The Beige Lady. That’s what they called her. She wore beige from head to toe, every day for years without variation. Nobody ever spoke to her. She lived alone. One day she unlocked her front door and…
He stood on her porch, soaked from the rain, smiling like a clown, looking happy.
She immediately recognized him even though they had never met. She knew who he was and what he had come for, and it felt good.
She moved aside to allow him in, allowing herself to breathe in trying to catch as much of his smell as he walked past her, always with the clownish smile.
They were talking animatedly as they headed towards the kitchen, shredding pieces of clothing as they walked, a sock, a shirt, a raincoat, pantyhose, a blouse, a tie, another sock – but not matching the first one, a bra.
The door of the kitchen was closed and it was just as good because what was taking place in that kitchen, nobody wanted to know.
Nobody except for the neighbours. The neighbours, who spent their lives betting on the colour the beige lady would be wearing that day, and winning every single bet, every single day, for the last 23 and a half years, a year after they had moved into their new apartment, opposite hers.
They were always right, she always wore beige. They had stopped working, for the betting business brought benefits no job could ever bring.
Since the beige lady had no friends, they were the only ones to feel that something was not right. They. Had. Seen. The. Smiling. Man. Waiting. In. The. Rain. They. Had. Seen. Him. Walk. In.
They had known something was amiss, for the beige lady had never let anyone in. Not once in 23 and a half years.
Yet today she had let a soaking clown in. And now, they were watching with disbelief from their damp garage all that was happening in the kitchen.
They were faced with the hardest task of deciding what was more important: professional ethics or profit.
As I said, they were the only ones to have a full view of the kitchen and, not only were they making a living out of betting about her colour, they were also making a very decent living out of it. It paid for the mortgage, for the kids’ education – which did not exist, they would come in due time, no rush, thank you very much – , for their car, their dogs, their pills and their bills, everything really. What they were witnessing from the door of their garage had the potential to destroy the flourishing business they had been building from scratch for the last 23 and a half years: the lady was no longer beige. Her hair was jet black, Her thin skin was delicately white and pink, traversed all along by thick blue-ish red veins and arteries, her nails – visible for the first time, as she never left the house without her beige gloves, winter or summer, thin cotton or thick wool – and her toenails had the same deep burgundy wine tint. If the skin and nail colours could have been excused, albeit with difficulty, what could not was the colour of her panties: they were bright red. and. blue. and. green. and made her look like a lethal road accident on a slippery snowy slope surrounded by pine trees and with a metallic blue sky in stead of a canopy.
The clown was smiling; he did not seem to mind the colour of her skin or that of her underwear. The clown was happy. Which is unusual, because everybody knows clowns are the saddest people on the face of the earth.
As the neighbours were debating the age-long ontological question of “if you have not seen it, did it really happen?”, the situation in the kitchen seemed to be getting out of control. The fridge had been opened and enormous quantities of food of every colour and kind were now covering the whole kitchen, making the otherwise very dull off-white kitchen, look like the aftermath of a nuclear technicolor explosion of savours, scents and bodies. The naked clown was dressing up the beige lady with the endless possibilities of colours offered by the different ingredients on display all around them. The beige lady’s lips had become consummately red, her eyes were iridescent and olive had made a surprising appearance in her otherwise rather spiritless beige eyes.
She was staring at him straight in his eyes, unabashedly. She knew him so well. He loved her so tenderly. She adored him fearlessly. He desired her forcefully. She offered herself guilelessly. He took her gently. She smiled at him with her whole body and soul and together they disappeared into a whirlwind of smoke, blissfully.
When the police arrived hours later -alerted by the neighbours who refused to tell the police what had prompted them to call – the kitchen looked like a food mass graveyard. There was food everywhere. Some of it had bite marks, some were missing parts, most had not been touched but was lying there lifelessly. One of the cops, a veteran, had to rush out, nauseous. He could not sustain the sight. 40 years in the service and he had never seen anything like that. His colleague was dutifully taking notes while another one was looking for clues. As they were talking and writing, they inadvertently knocked over a jug that broke as it fell on the soiled floor, sending ashes flying across the already littered room. It landed on something that looked brighter than the rest and was red, blue and green. As their sick colleague came back in, the opened door let in a strong wintry wind that emptied the kitchen of its ashes.
Once all the food had been picked up and put into plastic sample bags, the only two items left on the floor were a red plastic nose, such as the ones the clowns wore last century, and ladies undies that had unanimously been voted too colourful by all three policemen.
Outside the house, in the grey streets, a group of sombre and menacing looking people had gathered in front of the neighbours’ house chanting aggressive slogans, denouncing what they saw as a fraud, demanding their money back. As they were surrounding the house, getting indomitably more threatening, a strange and happy couple passed them by without stopping, barely noticing them really.
They were dressed in bright colours, protecting themselves from the rain underneath an enormous rainbow coloured umbrella.
The man was smiling like a happy clown, the lady’s green olive eyes were shining with the bliss of the few lucky ones.
(September 17th, 2013)
Alex S David