This post is written in response to this Week’s Weekly Writing Challenge: the Difference Point of View Makes. The challenge is to tell the same story from two or more unique perspectives.
Darkness is falling, although on these grey days the difference between day and night does not seem so great. But slowly the outside world is being replaced by a reflection of me. It is a comforting sight; me with a mug of tea and my notebook, sheltered from the heartless autumn weather outside. Through the translucent image of myself and the café where I am sitting I see patches of street where the orange streetlights cast their shine. The wind hunts dead leaves along the street, making them swirl in a desperate dance, as they flee the storm that is following them. Rain will fall soon.
Across the street, in the corner opposite, a girl has been standing for some time. She seems to be waiting. I shiver as I look at her. The length of her skirt and plunge of her neckline leave plenty of skin exposed to the chilly wind, and she has left her small jacket unzipped. She cannot be older than 16, and I would guess some years younger, but then again, at my age everybody looks so young. Her clothes make me wonder if perhaps she is a prostitute, but when you look at young girls today it is hard to tell. Winter seems not to bother them, as they giggle in the streets, dressed in clothes that seem many sizes too small.
I am about to turn back to my writing when I see a man approach the girl. First I think he is going to walk past, but then I see that they are looking at each other. The girl looks scared. The man is middle aged, the same age as my son maybe, and he walks with a slow uncertain, almost stumbling, gait. I feel worried at the sight of this man. He is wearing a cheap threadbare suit, it looks like something from a charity shop, and even from a distance his face has the worn look of someone who has seen the rougher side of life.
As he reaches the girl they look at each other, as if sizing each other up. They do not touch. He says something and she looks down, fidgeting with her necklace. She looks up and says something back. They talk a bit more and then they walk away together.
By now darkness has completely enveloped the street and I am left with an uneasy feeling. But in the end I turn back to my notebook. My publisher is becoming impatient about my next novel.
I’ve been standing here forever. I know I’m early but this wait is never-ending. The wind whips up the world around me in a frenzied madness. I think it is suitable. This is a mad day, no doubt about it.
Can’t he just show up already? There is another option, that he is not planning to show, but I’m not gonna let that thought get a foot in the door. I didn’t tell mum when I left this morning. She thinks I’m at Jenny’s for a sleep-over. And Jenny won’t snitch, she’s a real friend.
In the café across the street an old woman sits and stares at me. I stare back but she doesn’t seem to get the hint. There is something sad and pathetic about a woman of that age sitting alone at a café. Shouldn’t she be in a rocking chair knitting socks for her grand-children, while her husband smokes a pipe and watches the news? Why is she sitting there all alone? I feel a moment of pity, and decide to ignore her stare. If it entertains her, what’s the harm?
I turn my eyes back on the street and that’s when I see him. He’s right there, walking towards me. The world around me disappears. Well almost. It’s still there but I am in a bubble. The wind continues making a fuss, but I don’t care. I can feel my heart going crazy in my chest. I’m so nervous I think I might throw up. He takes the last few steps until he’s standing right in front of me. We look at each other.
“Hi.” His voice is hoarse, like it was on the phone.
I’m unable to speak. An eternity passes before my vocal cords cooperate.
“Hi,” I croak. I don’t know what else to say.
“Should we,” he hesitates, “maybe, get out of the wind?” He looks uncertain, as if he does not know the right procedure in these circumstances. “Or we can stay here if you want?” he adds, leaving all options open.
My heart softens at his fumbling words. Some of the anger I carried dissipates, at least for the moment.
“Let’s get out of here” I say, trying to sound certain.
I catch a last look at the old lady before we turn the corner. She looks sad as she watches me go.
Christ, what am I doing? Do I even have the right, after everything? As I walk, my self-doubt mushrooms into a giant monster that sucks all the energy from me. My legs feel weak, as if they might give out at any moment. I can feel sweat breaking out on my forehead and am grateful for the cool wind. What if she asks why? Of course she will ask. What will I say? The truth? That I did not give damn about her and her mother. That I shirked the responsibility and fled to a life of endless parties in the big city. That years went by before I even thought of her. Should I tell her that I never regretted what I did? That it was only recently, when I realised that I have absolutely nothing in my life that I began missing her. Is it right to turn to the daughter you abandoned just so that you can fill the hole in your life?
She looks so small. As if the wind might blow her away any minute. Her hair spreads around her head like a halo. I look at her and almost want to turn around. How can I ever protect something as frail as this little girl. And if I cannot protect her from the world, why am I here? She is looking across the street. I follow her gaze and see the warmly lit window of a café, and in the light the outlines of an old lady. The image is full of peace. For the briefest of moments I feel the warmth of her mug against my palms and breathe the invigorating scent of coffee. I am in the safe circle of light inside the café. That is what I want. A circle of light. A circle of warmth. A family.
I turn back and take the last steps up to my daughter. Her gaze is impenetrable when she looks at me. We don’t say anything for a moment. When I finally speak my voice is on the verge of breaking and comes out almost as a whisper. I can hear the desperation behind the words as I ask her if she wants to go somewhere warmer.
Her hand is at her neck and through her fingers I see the necklace that I gave her when she was born. My heart skips a beat and and to my embarrassment tears are about to flood my cheeks. That is when she tells me we should get out of this windy corner an find someplace else to talk. She sounds so sure and confident. I find myself feeling proud. Maybe she is not as frail as she looks. So we walk away together.
There will be questions. There will surely be recriminations, anger and regret. But right now I am walking down the street with my daughter.