This is a short story inspired by the poem "Mamie" written by Carl Sandburg.
There was something inherently appealing about this old-fashioned, worn out French furniture that lay scattered in the middle of the room, but the first thing she noticed was the cracked pale paint on the walls—pale like ghosts, everywhere she looked it felt the same. Her eyes scanned the room back and forth with desperate vision, as if she was trying to find one imperfect detail… but she couldn’t.
The pictures that hung on the wall haunted her, the way they lined up one by one against the dark-shiny brick brought her back a mixture of old memories—yet those were the memories she wished she buried behind her, back in the little Indiana town.
Where she stayed wasn’t an epicurean castle of fairy tales. Judy found herself surrounded by pale walls, cracked paint, curved Cedar wood stairs, raddled French furniture, awry chandelier, grey walls of mixed memories and finally irregular tables that had waxy circles of dripping candles and rusty silver spoons—perfect.
“Perfect” she thought.
The glass flower vase that stood right in the middle of the table—maybe one inch to the right caught the sunlight and twinkled like a tiny lamp.
She knew she ought to go… but where?
She got tired of the small city gossip, the barber shop boys and the old piece the band played. She found no excitement in going for a treasure hunt or finding mistreated maps, wrinkled around the edges. Instead, she would beat her head against the bars.
Carl Sandburg, Mamie:
She beat her head against the bars of little Indiana town and
Dreamed of romance and big things off somewhere the
Way the railroad trains all ran.
She wanted her own paintings out of sight, shuffled, turned away… anything, but she didn’t want to see them—because only then, only then she would find small imperfections and those imperfections would tease her forever. She hated them, all of them. Every masterpiece she drew, she hated it—in equal measures. But only when she stumbled across her poetry, she knew—she was like “those” poets.
She beat her head against the bars….
Judy walked through the narrow-dim hallway knowing that every picture that hung there, every painting she drew would bring her back a slice from her past.
Suddenly she broke her silence, “Why didn’t you keep me from making a fool of myself?” She asked in a low voice looking at her poster.
Judy laughed—a ridiculous laugh it was. She laughed, but tears hang tightly in her eyelashes trying not to fall and make their way down her cheeks—impossible.
She murmured words in her usual low voice and imagined herself sitting in a boat on a labyrinthine ocean. She was lost.
Only then she acknowledged that the life she led was a maze. She wanted perfection. Her life was based on “What was supposed to be” rather than how it was. After she stumbled across her painting “thoughts” she realized what she had been doing for the past years was nothing but making a blunder after another.
“Perhaps by their blunders that one gets to know people…” Judy grind, getting her voice back.
Now—only now Judy realized she led a frightfully “Perfect life” that if she was asked to re-live in a parallel world, she would live it differently. She wouldn’t care about the cracked paint, the awry chandelier or the scattered dominos on the table, and as the passage of time approaches, she only hoped other versions of “herself” didn’t lead a “Perfect life”
And even now she beats her head against the bars in the same old way and wonders if there is a bigger place the railroads run to from Chicago where maybe there is
And big things
And real dreams
That never go smash.