F3: Carry These Songs Like a Comfort Wherever You Go

I was hungover on Friday thanks to some birthday celebrations on Thursday. This meant I was faced with writing something about destroying the world, or something irredeemably melancholic. As I’m currently obsessed with the Gaslight Anthem I went with the latter.

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CARRY THESE SONGS LIKE A COMFORT WHEREVER YOU GO

The café is composed of snapshots of times past, all smiling couples and lonely heartache; friends laughing, laptops and latte; the elegantly dishevelled leaning carefully casually on the counter, the more authentic counting loose change to fill their belly; stains on the floor might be blood or tea. The tension from a thousand meaningless sexual encounters crackles through the air, ionising the burgeoning romance that drifts lazy and warm. Every tile is a photograph, every table a memory.

Ellie sits on the counter, hugging her knees. She thinks of the past and she dreams of the future. This moment, this late night and these cigarettes, have filled her heart fit to burst with nostalgia, her eyes with nascent tears. Over the hours the ashtray has faded to grey.

She raises a finger, examines cracked and flaking nail polish. Each fingertip is painted in a different hue. She imagines the sensation of running her fingers through hair, of gripping a pick and stroking taut guitar strings. She thinks of love and life, and smiles.

Slowly she lifts her head, loose strands of disorganised hair tickling her cheeks. Her gaze flits across these ethereal polaroids, wandering in search of something unknown. There’s something here, she knows, something that she needs, something to which she yearns to cling, but she does not know what.

She lights another cigarette.

There, frozen in imperfect eternity, is the face of her mother, flesh unseen for eighteen months now. Not far away is her first love, unrequited, and her first guitar, long since lost. Between these images lie strangers, or perhaps brief acquaintances she has forgotten, or friends and lovers yet to be.

She stands, biting her lip as her legs protest at the movement. She walks along the counter, stepping carefully over napkin dispensers and empty cups. She places her feet delicately, smiling down at her peeking toes. Reaching up she plucks a photograph from the ceiling without looking. It is of a car: an old American Cadillac. She remembers them from the television, which she remembers watching long ago.

Ellie climbs down from the counter, letting her cigarette fall where it will. She moves slowly around the café, selecting photographs erratically. Some she deliberates over, some she takes without looking, and others she discards after a moment’s thought.

After several minutes she has collected perhaps a dozen. She stops, flicking through them, and slides the little bundle into her jacket pocket. Then, not looking back, she walks out the front door.

This week’s Friday Flash Fiction:

Justin Pickard: Non-Perishable
Gareth L Powell: Life Goes Wrong
Paul Graham Raven: Leaving Mars
Neil Beynon: Elevator 2

Comments
2 Responses to “F3: Carry These Songs Like a Comfort Wherever You Go”
  1. Neil says:

    First thing I did on reading this was go back and read it again. In a good way.

    I’m not sure why, as it makes sense on its own, but I have to ask – is there something larger lurking behind this?

  2. Shaun CG says:

    Hi Neil, glad you liked this one. In answer to your question I did initially plan a less ambiguous/metaphorical piece in which the ‘snapshots’ were gateways of some kind, so there is the potential of a larger urban fantasy there. Might that be what you mean?

    Thanks for reading mate!