by Marianne Aubin-Le Quere
(Norwich, Norfolk, UK)
A trembling hand reaches for the bell. It touches the smooth surface of a clear plastic. Behind it, familiar names are encrusted in faded red lettering. Pressure is applied, and the plastic cedes, giving way to a harsh sound no doubt disturbing the inhabitants.
I look at the woman standing in the doorway. Her features are strained, yet she remains composed. She looks up at the window, possibly hoping for a furtive glimpse of the person she has come to see. She looks resolved to stay, but longing to turn and run away. She falters just as a voice coming from the interface gives her no option but to go forward.
A female voice speaks to her in a foreign tongue. The voice sounds as if it has talked too much, or has been silent for too long. Somehow, it is broken.
The woman answers back, unsure of the language. Her voice quivers even as the syllables she formulates elope into the air around her.
She has an accent I cannot place, and suddenly I recognize her.
She is me.
I try to grip on to what is left of this language. Some words seem lost to a distant past, and some I'm sure I never knew. I speak hesitantly.
A horrid sound declares the door can now be opened. I step into the building. The staircase is dizzying, the walls bleak and white. This isn't what I have come back for. I take the stairs two by two, desperate to muffle the sound of the heels I am not yet accustomed with.
I arrive on the landing. In front of me is a white door. It stands there, quiet and unassuming. Three people's shoes are splayed next to it, a wonderful array of browns and blacks. Nothing has changed here except for me. I steal a last precious breath before the door swings open.
I feel a presence stamp its way towards me; one that doesn't belong to the boy I was expecting. This presence knows me. It whispers to me, speaks of forgotten moments. It invades my mind, selecting memories to let linger in the air. They become an obnoxious rumble. Some thoughts smack me on the way, some giggle and yet others growl. One hisses and departs.
I blink, and the presence recedes. The presence is not a person, it is a smell. A smell so potent that I feel it devours me as I stand. This smell belongs to this place; to this person. The smell unfurls before me, and I welcome it with open arms.
The smell has unchained a part of me I have forgotten to love. I welcome myself back with ardour. The child in me steps forward, eager. Hand in hand, she and the smell step into the room. I see her exchange a smile with the boy inside before the door shuts with a thud.
I am left outside; the smell recedes back into the apartment I no longer have the keys for.