All Stories, General Fiction, Story of the Week

Beffroi by Tobias Haglund

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A rose peaked behind Beffroi and stalls were winding down as the red spotlight hit Anders and Eva. Another glass of Chardonnay. In the second floor of an expensive hotel Eva’s lipstick kissed every glass since the early afternoon. She saw him caring about the activities of others and removed her sunglasses. “What is it?”

“They are buying windmills.”

“Yea? Is that interesting to you?”

“This is Belgium. Do you need to borrow souvenirs from the Netherlands?”

“You wouldn’t be okay with them selling the Great Wall of China either? I’m sure they sell the Eiffel tower if you look closely. Whatever fills the shelves at home. ‘Look honey, an Eiffel tower. Do you remember when we were at that place in Europe?’

“You can’t fill shelves of memorabilia with beers and chocolate.”

“No…” She sipped on a new glass. “It’s sad. Materialism replaces genuine experiences. How many stores here in Bruges are new to you?”

“A few.”

“They are a dying species.” She crossed her legs. “They should replace roads with rails. There will be no unexpected stops. The world will be without creativity and spontaneity.”

Anders folded a napkin and threw it on the plate. “And it will be sold and repackaged as the end of traffic accidents. People will love it.”

“The towers and windmills of western Europe…” She emptied the glass. “Want to go back upstairs?”

The clock tower of Beffroi couldn’t protect him from Time. The burning rose almost blinded him. “Sure…”

The red carpet never changed no matter how many glasses of wine touched it. The fifth floor. At the end of the corridor was a window showing the bright building like the light of the end of the tunnel. They lived in darkness.

Anders opened the door to their cleaned rooms. The white linens were frozen liquid over the queen-sized bed and she threw her mass-produced purse on the cleaning lady’s work of art.

He walked to the bathroom and Eva to the mini-bar. “Certain eternities are greater than others.” She showed him an Absolut Vodka bottle and smiled. “The windmill of liquor…”

He poured the vodka into two plastic glasses. “A piece of home away from home. Certain eternities..?”

“Yes. Zeno’s paradox. The turtle gets a head start against Achilles, when Achilles catches up to the head start, the turtle will have crawled a few steps more. When Achilles catches up to the new distance the turtle will… And it goes on forever.” Anders refilled the glasses. “Thanks. But in reality we can clearly see Achilles running past the turtle without problems. It’s because certain eternities are greater than others.”

“Yea I remember. What about it?”

“Existence is like that. We are turtles fleeing death.”

Anders looked her in the eye for the first time in hours. Dry, red eyes of a tormented young woman. “Is that why you drink?”

“No. It’s why every time you come here, I am with you. Our eternity is greater than others.”

He sat down on the sofa. “Not in length or numbers.”

“No.” Eva joined him. “But there isn’t an eternity greater than death so measuring life in length is pointless. It’s bleak.”

Anders kissed her red lips. “So you want to live in the now?”

“No. The word now is a slut who falls in love with the next moment. I want to live forever.”

Anders laughed. “But you won’t join a church.”

“Churches don’t offer eternity. They offer the promise of eternity. I am doomed to be unsatisfied. The best we can do is to try to prolong what makes us happy.”

“Your face has never shown me signs of prolonged happiness.”

“I guess I have failed, but not for lack of trying. Those moments fly by so fast I barely knew what it was or felt how it was.”

“The evening sun over Beffroi is warm to some and blinding to others. When we sat there you wore your sunglasses and I squinted to look out over the market place of false memorabilia. Yet now when I think back on the afternoon I can’t help but feel enjoyment. Last night was good. It was raw and just… you. But when we sat at the table we were imprisoned from the rest of the world. We sat in an exhibition. At first I thought they were the exhibition and we caught their daily interactions, but no. We were. The fact that no one was watching was because they simply didn’t care.”

Their foreheads met and he sighed. Anders lingered closely to her shivering mouth. He emptied the whole glass without making a face. “We are not special. Our eternity is not greater than others. Not in any sense. We will not live longer nor will we live better than others. We are merely an unvisited exhibition of a normal couple to the rest of the world.”

The sun set behind Beffroi and gave the spotlight to another love.

Tobias Haglund

9 thoughts on “Beffroi by Tobias Haglund”

  1. A fascinating story, Tobias! You described the burning rose of a sun brilliantly as it set on an unhappy couple who seemed to shrink to the size of an unwatched human exhibit, sooner or later to sink into the dreaded darkness themselves. Finely done! But It didn’t leave me sad; it left me looking at myself – and those passing my window – in a new way – as human exhibits. I like that! June.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s very interesting. I thought it was an exhibition, ironically enough, of how insignificant a couple is. One of them struggles with this notion. She wants desperately to be something. He disagrees. I think in a way we might all have that feeling of looking at other people through a window. Either at work or passing by. Whether we feel they are the exhibition or that we are is an interesting thought to me. I’m very happy you “got” the sun references. I thought I would have it almost as the sun chose them which changed to at the end, the story was just reduced to an exhibition. The sun gave the spotlight to someone else. Thank you for a very thoughtful comment, June. You always make me happy.
      ATVB my friend
      Tobias

      Like

  2. Tobias, this is a mature work, showing how love evolves to create its own pattern of behaviour. I thought your characters well drawn; opportunistic people. People of today, but sad beneath the smiles (or lack of them). The term ennui comes to mind. Well done. Des

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh thank you, Des. That’s very kind of you! I agree with your assessment. I think they are both sad beneath their smiles.
      ATVB my friend
      Tobias

      Like

  3. Hi Tobias, you are putting some very thoughtful and beautiful words together. Your work is a pleasure to read. You are now in Diane mode at getting the description to story ratio perfect.
    All the very best my friend.
    Hugh

    Liked by 1 person

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