On the bottom of his right eyelid rested a protruding growth. It lay flat against the clear white of his eye. A coagulated blister of skin, it slid harmlessly up and down every time he blinked. It was impossible not to look at. When I first met Pierre, my full attention and distaste was concentrated on that very spot.
I wondered if it obstructed his view. Perhaps it had always been there.
In between his eyebrows, just above the bridge of his thin nose, lay several grey and black hairs that upon frowning, as was his habit, stuck straight out as if shocked into attention by something he had uttered secretly to himself.
He preferred hard surfaces. He had a way of slapping his seat with his palm before he took his place at any table. After doing so on several occasions, he smiled as if in obligation and explained that this habit stemmed from his childhood in France where as a boy, he was trained in classical violin; before each lesson commenced, a search throughout the house would take place for the hardest possible stool or bench upon which he was to practice daily.
I pictured him at his lessons: arms extended like continents sprouting from his slight, dark figure. I clearly heard the sharp tongue of his unrelenting instructor, who in my imagination, took the form of a large woman with a clear complexion and tight hair. She paced the room in her flat brown shoes as poor Pierre, rigid and passionate, sat on the very edge of his wooden seat: feet planted firmly on the floor, eyes focused on his sheets of music, trembling with the desire to please, fearful of her opinion of his invisible self.
He sat facing me as he chain-smoked. Squinting his eyes every time he exhaled, he watched me through a fog. Our days at work teaching foreign languages to complacent professionals left us with gaps in which to pass the time in stoic conversation.
I pictured him always alone.
Every day he wore the same shoes. They resembled dancer’s shoes of soft glove-leather and waxed cotton laces. I noticed how small his feet were because of that.
His eyes seemed to rust underneath their paling blood vessels. Even their green center held a hint of brown. Sometimes he would open his mouth wide, and I could see his small, uneven teeth, stained by tobacco, and as if preparing to yawn but forgetting to take a breath, his lips would fall and press together like two suction cups.
I didn’t like to be near him as I was overcome by pity, and our interactions, though brief, usually ended with an embrace. The brushing of cheek against cheek, with his small cold fingers passing carelessly along the back of my neck. The last time we parted this way, he paused, and with what seemed to be an affectionate gesture, he let me go. He turned his compact frame away and headed down the long hallway filled with round brass doorknobs.
I keep watching. I am the voyeur who cannot look elsewhere as his faulty stride propels him farther and farther until he is nothing but a tiny dot on the horizon.
Rimma Kranet is a Russian-American fiction writer with a Bachelor’s Degree in English from University of California Los Angeles. Her short fiction has appeared in Brilliant Flash Fiction, Construction Literary Magazine and is forthcoming in Change Seven Magazine. She resides between Florence, Italy and Los Angeles, California.
A Song for Rimma