Thieves of the soul


Lori J. Lawrence

Translated by Stefania Castellaneta



My gaze would always rest there. It would only last a handful of seconds, the time it took for the train to stop and depart. The first few times, it had happened for just a moment, a brief glance; the following days, however, I had figured out in which carriage I would sit, the third from the locomotive, the first seat on the right. That was the ideal place where I could see the windows clearly.

It was an old renaissance style villa, or at least so it seemed to me from the mullioned windows with a pointed arch, embossed surround, pedestal and oculus of dark glass in the center. I had studied it in art history, an additional course to my already jam-packed curriculum. Every day I walked that route to reach the university, but only on the way back was I able to glimpse the house beyond the leafy trees. If the train took too long to brake, I would quickly shift to reach the seats further up. To all intents and purposes, it was becoming an obsession: I had to look in that direction, lay my eyes on those windows. Ignoring it was useless; even if I concentrated on a book, the moment I was in the vicinity of the villa I had to look up, almost as if I were drawn to it by an ancestral force.

It had all started by accident, on a rainy day. I had seen that silhouette for only a moment but, since then, everything was different.

Days, weeks, months. The first time I noticed the window it was spring, now October was about to end. My life flowed fast, empty. Every gesture was sheer routine. I would get up, brush my hair, rinse the washbasin with care, making sure to get rid of the fallen hair from the white ceramic. I would obsessively brush my teeth and dab my dull skin with rose water, trying to bring back a little color to it. While I gulped down some yoghurt, I would pretend to listen to my mother’s complaints, her advice on a balanced diet and the importance of the number of hours’ sleep. Since they had begun again, lessons would tediously follow each other, the pen would scratch the paper taking useless notes, wasting precious hours.

Then the moment would come. My heart would already be jumping in my chest two kilometers away, the train would shudder, brakes would squeal with an annoying, but at the same time, inviting sound. And there it would be, the window would appear before me, calling to me. I would place my hands on the window, like a little girl in front of a toy store. I would lean forward, my nose touching the glass. The surface would fog up a little, and I’d flail. Every day at the same time the shadow appeared behind the glass and stared at me.

It was stupid, I realized, completely irrational. It could not make me out, just as I was unable to get it into focus myself. Yet I felt it. The train would depart slowly, taking me away from that view, the villa would soon disappear leaving me with my reflection: two staring blue eyes, mouth trembling and long dark hair scattered over the face.


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© 2015 Lori J. Lawrence

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