Early each morning in the eternal city, I held a handkerchief knotted around sand and felt its weight in my palm. In this way, I wouldn’t forget where I’d come from. But then I’d drop it onto the pavement to remind myself I was free each morning to choose my life anew.
With my empty handkerchief back in my pocket, I would go to the café on the corner for a black coffee. There was never anyone in there at that time, apart from the owner and his wife, neither of whom seemed in a hurry to serve me.
I had forgotten how difficult it was to get to the entrance of my old house in Naples. A sloping alleyway eventually turned into a tunnel hewn into the rocks many centuries before. The tunnel grew lower and narrower until I was forced to wriggle along like a worm. When I eventually arrived at the ancient door, I had to reach up with one hand through a narrow gap in the rock and with a huge rusty key feel my way to the lock, and then crawl in.
Inside, the ancient, dusty furniture was as I’d left it, but at the back was an orchard full of newly-fallen pink blossom lying in waves on the ground. It was a kind of foretaste of the sea.
As I was wondering whether this made the rest of my life worthwhile, a breeze sprang up and there was a fresh shower of blossom. I took a dozen snapshots of it on my iPhone to send back to my family in England, but the results were blurry and looked more like a painting than the kind of photo they were used to seeing.
This door opens into a room containing a replica of life exactly as it is. Except here everything has a limit to make us feel safe. Yet there are countless doors opening into other rooms we will never see. In the distance, the corridor grows smaller until it must come to an end – or open into that which we have no name for.
Ian Seed is a regular contributor to The Cafe Irreal. His books of small fictions and prose poems include New York Hotel (2018), Identity Papers (2016) and Makers of Empty Dreams (2014), all from Shearsman. His long short stories include Italian Lessons (LikeThisPress, 2017) and Amore Mio (Flax, 2011). Work has appeared in a number of anthologies, including The Best Small Fictions 2017 (Braddock Avenue Books) and The Forward Book of Poetry 2017 (Faber & Faber). He lectures at the University of Chester in the UK.
Our commentary on Ian's most recent published work, New York Hotel, was the first entry in our "Year of Reading at the Irreal Cafe."