Karen ran her fingers over ancient wooden carvings, which had lost all the finish that once protected them. They surrounded the entrance to the storage space building she stood in front of. Karen couldn’t bring herself to go inside. Every time she started, she stroked the naked wood instead. The way Karen ran her fingers over the storage space building reminded her of how her husband, Frank, ran his fingers over her naked body.
But no more.
Karen looked down at the few boxes stacked in and on top of her shopping cart. That and her luggage were all she’d been able to get out of the apartment she’d shared with her soon-to-be ex-husband, Frank. At least in a single trip.
And she wasn’t going back.
In those few boxes were the few physical objects Karen held dear, only because they reminded her of people, now dead, who she still held dear. Things like a small metal horse on wheels with almost all its paint chipped off that had been her grandfather’s. And her parents’ high-school yearbook that Karen had dog-eared since their fatal car accident on the way to a high school reunion. And, very carefully wrapped because it could so easily shatter into a million pieces, the glass “friends forever” plaque with which she hoped to preserve the memory of what had been the greatest friendship of her life, with Marie.
Though Marie wasn’t technically dead.
Karen gulped back the pain and looked back up at the storage space building. She caressed another ancient carving next to its entrance. What had this grand old building been before? Clearly it hadn’t always been a storage space. The worn wood was somehow soft, almost like flannel, and warm from the sun. Poor old building. Hundreds of years old. So many tales to tell.
If only it could speak.
And suddenly, at the thought of all this old building had seen but couldn’t possibly tell anyone, Karen cried. It was the first time she’d cried since she’d burst in on Frank and her “friends forever” Marie in bed. And what was she crying for? Her soon-to-be ex-husband, Frank? Her never-to-be-friends-again Marie? Her own utterly broken heart? No. Instead, however crazily, Karen sank down until she sat on the sidewalk, sobbing for a building that couldn’t speak.
She tried to analyze her feelings. Did she, like the building, feel she could never speak again since Frank would no longer be there to hear anything she had to say?
Karen got back to her feet, dusted herself off, and shook her head. Nonsense. And anyway it didn’t matter. She dried her eyes with her shirt sleeves and plowed through the entrance with her shopping cart full of boxes and her luggage.
Beady eyes glittered in the gloom behind the reception counter. Karen immediately thought of a rat. A very big rat. Still, feeling she had little choice, she pushed and pulled her things toward the counter.
The rat seemed to ooze over the reception counter to meet her, only coming up to her eye level after he snatched the top box from Karen’s shopping cart, fumbled, and dropped it.
Karen could hear Marie’s “friends forever” plaque shatter into a million pieces.
“That’ll be extra for my cleaning up the mess,” said the rat.
Karen looked at a floor that obviously hadn’t been cleaned anytime recently, but showed no signs of the pieces of that plaque he’d broken.
The rat’s eyes opened wide as he looked her over before asking the obvious: “Need a unit?”
Karen fought back the urge to respond with several comments, including, “My, my, what big eyes you now have.” Instead she simply said, “Yes.”