At 5pm sharp, (川) River, the janitor, would report to work. He punched his card, packed his own sandwich, and he got on with his cleaning. He would always look at her from behind and afar. He would notice her little movements; how she combed her hair with her fingers, how she applied her lipstick every now and then, and how she always bit her coffee cup from the vending machine. River always emptied her trash but her cup, he couldn’t bear. He did not know her name, except for the letter (月) Moon on her punch card.
River was seemingly upset at one of Moon’s co-workers who hit on her regularly. When the office was dark, River would commit despicable acts to the man he despised; such as shredding an occasional important document of his, or cleaning toilet seats with his office toothbrush, sometimes, on rainy days, he did both.
At home, River lived in a rather compact, squarish apartment. He did not have ornaments but he had a wall of stacked cups, all with Moon’s bite marks and faded lipstick. That was his way of ‘collecting’ her. On his table were yellowed books, and torn pages from notebooks, where he scribbled, and drew. A wall featured many of River’s messily arranged polaroids. They looked intimate, and rather impressive. Each picture revealed just slightly more of River as a person.
One day, River punched in to work and he did his routine, however, he immersed in a rare anomaly. Into the night, Moon lingered, and she typed voraciously. He enjoyed her company from afar as he dined with his usual peanut butter sandwich. Upon his exit from the washroom, to River’s astonishment, they met face to face, for the first time. She waved, and said goodnight. He waved back, without a word. Someone had noticed him, and it was her.
That night, River’s heart raced so fast that his hands shivered. Infatuation and happiness inspired a surge of impulsive inspiration. River gathered his polaroid camera and captured his elusive disposed cup collection of Moon’s daily doses. In the midst of midnight, River checked into the office, and laid down a series of polaroids on Moon’s table, with a specific flower he picked, an orchid.
The next morning, the monotonous alarm sounded catchy. River felt different. He broke his routine, and plunged into some basic hip exercises. He had a great appetite. Double portion. He ironed his uniform with a hum, and used expired gel on his hair. He wanted to look suave.
At 5pm sharp, River punched in, chest up, innocently confident, but not for long. Hisses sounded at him. He saw the man he despised, with a smirk, alongside a few female colleagues who sniggered. From afar, he saw that Moon gave him a half glance with a reluctant tilted posture. She then shied away. Beads of perspiration emerged from River’s forehead. Then, two firm taps thudded on his shoulder; manager signalled him into the office.
Without the slightest courtesy, the manager stripped the name tag off of River’s uniform and signed River a cheque. River discovered his work of art, his confessions for Moon, were crumpled in the bin. River left.
He walked aimlessly into the night, as they do.
After hours of rumination, some time had passed and he ended up at a store that caught his eye; a tattoo shop. He brandished an old crumpled polaroid of a cup with a defined bite mark. The tattoo artist pointed to the seat, and thereafter was permanence.
Under River’s apartment he stood still, with a container, and fire. Disintegrated in ashes were Moon’s styrofoam cups and his ocean blue workwear. Temperamental light from the flames shimmered upon his swollen skin from the new ink he garnered. Where his heart thumped, was a plain tattoo of what looks like a bite mark, and the initials (月川) “Moon River,” throbbing along with his heart. The hurt will be permanent. His art, like ink on a skin, remained forever, the scar of a traumatic expression.
Moon River, a short story by K.Lee
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