Updated: Sep 9, 2021
“The boundaries which divide life from death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where one ends and the other begins?” — Edgar Allen Poe
Keys walked briskly to the corner of Date Street checking her wristwatch every few seconds as though it would slow time; remembering a watched pot never boils. She was running late due to the lack of parking spots readily available even at this early hour. Her Underwood typewriter swung in its carrying case hitting the side of her leg in an annoying manner; still she lugged it as she had done every Saturday morning for the last several months. The Farmers Market would be opening soon. It opened at approximately 8:00 a.m. Keys knew that if she didn’t get there before it started she would lose her prime peddling spot at the entrance. Someone else would beat her there and set up their wares or microphones and amps. She’d be battling them for attention or worst…noise. The sounds of singers attempting to catch a break all vying for recognition that they are indeed the greatest musician.
When she reached the formidable space she had a sigh of relief. First! She shouted not aware she’d said it aloud. The small business owners who’d been setting up their tents and tables glanced at her. “Good morning” she said awkwardly. They nodded and continued to unload their products. The market hosted all types of merchandise ranging from honey to clothing all handmade as well as various food huts. It was surrounded by shops and restaurants so it was optimal real estate for someone looking to sell their goods. Soon attendees would be piling in and obnoxiously climbing over one another to peek at the various items.
Keys grabbed a cheap small plastic table and chair that she had perfectly hidden behind a giant ceramic vase filled with Marigolds. Things here had the tendency to wander off but, she was pleased when it was still there. If it hadn’t been she would have just dragged one of the heavy metal chairs that the city had placed around the market and kept the keyboard on her lap as she’d done numerous times before but, it was much easier to type on a flat surface than her bony knees. Keys sat down and combed her fingers through her asymmetrical brown blonde balayage hair and placed a black fedora with a pin that read “future best selling author” on top of her head. Keys was an old soul. She listened to early jazz and big bands, wore a vintage Rolex which she had managed to talk her grandfather out of and was somewhat of a self proclaimed neo-luddite. She scarcely touched a computer and refused to conform to social media.
She unhinged the locks on her case and gingerly pulled out her Underwood and sat it on the table before her. A gift she had also received from her grandfather it belonged to him but, he rarely used it if at all. It was in mint condition just like its color. It was her most prized possession and her sidekick. Inside she had a sign which read. “Tell Me a Word” Poems Exchanged for Tips. Keys was a bit of a wordsmith. She could literally take any word given to her and turn it into poetry. She’d earned the nickname Keys because she was always typing, typing, typing sometimes at the detriment of others as the clacking of keys could be somewhat annoying when one was trying to study. One day in the middle school library she typed too quickly and the keys jammed and another student walked by and whispered keep it down Keys and it stuck just like the keys had and she’s been Keys ever since and she much prefers it to her given name of Belinda. She loved to write and she loved to read equally as much. She emulated authors and poets that had come before her, Poe, Shelley, Keats, Hemingway, Plath, Fitzgerald, Lee…the list goes on and on. As a small child she would imagine her closet was a fortress and no one could enter once she raised the drawbridge (closed the door) and it was surrounded by a moat filled with crocodiles, leeches and various other parasites and entering uninvited would put you in peril and lead you to a certain death. She would climb the stairs to the highest tower which was stocked with every book ever written and there she would curl up quite small in her library (the top shelf) and read for hours getting lost in otherly worlds or dimensions, escaping space and time. She did not enjoy the real world whatsoever.
Now at the ripe old age of 24 she sat on the corner watching the passersby and wondering about them and making up stories about their daily lives or what types of things they bought. If the items they’d purchased were visible she’d guess at what they were going to do with those items. She always had tales going on her head and on occasion these characters kept her up a night. Loads of people filled every empty space now and she could barely see the market or its tents. She’d already written several poems and it was turning out to be a triumphant day. A guy walking through the market looked briefly at Keys and smiled smugly, he knocked his friend on the arm and nudged him in Keys direction. Although a tomboy Keys was quite stunning and sometimes the attention she hoped for was not always the attention she got.
“Any word?” The man inquired and chuckled as he said it.
"Any word,” Keys said hesitantly. The man shouted “Penis”.
“Clever,” Keys replied begrudgingly and rolled her eyes.
“C’mon, I’ll give you 20 bucks.
“Alrighty then.” Keys smirked. She stuck a piece of paper in the paper rest and and rolled the knob on the side. She typed the following, “Penis” They say men are from Mars and women are from Venus you try to act large because you have a small penis. - K She handed the paper to the man’s friend who was not very amused with the whole situation and he laughed out loud.
“Dude what’s it say?” said the man who was a tad too cocky no pun intended. He snatched the paper and read the lines. He grumbled and crumpled the paper and tossed it on the ground.
His friend picked it up and smoothed it out. Laughingly he stated, “I quite like it. Here is $40. I apologize for my friend.” He pushed his friend in the back as a lets move along and the friend’s interest had now completely changed to finding tacos.
There were quite a lot of characters coming and going and Keys was beginning to get peopled out. She was about to pack it up for the day as dawn had turned into afternoon which was turning into twilight. She was finishing up with a small group of women who were throwing all of their favorite words at her when a young woman approached and could see she was coming to a wrap.
