"Spiegelgrund" is an original work of short fiction by Gary Boyd.
There's this guy I know, his name's John, he works with computers, he fucking hates that job. Anyways, he calls me up this morning and tells me he meets this girl on the subway, they chit chat for a few minutes. He didn't really say about what, but I could tell from the way he talked about her he was really into her right. Then he tells me she disappears. It wasn't like he turned his back and then she was gone, it was like “Hey I'm talking to you blah blah blah,” and then whoosh, vanished out of thin air. What the hell right? He's crazy.
“If you're late again you're shit canned,” those weren't the words that his boss spoke, but they were near enough to the true meaning of what was said to cause him to spring out of bed and run for the closet. Once he realized that nothing clean was really work attire he ran for the hamper. A wrinkled white dress shirt and some wrinkled khaki slacks were at the top of the pile. He had worn them two days before and hoped that no one would notice his attempt at recycling. The dark clothes were sitting in the washer, and had been for three days. He looked back over at the woman laying in the bed still sound asleep. As sweet as she looked, he was sure that she had turned off the alarm clock before it had a chance to rouse him from his latest series of wildly erotic dreams. Something spiteful in him wanted to go over, shake her up, and tell her to get the hell out. Instead he pushed his feet into a pair of chocolate leather oxfords and made his way downstairs to the front door, his shoes still untied. He ran for the train.
He remembered, as he dashed towards the subway terminal, all the times as a child that he had been told never to run with his shoes untied. He couldn't recall once in all his twenty some odd years of experience running with untied shoes ever tripping over them and falling. The only time he could recall ever tripping over his laces was a quotidian event which resulted in nothing more than a stumble and a quick glance to ensure his mother had not been watching. He was surprised he could even recall it, but because of the steadfast warnings of his mother he made mental note and somehow it had been filed away in his memory to be remembered should the need ever arise.
The nice thing about taking the subway to work is that you can read the paper and drink your coffee without worrying about some asshole who's late for work cutting you off in the carpool lane that you're really not supposed to be in. The subway train might be traveling at seventy miles per hour, but inside people are barely cognizant of the fact that they are moving at all. It's a time to sit and relax before you have to face the harsh reality of some dead end job for some corporation that could care less whether you're really there at all. The only person that cares is the guy directly above you, and he only cares because it reflects negatively on him. That only matters because he wants to move to a new position where he has more responsibility and less workload, which means more money and a more prestigious title, maybe someday an office on a higher floor. This morning, however, John was not reading his newspaper and sipping his coffee. He was thinking that he hadn't even had time to take a dump this morning. Amidst his bowel troubles, he was also tying his shoes and thinking he could just make it to work on time if he pushed a few old ladies out of his way on his way out of the train, and ran across a few congested streets slowing down some assholes who were probably late for work. He finished tying his shoes. Then he heard a giggle.
Working as a computer support tech wasn't exactly a dream job, in point of fact he fucking hated it, but it paid the bills and it was better than looking for a new job or having to tell women that he was: “Currently seeking a position that would enable him to take full advantage of his skill set.” It was invariably one of the first few questions, when he made it as far as the question and answer segment of some alcohol fueled flirtation. “So, what do you do?” Dating can be a lot like a job interview, which was a big part of the reason he didn't want to lose his job. You have to put on airs when you look for a job, type up a resume that reflects what you think they want. A real straight shooting go getter is what the resume says, and thats what they pretend to want. When you get the job you acquiesce just like all the other stooges, because that's what they really want. Yes sir, no sir, can I wipe your ass for you sir. Oh why thank you, looks like you had corn last night. There's no laughter in an office, no real laughter, just like in a bar. The laughter is almost always motivated by some raison d'etat. “Haha, that's funny. Can you work for me tommorow?” “Haha, that's funny. I'm so alone.” The laughter John heard on the subway was real. The giggle, was impish and wonderful.
John looked up from his Oxfords. She was pale, with short dark hair, somewhat flat chested but not boyishly so. Her grin suggested some carnal knowledge that he wanted.
“You're running late?” Her accent was liltingly European.
