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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Literary Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic

breaking out from the effects of social conditioning

They catch the scent as it comes through the doorway. It does not belong. Conversation is reduced to quieted murmurings as all eyes have come to warily watch the darkness beyond the doorway for movement. They must be ready.

It is an odd scent, he realizes as he catches it again. It is sweet, a pleasant smell. It is unusual, and that is exciting. Nothing in this comfortable little room is new; nothing is unique; nothing is interesting. The routine has taken the place of adventure, but today is different, and they all stand stiffer for it.

Gradually, he moves closer to the door, anxious for the stranger to set foot into the light. With a great deal of dissatisfaction, he turns away from the door to face another man.

“Hey! How are you?”

The other man’s eyes flash with recognition, and he turns to fully face him.

“Well, hello there. I’m good. And you?”

He feels tempted to tell the other man his is excited, but this is not the place and most certainly is not the time. There is uneasiness permeating through this room, the odd thickening in the air, making it more difficult for them to ignore the scent wafting into the room.

Instead he says, “I’m doing very well, thank you.”

The other man grimaces, albeit slightly. The corners of his mouth are drawn downward for just a moment, but in those few seconds he has grown bitter. The other man thinks he could have had the common courtesy to use incorrect grammar as not to make him feel out of place, but he didn’t. This for the other man is disconcerting.

The other man smiles politely, “Oh, that’s good to hear.”

But it really isn’t, and this is when the humiliation becomes too great. The other man looks at him with another polite smile.

“Excuse me.” The other man says, brushing past his right shoulder to join another conversation; a safer conversation; a more polite conversation; a typical conversation.

Standing idly by himself, he turns back toward the door. The scent has gotten thicker, and his heart beat pulses furiously in his ears. Whoever it is is coming closer, and it is becoming increasingly hard to keep his anxiousness in check.

Clenching his fists tight, he can make out footsteps coming down the corridor. He forgets to breath. The conversation in the room is becoming more and more rapid. Eyes dart back and forth between those engrossed in discussion. Nothing is said; nothing is spoken, but the volume has become unbearable. Nerves have been set loose, and try as they might, they are unprepared. There is no way in which they could have prepared themselves, and they realize this, but they do not accept it. That would be blasphemy.

He has kept himself from leaning against the doorframe and peering out. He now stands a few feet from the door, both of his hands tangled together. His palms are getting sweaty, his brow moist with a sheen of sweat. Every appendage has joined his ears to pulse along with his heart, and he cannot hear. He cannot think. This is becoming entirely too much. This suspense is making him teeter on the edge of reason. What if he were to burst out of this room and greet the stranger first? What would they think? What would they do? Would they let him back? Would it really matter?

He gasps, trying to scrape together a few breaths of purposeful courage.

“Ok.” He whispers to himself, “Ok.”

He shuffles a few inches towards the door. Baby steps. Baby steps.

His hands begin to shake now: adrenaline making itself known. He can do this, or so he keeps telling himself. It really isn’t difficult. It really isn’t, yet he hasn’t moved again. The roar of the crowd is still muted and muffled in the background of his inactivity.

Closing his eyes, he takes in the sounds. The footsteps draw closer still, high heels against tile floors. The congregation of people has taken on a life of its own, and here on the outskirts, he disassociates with them. They are his people, and they aren’t. He opens his eyes. That is something he doesn’t want to reconcile in his brain. There will be no reason for it; there will be no basis for his conjectures. Explanation can come later when he’s had the time to understand this separation that has just occurred in his mind.

Unclenching his fists, he lets his fingers relax into their natural curl. He exhales, releasing the breath he hadn’t realized he’d been holding. Without thinking, he walks to the door way, and she is there. She is there, and large hazel eyes look up into his face. She smiles warmly. She doesn’t extend a hand.

“Hello.” She says.

“Hi,” he says hastily back. “How are you?”

“I am alright,” she says shrugging, “My day has not been very good, but it has been getting better.”

Her head tilts to the side. There is a softness in her eyes.

“How are you?” She questions.

It is a different question, although it has been repeated so very many times throughout the room. It is a different question.

He looks at her for a moment, those hazel eyes never leaving his. He narrows his eyes, trying to catch the glaze of indifference, the glimmer of some sort of deception, but there is none. He feels comforted, and he feels relieved.

“I am exhausted.” He says.

“Oh, I’m sorry. What happened?” She says, her brow furrowing slightly.

“That is a very long story.” He says, looking past her shoulder to observe a person who isn’t there.

She looks around the room.

“There are chairs around.” She says.

“Yes, there are.”

“Want to sit down?” She asks.

“I would.”

They pass through the room, sitting at a table in the center of the far wall. Many pairs of eyes watch them, congregations of people inching farther away.

Her lips curve into a smile once again.

“I’m Jane, by the way.” She says.


“It’s nice to meet you, John.”

There is a moment of silence, those glittering hazel eyes staying trained on him.

“Is this better?” She asks.

He blinks at her.

“You said you were exhausted. Is sitting better?”

His eyes widen.

“Yes, yes. This is much better, thank you.”

She smiles.

“You’re welcome. I thought that since this is a long story, you’d be more comfortable off your feet.”

He blinks at her once more, taken aback.

“Oh,” he mutters, “you don’t –”

“No,” she says softly, holding up a hand, “Really, I’d like to know.”

He rests his hands on the tabletop.

“Ok.” He whispers.

Submitted: November 17, 2008

© Copyright 2021 Aislin Kane. All rights reserved.

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Add Your Comments:


the Lame One

cooooool.It caught my attention and held it to the very end. though i can't say i understand the basics but i feel you hero's lonelyness was cured at the end and his uneasiness evaporated, i admit i will still run it down once or twice again. I like your style which i think is fresh, your ability to discribe the moment is intense.I like the animal quality of your characters. hidden in all is a subtle sexual mcurrent that ran between the first man and the woman at the end, carried by the scent in the air.maybe wrong, but i like commenting as soon as i read down the first time.. keeps my perscetion clean of bias.

Mon, November 17th, 2008 6:33am


Thank you!

Mon, November 17th, 2008 10:05am

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