MUSED
BellaOnline Literary Review
Death of Salome by Kristina Gehrmann

Fiction
Silent Compliments

Sean Bennick

It was another typically horrible day. She hated her job… well that wasn’t entirely true. She liked what she did in theory; the idea of helping people was something she always wanted to do. But there were so many rules, and so many people that needed help. She felt alone as she struck out for home, she always felt alone here.

She walked toward home focused on getting back to the world where she felt comfortable and out of this one, the one they all called real. She lived in another place when she could, a place where she could escape from her day-to-day struggle with indifference. She passed by the same plastic people as she did every day, it didn’t make any difference which way she walked the people were all the same. Nobody cared here.

She lived online, connecting with others like her through mouse and keyboard. There she could be herself, there was no reason to try and impress anyone. There she was judged on the merits of her mind, on her thoughts, and on her words. Without having to worry about what they thought of her, she could have real conversations. She had real friends there, despite what some people said. In her online world, people listened, and they cared.

He wasn´t paying attention to his own life either, she was his focus. She walked past where he worked two times a week without fail. Sometimes, when he was real lucky she walked past more often than that. This was a good week; he´d seen her every day so far.

She’d be along any minute now.

He’d traded all his shifts so he could be here each day in case she walked past. The later shifts meant more money, but it also meant missing her… any minute now.
He busied himself wiping down the sidewalk tables outside for the second time as he waited for her to turn the corner.

His breath caught in his throat as he saw her walking towards him. He watched as she stopped at the corner, her eyes darting back and forth before crossing. Once in a while someone would step between them and obscure her from view, but he kept watching, not wanting to miss a minute of her. He feigned working as she got closer, head down but eyes still locked on her. She had that same sad smile on her face, the corners of her mouth curled just slightly upwards, she was so beautiful. Her eyes were hazel, but her smile didn’t seem to touch them. He forgot himself for a moment and was staring directly at her; he looked down and felt his face get hot as she came closer. With each step she took toward him, his heart beat faster.

His heart nearly stopped as she passed and their eyes met briefly. He turned to let his gaze follow her and he caught a faint scent of flowers, or herbs... her shampoo perhaps. She even smelled beautiful. His mouth opened just after she passed; yet again he was left mute by her.

So many times he planned to tell her... something. He never found the words; they came to him so easily when she wasn´t around. Thinking of her he was a poet. But in her presence, he played the fool. His tongue seemed thick and swollen every time his mouth opened in her presence. The words that did emerge on the rare occasion he was able to speak sounded malformed.

The words she spoke as she passed always sounded musical; she spoke brilliantly about even the most mundane of subjects. She was on the phone a few weeks before telling someone how much she liked a movie she’d just seen, he went and saw the movie that night. She was right; it was… “simply perfect.”

A few months before, she had said hello to him and he thought he saw her smile… at him. He melted that day, his attempt at returning the greeting came out more squeak than speak. He was so embarrassed that he hid inside the café for a few days, watching her walk past from the dark interior. That was the only time he hid from her.

He found himself admiring her behind intently as she walked away from him, he couldn’t help it. Every now and then she’d speed up to get out of the way of someone else and her skirt would show a little more of her legs. He loved it when she wore that skirt.

As she turned the corner for wherever she called home, he sighed softly and his heart broke a little more. He finished the rest of his day frequently looking towards the corner where she had vanished, hoping he would see her again. He knew if he had that second chance today he could say... something, anything.

He sighed sadly and went back into the café, taking a measly tip left for him as he passed by the last table. He looked at the clock, he knew he was on for another fifteen minutes but he still looked. The rest of his shift was dead; the dinner crowd would be coming in a few hours so all that was left was cleaning up. He made his way through, methodically wiping down each table, glancing at the clock every few tables watching as it wound toward 3:30 when he could finally clock out and head home.

As he worked, he wondered about her. Where did she work? What’s her name? He didn’t even know that, but he knew he was in love. Everything he did know about her was amazing. She walked without an umbrella even when it was pouring. She had these little leather gloves she wore when it started getting cold.

As he walked the short distance home, following the same route she did every day, he practiced over and over in his head.

"You have beautiful eyes." A smile slowly crept onto his face as he continued, "I like your hair up like that." The smile grew exponentially, the belief that he might actually be able to speak to her tomorrow filled him with excitement and terror. There was something more important there... hope. She filled him with hope each time he saw her.

As he turned left onto his street, there she was. She filled him with hope, but she also filled him with panic at that moment. He stopped and watched as she bought a baguette. As she left the bakery she tore off a tiny piece and popped it into her mouth… incredible. He wanted to walk up to her and say something, he really did. But his legs wouldn’t work, and his tongue felt numb. Oh god he wanted to say something.

He watched in silence as she ran across the street during a break in traffic. His heart jumped as she leaned forward and smoothed her skirt down over her legs before continuing toward home.

Another sigh escaped his lips when she rounded a corner and vanished from sight.

As he walked into the lobby of his building, the old Russian woman was there again, checking her mail.
He spoke to the old woman as he entered, "you have beautiful eyes."

She gave him the same quizzical look she did every day, muttering something in Russian before shaking her head and prodding him towards the staircase with a wave of her hand.

As he climbed the steps two at a time, his smile faded softly. "Tomorrow… it´s time."

End

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