Sylvie

Here's something I wrote for a Writer's Studio assignment. It was inspired by an excerpt from Albert Camus' "The Adulterous Woman." The challenge here was to focus in exquisite detail on the most minute of details while balancing the two page requirement and avoiding verbosity. There was also a fascinating concept of using the fact that someone is physically stuck somewhere to reveal how they are emotionally stuck. In addition, I've been trying to write about the Dutch weather in a meaningful way. I did a bit of light editing based on the feedback in the workshop, but not a thorough re-drafting.

      The raindrop clung to the window pane as a child would its mother, unwilling to ever pull away. This stalwart little drop was determined to keep its hold on the glass at the top of the pane. Holding her breath, Sylvie watched it closely. The drop could not fight the pull of gravity. It made a wobbling, curving descent towards the sill. She watched its downward progress, all the while rooting for it to hang on. She turned away as it impacted against the sill, unable to watch as it splashed ever so slightly back upwards and broke into smaller, fragmented droplets. Sylvie released a sigh that contained more frustration than air.

      “Sweetheart, I’m off to work,” John called on his way out the front door. The words blurred as he did not even stop on his way out to impart them. Sylvie could almost see the echoes of the noise he made on the way out the door hanging in the air. It watched her and casted judgment on his behalf. Reflexively, she twisted the ring on the fourth finger of her left hand. It chaffed her skin. He promised the job in Amsterdam would be a thrilling European adventure. Clearly, John had no conception of Tuesday morning when he was at work and rain mixed with hail to trap her indoors. When it was one a.m. in Miami and everyone she knew was sleeping.

      Sylvie no longer bothered to fight temptation or hide her habit. Her so-called stash was now sitting on the coffee table. Picking up the box of matches, she jiggled it. The rattling sound of wooden match against cardboard made her heart sigh in relief. Her fingers were cautious as she slid the tiny drawer out from the box, and carefully selected a match. Sylvie adored the scraping sound of match meeting box and then ignition. The scent of sulfur filled her nostrils. Its bitter scent was the prelude to something oh so sweet. The happily dancing orange flame delighted her. She smiled and cooed at it as it devoured the wood. It licked her fingers in response, and Sylvie cursed it out, then retrieved another match. This one ignited the joint. Sylvie inhaled deeply and exhaled long. The scent of the burning leaf replaced the sulfur. It was the only thing that comforted her in this country.

The joint in hand, Sylvie returned her attention to the window. The rain abated, and the fog descended. Amsterdam was good at that. The fog embraced the city in a stranglehold, as if it were a child that did not understand how to gently hug a friend. She inhaled deeply once more, and felt the sweet air seep into her bones. The cigarette ended, and Sylvie reclined against the sofa. The fog no longer bothered her. She had created her own indoor fog to match. Her fingers danced in the delicious scented fog as it cuddled her. Her reverie was interrupted by the sound of mail being pushed into the slot. She didn’t bother to retrieve it. Just more crap she couldn’t understand. Sylvie lit another joint.

      Once again, she was at ease, but was brutally interrupted by a pounding on the window. Sylvie gasped in shock, clutching her chest. Hail. Pelting the glass. The hail danced on her nerves. Her heart pounded. Dropping the joint, she dove across the sofa and pulled the luxurious faux fur throw off the arm and over her head. She huddled there, heart beating through her chest.

      Sylvie’s mind wandered back to John’s offer to join him in Amsterdam. She accepted because she knew their relationship would not survive long distance. If that was true, maybe it wasn’t meant to survive. She was certain he wouldn’t have offered marriage if that hadn’t been the visa requirement. Sylvie hated the way the marijuana made slow, lazy epiphanies burp into her brain like that. She felt she would have been better off not knowing.

      Vaguely a noise penetrated Sylvie’s musings. She took her time deciphering it. She heard the creaking hinges of the door to the apartment open, and made the vast effort to open one eye. Was it that time? It seemed as if John had just left for work. Her eye rolled towards the window. It was dark out. But that didn’t mean anything. The days here were shorter than short. John kept to the usual nine to five, but the sun’s day was even shorter. She rolled her eye over to the clock. It read 08:07. That could be morning or evening. A strange noise emerged from her throat. She meant to say, ‘Hmmm.’ It came out as a watery, shuddering gurgle. Her eye rolled towards John. Perhaps he would give her a clue. He said nothing. His mouth pressed into a firm line, and his eyes locked on the overflowing ashtray.