Contest #35 shortlist ⭐️



I want to befriend the local town witch. Her yard is overgrown with abundant green all the way to the curb and flowers in color combinations I have never seen are just starting to bloom at spring's behest. I was under the impression that the city zoning laws did not allow gardening that close to the street. But maybe she has cast a spell on any poor government lackey that has tried to tell her otherwise. A plump gray cat yawns lazy from its perch on the front step. A painted mural of a third-eyed being contemplates me from inside the sun room as I pass onward.

Maneuvering through these suburban streets, it is endlessly baffling to imagine the sheer number of inner worlds I will never gain nor be granted access into. Behind every door or gate or window is its own universe. A delicate ecosystem precariously balanced and maintained. A hint or a clue of a person's soul can be witnessed in just a brief glimpse through a screen door, an open garage, or a hole in a fence. Every front porch ornament and backyard shed is an expression. A self asserting its own existence.

Another lawn is littered with animal skulls large and small. A wind chime made of tiny vertebrae rattles in the March breeze. The ranch on the opposite corner is dominated by amateur sculptures of various mythological fauna fashioned out of of automobile chains and other scrap metal. Bikes strewn on the driveways covered in chalk drawings indicate houses with children. I hear new and nostalgic bird calls. I hear dogs barking and people laughing or crying. I feel the deep rumble of a passing train and, as always, must fight the urge to dash my way down to the track and hop on to a passing car. I am awash within the whirling progression of a society flowing around me.

As a river circulates and propels forward a transient leaf, I am drawn down new eddies and tributaries by the whims of playful, exploratory currents. A dazzling flash from the hull of a silver Airstream camper pulls me down that street, a romantic stained glass window beckons me down this hidden greenbelt path. I marvel at the vibrant evergreen hue of the pines. I am transfixed by the simple beauty of an artistically wrought iron gate.

So many lives in which I am the briefest outside observer. A star flying across their evening sky, blink and you might miss me. Unless I am petting your cat, then I might stay for awhile.

In truth, I have felt this way for as long as I can remember. Separate and distanced. As if I reside in a slightly different layer that overlaps adjacent to reality. Somewhat to the left of it all and never fully aligning or integrating. A piece in the puzzle that is misshapen by just the fewest of millimeters. A shapeshifting alien conducting research on this strange human race. An outsider perpetually looking on and in.

I remember some of my earliest memories as a five or six year old child. Of being brought to that play place in the mall, the one that looked like breakfast food. All the other children were jumping and climbing and chasing each other. While I would lay motionless in the cereal bowl except for breathing lungs and perpetually moving eyes. Reclined on a piece of plastic bacon, I would stare up at the windowed ceiling for what could have been hours. Simultaneously looking at the sky and peering into the lives of the reflected crowd around me. Staring upwards, daydreaming and spying. This is my first recollection of my voyeuristic tendencies.

Another example, I recall sitting against a brick wall during elementary school recess with a book in my lap. Truly reading and enjoying afternoon sunshine, while also studying the interactions between my peers. Who is chosen first at kickball and who is an afterthought. The internal bickering within a group or competitions of pride and strength at the monkey bars.

More recently, as an adult, I have worked as a house cleaner and been allowed into the most intimate spaces of a person's own design. To have seen book shelves stacked to the ceilings, vinyl record collections occupying entire rooms, and mermaid themed erotic art has brought me such a fascinating experience of surreal joy. How someone furnishes a home can present an understanding of their values and dreams. Desires and goals that can be interpreted if one is searching for such signs. Signs that can be found in how they store their cooking utensils, how large their television set is, or if their shower has a glass door.

I think I have always adored the minute details and intricacies of strangers. What idiosyncrasies they display when they think others are not looking. Which is why a warm spring night is the best for people watch-walking. Windows are open, letting the sunset in and music out. Winding down from work, they are enjoying the sacred hours of calm before the bustle of tomorrow is upon them. Before the heavy armor of normalcy must be donned once more. Humans are their most authentic and peculiar at dusk right when the seasons start to turn.

The trick is to remain invisible for as long as possible. Often people will clam up if they feel the presence of a judgmental other, fearing a malicious snicker or sneer. Others will exaggerate a grandiose caricature of their ego, craving attention and approval. To witness the purest portrayal of an unfettered personality, the examiner must be unnoticed. An unassuming fly on the wall. A goddamn wallflower if there ever was one.

Perhaps I have always been so perversely interested in the personal space of other beings because I find that the abnormalities discovered are not unlike my own. In investigating and analyzing how another decorates and moves through their private environments, I recognize a complex consciousness as uniquely individual as mine. Walks in springtime twilight tether me back to the earth and to a universal human connection. To the shared and innate desire to create a depiction of our self even if we think it's only for our own eyes to see.

March 27, 2020 19:00

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.