Sometimes, all it takes is a one-word prompt to get us writing. Today’s Daily Post writing prompt: GONE.
THE HISS of a gentle rain comes through the open windows. Along with it comes the lightest of breezes. It is more a waft of cooler air than a breeze, but it refreshes the humid night. Darkness fell about three hours ago. Looking out, Yvette sees only the blackness of the tree canopy that hides the scattered lights beyond.
The evening was a rare coming together for the two sitting in the back room. They lived in different states now so didn’t get to see each other all that often. Yvette’s busy life as a one-woman catering business limited her freedom to travel much through the year, though she took most of every January off to attend the annual Rainbow gathering, where she would set up her tea tent, and to run the performance poets breakfasts at Cygnet Folk Festival.
She sat there at the small table, her hair still long and dark though Rusty could see the grey at the roots. She was a little plumper than she once was, he thought, though she had lost some weight since he had last seen her. She was never what you would call overweight, and she still wasn’t, he thought as he glanced at her over his raised wine glass. Just what you might call compact and solid of build. And here she was in her good clothes that she had worn to a meeting in the city. He was the opposite. Thinner, not a great deal of hair left on his head, clean-shaven and dressed in well-worn board shorts, white Tshirt with the brand name ‘Patagonia’ blazen across its front, slip-on sandals that the British call flip-flops, New Zealanders call jandals and Australians call thongs.
More than half the bottle of chilled white had disappeared since they sat at the table over an hour ago. So had the cheeses and biscuits, the blue vein going first, and rapidly, as it was one of Yvette’s favourites.
“It happened so quickly, it seemed to me”, Rusty added to what had been a rambling and desulatory conversation.
“Yeah”, responded Yvette. “Seems like that to me too, looking back on it. But was it really that sudden?”.
“Maybe”, continued Rusty, “it was because we all lived then in what I now call the eternal present. You know, we didn’t plan our futures, we just lived day to day and took things as they came”.
“Like drifting… drifting in life”, Yvette said as she lifted her glass and took a sip of wine, her green eyes looking directly at Rusty.
“It was the times… the spirit of the time. That’s how people lived then. Now they plan their lives in what seems to be to be unrealistic detail. It’s like they’re coding a piece of software and everything will pan out according to the programming”, Rusty suggested.
“Unlikely”, was Yvette’s response. “How many plans have I made that never happened? Some did, for sure, but seldom in the way I imagined, more a resemblance to how I imagined it.
“My daughter is like that, like you say. As you know she married and she and Paul joined that happy-clapper religious group — it’s not bad or anything and they do good social work with homeless people. I think she and Paul are a couple who will realise what plans they make. I think that’s because their plans remain modest, not grandiose. I think theirs’ is a lifelong bond, unlike any in my life have been. There’s this strange assurance about them as though they know they will achieve whatever it is they imagine. Unlike my wild, wayward son who has ran into all sorts of trouble but now seems to have become calmer and more settled, though there remains this edginess about him”.
“But… back then… back when we were young… it was so different then. In comparison to today’s youth we seemed so much less pressured, so much less worried or concerned about life”, Rusty added in bringing the conversation back to where it had started.
Yvette reached over to refill their glasses, the wine pouring from the bottle as a pale yellow stream. She lifted her glass and sat back in the chair as she crossed one leg over the other in a pose of relaxation. Rusty noticed the short boots she wore and thought how different to the young woman whose sole footware used to be sneakers or sandals. And the dress — he thought he could probably count on two hands the number of times he had seen Yvette in a dress. Her usual attempt at sartorial elegance seldom extended beyond blue denim jeans and a Tshirt, though once she had owned a kangaroo fur coat.
“That sharehouse in Woolloomooloo lasted a couple years, maybe the better part of three, wasn’t it?”, asked Yvette. “Have to think about that. The years seem to have melded together into a kind of temporal blur, a pistache of people, places and events.
“There was the core people, like me and you and Sash my sister and Wendy the strange woman with the bushy hair and Peter who was arrested for trading in illicit drugs, and Rob, too. Then there were the others who came awhile then drifted on in life. And visitors. Some faces I see in memory but one or two I can’t put a name to.”
Yvette had looked away after she spoke as if trying to access some part of a deeply-buried memory. It was a bit like the last few times they had met. Talk about what each are doing now lapsed into talk about people and times they had known. Like they were trying to reconstruct some kind of shared memory, each filling in the details the other had forgotten. Was this how it was as you got older? Was this how it always was between people who were long-time friends but were separated by lapses of time? Talk of the present followed by reminesces and maybe a laugh of two or a moment’s pang of sadness, then with news of some old friend or acquaintance again encountered.
“Strange, but in my memory some of those times in that house are just like they happen last year. They’re fresh, in a slightly faded sort of way,” said Rusty. “For sure those years were good years, we did so much, met so many different people, yet in terms of our lives they were but a handful of years, a short time. So why is it that we remember them fondly, even the less-pleasant parts, and why is it that we talk about them when we meet up?”.
Rusty picks up the table knife and slices the remaining pieces of cheese. Yvette wastes no time in placing the larger piece of blue vein on a crispbread and eating it. Silence for a minute or so, but that comfortable kind of silence between friends who know each other well.
His gaze moves from Yvette to the darkness beyond the window and he notices that although the rain has ceased, a gentle, cooling air is flowing into the room. For a moment he sees Yvette as the young, vivacious woman she was. He sees her in winter, a grey woolen pullover over her Tshirt being the main difference with her summer version of herself. Maybe she’s not so young anymore, the thought comes into Rusty’s mind, however she still is vivacious.
“So, two, maybe getting on for three years you think, for that sharehouse?”, he asked. Rusty has never been good with dates and Yvette’s recollection of the time the sharehouse was there had been troubling him. He would have put it at around two years, no more. But, he knew, Yvette’s figure was probably the right one.
“Definitely”, responded Yvette. “It was more than two years. And in that I count
Sash and me going to Tasmania to pick apples for a few months.
“It was like a movie, those years in that house. Intense, lots happening, people coming and going. It was like a movie in that it started with a rush and continued as one. Then. Suddenly, it ended. People left. Life all of a sudden changed and took on a different tempo in a different place. It was as if that movie came to an abrupt end. That place, that life we shared there… it was there and then it was… gone.