by: T.E. Cowell ((Header image by Jeffrey Decoster.))
Two offerings of flash fiction, where coveting or grasping at what is not ours carries its own cost…
In Amsterdam Greg had sex with a prostitute. Afterwards he promptly dressed and the prostitute quickly ushered him out the door.
The dark, slightly cool European evening awaited him. Greg started walking, but after a number of steps he turned to get a last look at the young woman he’d just paid to have sex with. She was standing before the floor-to-ceiling glass door, her black lingerie back on. She looked the same to Greg as she had less than fifteen minutes ago, before he’d approached her. She made eye contact with him now and gave a kind of smirk before waving with one hand. Yes, Greg decided, exactly the same.
He turned and continued on. A few minutes later he reached the canal where he’d made plans to meet with Dave, his longtime friend and current travel companion, after they’d each had their fun.
With his hands in his pant pockets, feeling heavily burdened by the knowledge of what he’d just done, Greg looked at the old-fashioned boats against the dark, shiny water and thought: I’m a cheater now. I just cheated on my wife. He didn’t think he would ever be one of those guys, those sleazebags, but now here he was, one of them.
Greg closed his eyes, shook his head. He asked himself why he’d done it, why he had so little self-restraint, so little dignity. He was thirty-five years old, a grown man. Shouldn’t he be able to control himself? Shouldn’t he be able to do the right thing? He knew it was wrong to sleep with a prostitute, but he’d done it anyway.
He felt he needed a beer or maybe something stronger, like absinthe. Greg turned his back on the canal and searched the streets for Dave, and at that moment saw him walking his way. Greg strained to look into his friend’s face as he came nearer for a hint of the guilt he himself felt but could make none of it out.
Dave came closer with every step, then shook his head and grinned sheepishly. “I chickened out,” he said. “Kept thinking of the wife back home and the fit she’d have if she ever found out. What about you? Did you go through with it?”
Greg discovered he was shaking his head while he was saying, “Nope. I couldn’t do it either.”
Dave stared at Greg for a few long seconds then, still with that sheepish grin plastered on his face. Greg felt the better part of his body trembling as he stared back at his friend.
“We’re pathetic,” Dave finally said.
Greg nodded in agreement. He felt immensely relieved that his friend seemed to have accepted his lie without question, relieved but also burdened, as now Greg knew he’d have to carry the full weight of what he’d done for a long, long time, perhaps forever.
I’m housesitting for some friends. They left last week to drive to California to see the redwoods and do some camping. They’re coming back tomorrow, and I’m sad that I have to leave soon. While they’re gone I’ve been looking after their cat and watering their plants and fetching their mail. In exchange I’ve been sleeping in their bed, eating their food, drinking their beer and, last but by no means least, enjoying their view.
I got off work around four today and then drove straight to my friends’ house. I hurried some at work so that I could get off a little early, I was that eager to get back, to soak in the view. These friends I’m housesitting for – Drew and Lisa – have quite the property. Their house is perched on top of this hill. From their windows I can see for miles, literally. At night I can see the lights of Vancouver, Canada, over a hundred miles away, twinkling like a tight pack of stars, if stars were golden instead of silver. It puts a kind of yearning in my chest, this view these friends of mine have. I can’t help but wonder if they take it for granted ever, and if I might do so if I’d been living there for years and years and years instead of them. It’s hard for me to imagine I would ever take it for granted, but of course, I can’t say for sure whether I would or wouldn’t. A person, I think it’s safe to say, is grossly limited to what they can imagine.
All I can say with certainty is that being up here on this hill with this view calms me considerably. The stresses of my life and the inadequacies, the regrets I carry with me day after day seem to melt away into obscurity when I have a view like this in front of me. First there are the trees, hundreds, no, thousands, and then there’s the water, miles of calm blue water interrupted here and there by these little tree-shrouded islands that are like blotches on a blue canvas.
The past six days have been like a dream, and I know I owe a large part of it to the view. I know I should probably go inside and make dinner and feed the cat about now, but I can’t seem to muster the energy to get up out of my seat just yet. Instead I keep my eyes peeled, my muscles relaxed as I take it all in, ingraining it in my memory for when I’m no longer here but back at my modest home with no view to speak of at all.
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