“Almost finished? Do you still have a poem left for me?” she asked. Keys looked at her and her face lit up and little butterflies filled her belly. The small group was curious as it was always fun to hear what word people chose and stuck around to catch the next poem.
“Tell me a word” said Keys smiling.
“Cupcake,” said the young woman and gave Keys a wink.
“Cupcake?” Yes, I own a bakery up the street a cupcakery if I may.” Keys looked at the young woman taking her in. She began to type. When she finished she pulled the paper out of the rest and handed it to the young woman. The young woman read it aloud.
“Cupcake - Her skin is like buttercream. I want to taste her on my tongue and devour her sweetness. I want to indulge on her many layers in small bites.” — K.
“Naughty” said the woman and kissed her lovingly.
“How was your day my beautiful Page?” Keys cheesed.
“It was a day…it is perfect now” she replied.
The group of ladies were grinning and awww-ing except one who seemed a little stunned and unsure what had just happened.
“Ready?” said Page.
“Ready,” replied Keys. Keys gently packed up her Underwood and peeked to see if anyone was looking and hid her table and chair once again. “
Someone is going to take those one day,” said Page. Keys shrugged and adjusted her hat. She loved Page’s name— how fitting for a writer to be with someone whose name is Page. Fate she thought and grasped Page’s belt loop grasping her closely to her.
“Do you want me to carry that?” she pointed at Page’s messenger bag carrying her laptop. Page was not a luddite.
“I’ve got it. Thanks hon. You’ve got enough to handle with that heavy machine.” Keys laughed at this remark. It was beginning to get dark and all of the shops had closed and the restaurants were illuminated with neon signs. Keys looked around and said, “it’s beautiful at night.” Page agreed. They were about to cross the street heading towards their favorite little Greek spot when Keys saw a man approaching carrying a shiny object that she saw reflected from the street lamp. Realizing it was a knife heading straight for Page she pushed her out of the way. The mugger intended to cut the bags strap from Page’s shoulder. Keys felt a sharp searing pain in her side, fell to the ground and the thick plastic casing that held her Underwood hit the ground with a thud. It began to rain; Keys felt the wet droplets on her face. She closed her eyes for a second to keep the water out and when she opened them the street was completely empty. There was no Page; she patted the ground around her for the case and it was gone as well. Confused and distraught Keys slowly stood up. She was soaking wet and discovered that she had a hole in her t-shirt, it was discolored and sticky with blood. She was disappointed because this was one of her favorites. The shirts design was a portrait of Poe which read “Nevermore.”
She walked for what seemed like miles until she got to the small 1 bedroom apartment she shared with Page and their kitten/young adolescent Bukowski. The kitten purred as she entered. Her typewriter was sitting on the coffee table not in its case. There was a paper in the paper rest. Odd she thought. She was frustrated at this because no one—not even Page had ever touched her Underwood before. She clutched her fists until her knuckles were white. Why had Page just left her there? She was utterly confused and began to feel disoriented. The room began swirling around her and drawers and cabinets began to open and close. The bathroom door next to the apartment entrance slammed shut and Keys who had never had a temper felt angry. Angry at all of the faces who had passed her by, angry at the times she’d been mocked or laughed at and angry at the one person who had made her nothing but happy. Where was this sudden rage coming from?! Page descended from the bedroom the slamming door had woken her just after she’d finally cried herself to sleep. Her face was red and her eyes were strangely puffy. Keys stared at Page and their life together flashed like vivid movies watched in HD on a big screen. Her memories usually contained a little fuzz like they were being played on an old tv with rabbit ears but, they were now more clear than they’d ever been. Page was perplexed by all of the open cabinets and drawers. She picked up the silverware from the floor. That must’ve been one giant breeze that swept through. Nothing else — she thought. She shivered and tried convincing herself. She was skeptical of anything existing outside of flesh and bone. Keys spoke to Page and Page sat on the couch with no reply. Keys was used to the cold shoulder. Whenever Page was upset she became eerily quiet but this was different.
“Why did you leave me there?” Keys inquired. “What is going on? What have I done?” She raised her voice louder and louder with each question. So loud the apartment shook. Page picked up Bukowski and cuddled her reassuring her it was probably a mild earthquake. Not really sure which of their minds she was trying to ease herself or the cat. It was California after all. “I need you now more than ever” she whispered. “I don’t know how to do this without her.” She softly touched the typewriter Keys loved so much moving her fingers across the tabulator and up the piece of paper with a sense of longing. She turned the roller knob as if to reverse time. Keys sat on the couch watching; desperate to understand, her eyes welling. The saddened Page lifted her hand from the typewriter and went back into the bedroom and closed the door behind her when she suddenly heard the click, click, click of the Underwood. She rushed out of the room back into the tiny living area and on the paper over and over it read, “Tell me a word, Tell me a word, Tell me a word,” gradually turning into caps as if yelling at her TELL ME A WORD, TELL ME A WORD, TELL ME A WORD.
Page sorrowfully typed “DEAD”.
Song: “I Get Overwhelmed” - Dark Rooms