“Yeah, I figure if I push some old ladies out of my way and dive through traffic I can probably make it,” a smirk formed on John's face.
“That wouldn't be too nice now would it?”
“No, probably not. My name's John.”
“I am Allee.”
“Allee you have a wonderful laugh,” this caused her to giggle again, which caused John to look at her hands in search of a wedding ring. No rings, no jewelry of any kind. She was dressed plainly in a white linen dress and brown leather sandals that were not marked blatantly with some designer logo. Somehow the lack of adornment made her even more attractive. He was going to say something, but thought better of it, she looked a few years younger than he did, and he didn't want to make issue of it.
“I mean it. I spend everyday listening to these phony laughs in the office, and on the weekends when I go out to the bar, all I get are these lonesome fake laughs. It's nice to hear someone laugh at me,” he said with a touch of self effacing humor.
“It's unfortunate, the places you are going,” her words were momentarily sullen, and then again cheery. “I think. Things will get better.”
John was pulling his cell phone out of his pocket, but did not look away from her beautiful dark eyes. She was saying something, but he was focused on his phone. He was getting ready to ask her for her phone number. Something about her childhood. He was nervous with anticipation. Allee was standing still staring into his eyes, she had stood still the entire conversation. There was something altogether surreal about the meeting, made more so by the fact that a split second later she had completely vanished.
So he's telling me all this shit saying he swears to God it's true. He's a freaking atheist swearing to God, whatever. But he's coming out of the subway telling me all this. I start hearing the cars in the background when he gets up to the street. He says he'll just be able to make it to work and we should go out for a drink tonight and all that. I told him I'd probably be able to go out about 9, after I drop Stephen at his mom's house. He says that's cool. Then, the last word I hear is “Fuck,” before I hear a loud bass note and some high screeching. The phone went dead. I saw it on the news this evening, he got hit by a semi. He died instantly. They interviewed some witnesses and the truck driver. Everyone said he came out of nowhere, he was just suddenly in the middle of the street. I always told him one day he'd get hit crossing through traffic like that. They called Maria, his ex wife, to identify the body. She called me later and told me that John still had her address on his drivers license. She had to tell Allee that her father was dead. Can you imagine? 9 years old and the poor kid has no dad.
The fire fighter who was first on scene made note of the fact that John's shoes were untied. He speculated based on something that his mother had told him when he was younger, that John had tripped over his shoe laces into oncoming traffic.
So then Paige calls me. She's the woman John's been seeing since Maria kicked him out. She saw what had happened on the news. She wasn't as frantic as I thought she was going to be. She can get really emotional. But she wanted me to let her know when I heard anything about Allee. She really liked that kid, probably loved her. Maybe why she put up with John for so long. I asked her if she had talked to John yet today. She said he had left before she woke up, but she had seem him last night. Said he was in one of his moods.
“What the hell?” Paige was taken aback by Johns hand pushing her away. They had been screwing like Makitas ever since they had met. Then about a month ago John had slowed down. He didn't call everyday. When he called it was to go out to dinner, and then he went home. She didn't even get to see Allee. This was the first time in the past year that they had not had sex at least once a day. It was midnight Friday. The week was over. They had had sex once, fifteen minutes ago. It was passionless, and when Paige tried to put her arm over John's chest he pushed her away.
“I have to be at work at seven in the morning. I need to get some sleep. You can stay if you want, but I have to get some sleep,” Stay if you want, what the hell was that? He had never said anything like that to her before. Usually he asked her to stay. Usually they'd still be having sex, or at very least embracing in post coital bliss. She would have went home if she hadn't promised her roommate the apartment for the night. Her roommates boyfriend was in from out of town, and she figured it was a safe bet to stay at John's tonight. When she had called him earlier that day he seemed in a strange mood, but they had a nice dinner and watched some TV. He was pretty quiet that evening, but now he was just being a jerk.
“Thanks a lot,” she turned her back to him and moved as far to the edge of the bed as she could. He said nothing in response. She knew she wasn't going to get anywhere tonight, but they would have to have a talk about this. Things were going so well, and in one month everything had turned to shit.
