Flash Fiction: Parcel

I like to play around with words sometimes. Just put on a song and improvise a quick story to capture the sense of the music. It is a lot of fun to write this way. I can’t promise what it will be like to read. It is what it is.

Tonight’s song: Ear Parcel by Lamb.

******

Prompt: Ear Parcel by Lamb

He turned the paper over in his hands, his mind grasping for the unknowable numbers on the lost fragment. He had found the paper under the front seat of his girlfriend’s car. Torn, the paper only showed four numerals written in pencil. Four numbers. Three more numbers on the missing piece made it a phone number. Of course, nine made it an ISBN. One made it a zip code.

He wanted a cigarette. He hadn’t smoked in months but right now he wanted to smoke an entire pack. He wanted to light up and feel each disappear into the hot, bright light of his anger.

He wanted to burn the note. If it was a note. Maybe it was just a random scribble. Maybe it meant nothing. He should throw it away. Or put it back under the front seat of her car where he found it. Neither option worked for him.

So he stood outside her car, waiting. Any minute now she would walk out the front door of the office building with a dozen other people. She would see him waiting for her. She would smile. Then she would recognize that impatient, hurt look on his face. She would see the piece of paper in his hand and her smile would slip. In that moment, he would know everything. If he watched her carefully, in that one unguarded moment, he would know.

People were leaving the office building now. Tired faced men and women chatting as they fanned out into the parking lot to gather their cars and drive off to rejoin the parts of their lives they leave waiting for them while they are working.

And that was the worst part of it all, for him. There were parts of her life which he knew nothing about. There were entire stretches of her day which did not include him. There wasn’t even a boyfriend-shaped hole in that space for her. When she was working, he had might as well not even exist. When he tried to call, she was always in a meeting. When he sent a text, the message went unanswered or, worse, the curt reply: can’t talk now.

People were leaving the building. Some of them were smiling. Some were serious and sad-faced. They all knew his girlfriend, all of them. Knew her in a way he could never know her. She was a colleague. A coworker. A manager.

The way these people knew her. The lightness with which they carried that knowledge with them. The smug air they had.

A dark haired man in a nice suit smiled as he went past. Nodded. “Nice day,” he said in a way that made it impossible to tell if he meant it as an observation or an invocation. Either way, the man broke eye contact quickly and shuffled off to his car.

Guilty. That man had looked guilty. The smile was covering his guilt but the boyfriend could see through it. Suddenly, the boyfriend knew with absolute surety that the man had put his hands all over his girlfriend, had rubbed and smoothed and fondled her. Maybe only just moments ago. Maybe she was still inside, smoothing her dress, straightening her jacket, tucking in her blouse.

Maybe, if he could grab the man’s phone and see the last four numbers he would find that they matched the four numbers in his hand. That would seal it. He would know and she would be caught. There would be no escape. There would be no denial.

Except the man was already gone, leaving the parking lot in his sporty gray BMW. The boyfriend felt angry to be standing beside his girlfriend’s navy blue Camry. This was not the life she wanted. This was not the car she wanted to be driving. He was not the man she wanted to be taking home.

He crumpled the paper and held it in his fist. Somedays it was hard not to want to hit something. Everything was so unfair.

He opened his hand, smoothed the note out on his leg. She needed to see the note. He needed her to see the note in his hand.

The doors opened. There she was, leaving alone, smiling. Content with herself for a day’s work well done. Then she saw him and smiled wider. She actually skipped a step or two as she came to meet him. And then she was standing before him, the note unseen. She kissed his cheek.

“Thanks for picking me up,” she said, still smiling and went to the other side of the car.

“Sure,” the boyfriend said, unsure how this was supposed to go next.

“What’s for dinner?” she asked as he opened his door. “I was hoping for Thai carryout. There’s a new place we need to try. I’ve got the number written somewhere in this car.”

All at once, the air in the car was lighter. He felt his fists relaxed. He remembered the face of each person who had left the building and then, one by one, forgot them. They were strangers. They were inconsequential.

“Sure. Thai carryout sounds great.”

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