had been dependable, sustaining. Nonessential, but also non-trivial. The kind of rapport that could or could not have mutated from “just friends” into that ambiguously delineated “something more”. To this day, Edda didn’t know what had made what didn’t happen happen. They hadn’t been drunk. They hadn’t been horny. They hadn’t been mad or sad or needy. They had simply skated out onto the frozen surface of Lake Attraction and found that the ice wasn’t strong enough to support their combined weight.
In the end, it had just been a clumsy couch ballet. But the nothing that had happened was something enough to make their bond unsure, septic. You cannot undo what wasn’t done, and it hadn’t taken them long to grow into growing apart.
Edda took one last look at the sofa—that red sofa—and turned the corner. The last crumb was gone.
• • •