There Was Only Gray

November 21, 2016
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Amber was walking home from her basic job as a secretary. It was another day of filing papers, sorting documents, and downing several cups of coffee from her “World’s Best Secretary” mug that she had bought for herself. The street was dark, save for the muted lights from the street lamps. She was alone on her journey home, and the walk was filled only with the sound of her heels on the concrete sidewalk. Click, click, click, click, click. Every now and then a car zipping by would make her jump.
Her day had been typical. Wake up, walk to work, carry on quietly, walk home, go to bed. She had not a spouse or family or pet to return home to. There was no child at home to run around her feet, no spouse to warmly welcome her from the gray workplace into the vibrant home, no dog to give her wet kisses. Sometimes these facts made her not want to return home.
Holding her purse over her shoulder, keys in her hand, and folders in the other, Amber approached her house. A gentle breeze ruffled the bushes and chilled her cheeks. She loved autumn - the smell of the leaves and constant pumpkin spice treats filled her with a pleasure that blocked out the hollow space that did not have a spouse or child or pet. Autumn was a filler; a missing puzzle piece.
She unlocked and opened the door to the small house, closing and locking it behind her. She looked at the empty walls, empty living room, empty kitchen. She walked up the empty stairwell and entered the empty bedroom, changing her outfit and sliding into the empty bed.
The following morning was a Saturday. Weekends were a bit different than the weekdays. People came to see her. Old friends came over with their “World’s Best Secretary” mugs and they would all drink pumpkin spice coffee and argue over who really was the best secretary. A dog would scratch at the door and spend his day there, eating her table scraps, sleeping on the couch, and cuddling with her. A child would come over with a small backpack and spend the day coloring, building cars and skyscrapers out of Legos, wrestling with the dog (if he was present), and devouring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches until he could physically eat no more. A nice man would come over to engage in delightful discussion and would kiss her goodbye. Sometimes it was a lady.
Then Monday would come. The people and dog would all be gone come Sunday evening. Discussion would come to a close, extra pumpkin spice coffee would be dumped down the sink, final treats would be thrown on the lawn, and kisses would be given. Then the color left and the gray would return as Amber went off to bed.
That Tuesday, Amber was in her typical location at her desk, performing her typical working activities. As she downed another gulp of coffee, one of her coworkers walked over. It was Julie, a woman about her age and about her height with blindingly bright blonde hair. “Hello, Amber,” she greeted quietly.
Amber looked up at the woman in confusion. She had seen the lady around the office before, but never thought of speaking to her. The woman had brought up positive viewpoints at meetings and commented adequately, leaving Amber with a certain sense of trust for the woman, but she had never approached Amber in such a manner before. Pretending that she knew the woman, Amber replied, “Hello there.”
“I am not up to much this weekend. Do you mind if I come visit?”
The aspect that this woman she barely knows just asked to visit her house went over Amber’s head completely. Never had someone else, someone new, asked to visit her on the weekends. It had always been the same group of old friends, same pair of lovers, same child, same dog. There had never been someone knew to introduce them to.
Amber answered without thinking and in rapid expulsion. “Yes, yes, of course, of course! Oh, you would be able to meet Spot and Timothy and Barbara and Rowan and C-”
“Oh my,” Julie interrupted, “how wonderful! How’s this Saturday, perhaps at noon? I’ll mark the date on my calendar.”
Amber nodded in excitement, frantically digging for a pen and paper to write down her address for the coworker. Julie thanked her and returned to her own desk, dragging the cloak of happiness away with her. Amber was left back to the gray and proceeded to quietly work at her desk.
Saturday came. For the event of meeting Julie, everyone had come - the boy, the dog, the coffee friends, the man, and the woman. The doorbell rang precisely at noon - not a second too late - the boy and dog running into the living room to alert the other gathered people.
“Dowr!” the boy shouted with excitement, raw macaroni stuck to his small hands with glue. “Dere’s someone at da dowr!”
A few excited “ohs” chorused the crowd. The dog was too busy trying to eat the macaroni off of the boy’s hands to express any other emotion. Everyone got off of their seats and hurried over to the door, the boy and dog bringing up the rear.
Amber opened the door in a large swing, revealing Julie to the crowd. She was holding a board game meant to be played by a large group. A wave of greeting passed through the crowd.
“Julie, welcome!” Amber exclaimed, leading Julie by the hand into the living room. “I am so glad that you could make it.” She seated her on the loveseat, Amber and the rest of the crowd sitting in a shape supposed to be a circle in the other furniture.
“So,” Amber began, serving her a cup of coffee, “did you have any trouble finding the place?”
Julie looked around the room in confusion, studying each wall and piece of furniture. “Oh, um, no, I did not.”
“That’s good to hear.”
“Uh, is everyone here?”
“Why, yes, can’t you tell?” Amber moved her arm in a manner to address the others in the room. Julie nodded awkwardly.
The little boy ran into the room, the bottle of glue and box of macaroni in his hands, giggling like a madman. He ran over to Julie, about to put some glue in her hair, exclaiming, “Macaroni!”
“No, no!” Amber leapt out of her seat, ushering the boy back into the kitchen before her houseguest got into a sticky situation. Returning to the room a moment later, she apologized, “I’m sorry, Julie, he’s excitable at times.”
Julie stared at Amber in deep confusion, questioning, “Who?”
Amber sat back down. She had not heard her.
One of the coffee friends piped into the conversation. “So, Julie, is it? What do you do for work?”
Julie seemed to have not heard her.
Louder, the woman said, “Young lady? I asked your profession?”
“Julie,” Amber said, “don’t you hear her?”
“What?” Julie asked. “I don’t hear anyone.”
The lady seemed offended. Amber was shocked by Julie’s rude behavior. She had never thought that she would be someone to not pay attention in conversation.
The man continued the conversation, “Julie, Amber has told us so much about you. You sound like a very nice woman.”
Amber nodded at Julie in order to regain her focus when she was again silent. Julie stuttered in confusion, “Oh, n-no, thank you.”
By now, everyone was confused. Why were the woman’s communication skills so poor?
The boy ran in again, his hands somewhat clean this time, a box of Legos in them. Holding the box out in front of him, he asked, “Miss Julie, would you like to build a dower with me?”
“I’ll build one with you,” Amber said, sliding off of the couch to kneel on the floor.
Julie stared at her as if she had five heads as Amber snapped together Legos and joined them into a tower with the boy.
Julie looked at her watch with a surprised expression, trying her hardest to not come off as rude, even though she knew she was. “Oh my, look at the time! It seems like I’m late!”
“For what?” Amber asked.
“Thank you for having me, Amber! Let’s do this again sometime,” Julie called from the door, showing herself out. The door shut before Amber could issue a proper goodbye.
Outside, rushing for her car, Julie wondered why Amber’s house was empty.
The walls were all the same shade of gray, she had been sitting on the floor, and it appeared as if she was supposed to be talking in a group.
There had not been a Spot or Timothy or Barbara or Rowan.
There was only gray.

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