What Do You See?

We walk past their room on the way to ours up the stairs. He is eating grapefruit and she is sorting photographs. They are very old. He is thin and tall and wears a white dress shirt, rumpled and soft as if he’d saved it from his long days at the bank. She is wearing a knit top with a tropical print. When she stands up, it’s only partly. She is hunched over and must look at the floor when she walks.

I imagine for them a wedding 60 years ago, I give them children who are new grandparents. I decide that he has been eating his grapefruit just that way from the first one. But that’s my fiction.

Maybe they just met in Miami or have been planning their tryst for decades behind the backs of trusting partners. Maybe the photos she is sorting were the last things she managed to grab before she made it out the door to her lover’s waiting cab. Maybe it’s his first grapefruit. Maybe he’s eating it because of how she cut it. Perfectly. Like no one else.

Who could know?

I think it’s a mistake to assume we know things about people, to decide what their lives are like or were like just by looking. I want people to be a surprise sometimes, be a mystery.

Everyone ought to stay a mystery in some way for as long as they live.

I’m hoping our downstairs neighbors are plotting right now, figuring out how to catch a boat to Cuba, disappear deep in Central America where they can lounge about for long steamy days with their grapefruit and photos forever.

They could be talking about that this very minute. We have no way of knowing.

3 Comments on “What Do You See?

  1. I love this. It’s something I do all the time – imagine stories for the people around me. If they only knew how dramatic their lives are! Maybe it’s an inherent trait of storytellers that, if we don’t know the story, we make several up. I discussed this once with a non-writer and she had no clue what I was talking about. How dull life would be without people around us to challenge our imaginations.

    In this case, I vote that he’s always eaten grapefruit this way and it’s annoyed her for years, so tonight she finally snaps, that’s the very last grapefruit he will ever eat that way, and leaves him for an older local she just met who promises her all kinds of adventures for the sunset of their lives.

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