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Thursday, 26 April 2007

Asleep

Lisa would fall asleep only when she was too exhausted to go on. She planned her nights this way, for experience had been a fine teacher. Twelve cracks in the ceiling, six flies trapped in the light fixture, seventy-two joints in the wood floor. Counting helped to pass the time when her mind flooded with countless embarrassments.

She had a knack for remembering the worst moments in her life. There had been so many during her forty-two years. Awkward silences at the lunch table when her story shocked the others, groceries spilled in the parking lot from poorly packed bags, lovemaking that ended with dissatisfaction and hard feelings. She would have sold her soul for a cup of grace, if only she knew how.

But even the devil left her alone, too busy with the more important people of the world -- the beauties, the rich, the loved.

"Lisa?"

The man from the second floor, the tall one with the beard and big feet. He always smelled of coffee in the elevator, like he'd showered in grounds rather than water.

"How do you know my name?"

He pointed at her chest, at the sticky Hello-my-name-is tag, a remnant from the client appreciation breakfast.

"I'm Al," he said, offering his hand.

She reached out to grip it, missed, tried again, and connected. His smile was awkward, or maybe it was genuine. She'd lost the ability to discriminate between the two.