Here is a short excerpt of the novella i am writing at the moment, which i can best describe as a meditation on old age & loneliness :
The man who rings the doorbell is neither young nor old. His eyes are kind.
The man waits in front of a very ordinary door in a small block of apartments encased in decorative greenery.
It is not a gated community because these are the wealthy suburbs of Paris, not Johannesburg.
It is a withdrawn community. Pensioners and poodles. Young professionals driving to work and driving back. Television evenings. In the summer months, windows stay opened. Occasionally, children play on the lawns. Very occasionally, an old person dies alone and weeks go by before someone notices.
The man rings the doorbell again on this nondescript day in July. The summer of 2005. It takes a few seconds before he hears the shuffling of small footsteps, and a polite ‘who is it?’.
‘It’s a delivery for you, madame.’
The door opens.
In the cool corridor that smells of shade and paint, stands the man with the kind eyes, bearing in his arms a massive bouquet of roses. White, pink, yellow and red ; fresh and gleaming.
Etched against the carpeted chiaroscuro of her flat, a small, slender old lady looks up at the flowers and the man beyond.
‘It’s for your birthday. One hundred years old today! Congratulations !’
‘Ah ben ca alors!! Come in, please.’
‘You want me to put the flowers in the kitchen ?’
‘Oui merci. Will you stay for coffee ?’
‘Thanks, it’s very kind of you. But i’m really in a rush. I have lots of other deliveries.’
‘Bon, at least let me give a little something for you coming all the way.’
‘Non non, there’s really no need.’
‘Wait wait…’, she fumbles with her purse. Pale, gnarled and elegant fingers hand the man a 10 Euro note.
‘There’s really no need. Come, let me kiss you goodbye. And happy birthday again- happy centenary!’
Quick footsteps down the stairs. The thick entrance door opens and falls back heavily. A small silence.
Very slowly, the old lady shuffles her way towards the tall French windows looking out on a perfect summer day : sheer blue sky and a slight breeze rustling along the grass, and the leaves and the tall cypresses. Bumblebees. Red geraniums on the window sill.
The old lady sits and waits.
A hundred years ago, in a small village in the north of France, she was born. A hundred roses sit unblemished in the kitchen sink, a splash of colour against the wet steel.