The kid has your eyes, darling – I mean it.
They’re the ones you kept in a pickle jar on the dresser beside our bed. She’s cradling them to their chest – still in their container, thank goodness –the way you’d hold a newborn. It’s strange, isn’t it? One man’s forgotten keepsake really can become another’s treasure.
Why is there a kid in our apartment? It’s not ours, I can tell you that. Secret children only exist in my writings; real me wants nothing to do with them. The child came up in the lift at midnight, soaked to the bone by the storm. I let her in and went to get her a towel. She must have come across the jar while I was in the bathroom.
It’s weird, isn’t it? A stranger has more familiarity with the nooks and crannies of our home than I do. The existence of that Mason jar had been cropped out of my mind space long ago, probably to make room for the half-a-manuscript I have piling up in the living room. I don’t stop the kid, opting instead to gaze into the pickled eyes with the same grotesque wonder as she.
The jar thumps against the coffee table as she sets it down. Wordlessly, she gets up and goes about making tea. My mouth opens, wanting to say something, but my throat declines the offer. Only the sound of drawers opening and closing disrupt the one o’clock vacuum. The kid doesn’t use a stool as she pours hot water from the kettle. With only her arm extending above the countertop, she tips half a mug of the steaming liquid into a cup. I should stop her. I find myself glued in place.
There’s been some sort of breeze passing through me since I opened the door: one that I can’t call a chill. It’s something temperature-less, something distorting the outline of my being the way holograms shiver in sci-fi films. You never liked that, I remember. There’s not much of a point in being able to see through a TV screen.
When I look up I find the kid has made a cup for me as well. It’s sitting on the coffee table, next to your eye jar. Otherwise it’s almost as if she hasn’t seen me. She sits cross legged on the other end of the table, back turned as she gazes out at the skyline. Once again, I feel an urgent need to speak – only to choke on nothingness and fall back into silence.
It’s nice like this, surprisingly. She doesn’t move as I clear the papers around her, as I put them away by the open door of my study. I sit down to sip at my tea. Was the carpet always this comfy? I note a few changes in the window view since I last saw it: the blinking streetlights, the vanished forest, the skyscrapers that have suddenly sprouted. We sit there, taking in the post-storm city as it resets itself in the dark.
Dawn comes. My eyes are wide open. The girl gets up to leave, placing her mug next to the jar on the table. Like a robot, I rise with her, fingers undoing the lock. It clatters when it falls to the ground. I haven’t the strength to pick it up.
I think the sound has startled her. For an instant she turns her head and tilts it sideways, almost as if she’s scrutinizing me, considering me, recognizing me – but she does not. Her footsteps echo in the corridor, and I wait until the sound dies down utterly before I slam the door shut. I sink down into the carpet, head in my hands.
You know what? She really does have your eyes.