Paige is sitting on a subway train. The benches are old antique wooden benches. Brass poles run down the walk way. A conductor comes by to ask for tickets. He speaks with a thick German accent. He stops and bends down to tie his shoes. When he looks up there is a little girl there. She's dressed in a school uniform. She's talking to him about something. Paige is distracted by the fact that she's now on a bed in the middle of a subway naked. People are staring at her. They're speaking a language she doesn't understand. She's trying to pull up the blanket but it's somehow vanished. The roaring of the train gets louder and louder. The conductor approaches the bed. It is John. “Ticket Please.” The faces of the passengers draw closer to her naked body. She has no ticket. The train blows it's horn.
Paige woke just long enough to hit the off button on John's alarm. He never turned the damn thing off on the weekends so she knew exactly where her finger needed to go. She placed a digit back and to the right of the large snooze button, and drifted back off to sleep allowing the dream to fade far past memory into an obfuscated montage of images and emotions.
When she finally woke up and got out of bed John was gone. She checked the time, it was 9:30. She wiped the sleep from here eyes stretched widely and went to the bathroom to pee. When she sat down she saw the remnants of John's search for clothing scattered across the floor. Only then did she vaguely remember turning off the alarm clock. Served him right for being such an ass last night. He had usually been so sweet though. Maybe he had had a really bad time at work and was stressed out. She wasn't about to throw away the past year solely based on the past month. She would have to give him a call after he got off of work and they could meet somewhere for coffee. She would get him to open up about what was going on at work, or with his family. Paige knew his brother was a mooch. Maybe his brother was in some kind of trouble and was bringing John into it. Maybe it involved some seedy characters. Paige resolved to help John in anyway she could. She choose to ignore the creeping doubt that maybe John was no longer interested.
She had noticed that over the past few weeks John had spent more time with his friends and less time with her and Allee. She knew that John was still in love with Maria, but she also knew that that door was closed to him. Despite his antagonistic views of the corporate work place Paige saw a lot of potential in John. His views on the workplace were actually part of what she liked about him. He would never get caught up in the rat race and spend hours away from home that were completely unnecessary. She had thought maybe some day they could have a child of their own who she would love just as much, but not any more than she loved Allee.
Paige was bad about taking medication, and her periods were somewhat erratic. She also didn't like condoms, and in this her and John were in complete agreement. It was a barrier to sexual congress. It was like using a dildo to her, and to John must have been like a blow up doll that had a voice box. They had decided early on that as long as they remained monogamous they would not use condoms. It was her decision actually. One frustrating night as John was softening inside her, she pushed him away and told him to take the damn thing off. There sex life had been great ever since, until last night.
This did, however, play a certain havoc on her mental state. She had been taking pregnancy tests every month for the past six months and had fortunately passed with flying colors, a blue minus sign indicating failure at the current time to produce offspring. If she would just take the damn pill everyday. She had tried setting an alarm on her phone, and had slept through most of them. She decided that she would get on the shot next week. She just had to remember to call the doctor.
As Paige wiped the last few droplets of urine from her vulva she felt an emptiness in her stomach followed soon by the sudden urge to vomit. She did not have time to to pull her panties up before she whirled around and knelt in front of the stained white porcelain of John's toilet. As she hurled the remains of the previous nights dinner and popcorn into the bowl she thought that later today she would have to get another pregnancy test.
So then she starts to cry. I told you she could get emotional. I'm trying to get her to calm down telling her things I know aren't true. “John really loved you,” and “He always said he wanted to marry you.” And she blurts out with “I'm pregnant.” Heavy right? John dies and all the sudden there's he has a baby on the way. John always did have a perfect sense of timing. What the hell do I say to that. I mean I tried to console her and tell her she was a strong woman and would be able to take care of the baby, and she would always have a part of John with her now. Secretly I'm thinking that John was probably better off dead at this point.
He had started playing the field in the past month. He hated going out and meeting women, but he just didn't feel like he was ready to settle down after Maria. He still loved her, and was wanting to find that same love. I think he knew better, but he did it anyways. I could tell Paige was falling in love with him, and John was either oblivious or didn't care. Either way, he was not ready to settle down and have a kid with her. John was always a romantic type asshole.