|The Background was written in 1978.|
I He was standing at the window staring out at the sky. It was gray, from horizon to horizon, a uniform dull graynot a hint of texture, not the slightest variation in color. It had been that way for days, lying over the withered fields, standing behind the leafless trees. It was boring. He turned away from it, touching the reflection of himself in the dusty window, putting his finger on its nose, laughing a little before going to his desk.
When he heard her on the stairs he pushed back from his typewriter and held out his arms. She came quickly and sat in his lap, straddling him, putting her arms around his neck.
"If you had a comfortable chair up here, I'd come more often," she
said. She looked over his shoulder, selecting her spot. "If you had a
rocking chair I'd sit over there in the corner with a light and read
"You know I don't entertain while I work," he said.
"Oh you wouldn't have to entertain, I'd just be with you."
He laughed. "You'd read aloud."
She traced a line in his cheek. "It's true," she said softly. "I can't
help myself, I share everything."
He laughed and kissed her. Then, very slowly, he dumped her backwards off his lap and onto the floor. "Let me work now," he said. "I don't get much time."
"But I haven't seen you all day."
"I was only away for three hours," he said, "please..."
She stretched out, backwards on the floor. Supporting herself on the palms of her hands she lifted and lowered her thighs suggestively. He watched. Then she got up. At the door she turned to him. "You should keep your door closed," she said, "for all you care about anyone being here."
She slammed the door as she left.
II Still there was no change. Wherever he looked it was the same dull gray skyexpressionless, boring, ultimately oppressive. He turned away from it; he didn't want to look. He wanted to work; he wanted to work harder than he had ever worked before.
Her entrance was deliberately casual. She avoided his eyes and with a little more than necessary display of interest examined the things on his table, picking up a book, flipping noisily through its pages, pushing a file box to one side, pushing it back again. He went on working.
Do you like this sketch?" she asked abruptly, holding out a sketch he had done years before. "I don't."
"I don't know," he replied. He wanted to go on working.
"Don't you want to know why I don't like it?"
"No," he said slowly. "No, I don't."
"Well I don't like it, it's weak."
"I didn't ask," he said.
She waved the sketch in his face. "It's weak," she repeated. "I don't like it at all."
He tightened his grip on the typewriter table. "I didn't ask," he said, unable to mask his irritation.
She smiled. "You never could accept criticism, could you?" She threw the sketch down on the table. "Well don't start a fight..."
"Start a fight!" He pushed back from the table. "Who the hell's starting fight? All I want to do..."
"I knew it," she said. "I knew it."
She kicked the door as she left.
He stared at the dent for a long, long time.
still there was no change. He hardly looked any more he knew it so well.
He stood at the window out of habit, for no other reason, and sometimes
he traced a face, his own face, in the steam. More often he just went
to his desk.
© Helen Thorington, 2004 Contact