“We tell ourselves stories in order to live” -- from The White Album, Joan Didion

Clutching the weekly groceries clumsily, in both her hands, hoping they didn’t fall, Matilda, a 46 year old spinster, hurried home hopping crookedly on her artificial right foot. Yes, it pained a lot on getting strained, whenever she tried to walk fast, and the wooden leg-case was getting old and worn out too - screaming immediate repair. She’d have to do something about it soon, she thought to herself. But for now she needed to reach home fast. A story idea was brewing inside her mind and she was getting restless. She needed to write it down. She always got this excited, whenever ideas flashed in her mind. Beginning of a new story – they indicated. Her sole reason to live! Her audience would be delighted too.

“Good Evening Miss Matilda, how are things going on dear?”

Matilda nodded her head in acknowledgement, at the familiar voice of her neighbour. She barely spoke to anyone, except for an odd greeting or so, that too only when spoken to. She always kept her head down whenever she walked by the neighbourhood – often only to collect groceries, so that she never had to greet anyone first. Rest of the times she preferred staying indoors, locked up in her room – her own little world! A safe haven, that wasn’t as nasty as the outside world. A world where she had her own special friends too, with whom she would chat non-stop, often for hours on end. She couldn’t wait to be back with them. They were waiting for her patiently too, especially Greg – her eyes twinkled remembering his name. Greg was most special of them all. And he’d definitely love this new story idea of hers too. He always did - a devoted audience of her stories.

A cough distracted her from her thoughts. It was her neighbour, still waiting for her answer.

”Good good, same as every day,” Matilda replied hurriedly, as she fished for the door keys in her over-sized old gray sweater. It had some big holes in it too, that gaped at whoever spotted them, telling their own woeful stories of unwashed, un-ironed years of neglect. She’d have to buy one sweater too someday, Matilda mentally noted again. So much work pending and so less time! She better hurry. Getting the keys at last, she inserted them into the key-hole.

“Ah,yes! Of course, anyways have a great day of whatever is left!” Her neighbours too never prolonged any conversation. Knowing her somewhat reclusive nature, they mostly left her alone. Never invited her to any of their gatherings either – she’d never come anyway.

Once inside, Matilda finally breathed a sigh of relief. Cooped up in her ‘own’ abode, she relaxed at last. The outside world made her claustrophobic. She preferred the damp feel of her room to the fresh air outside. She felt most comfortable in the familiar stink of her surroundings; of unwashed dishes, rotten vegetables or garbage lying unattended for days.

“Honey, I’m home,” she said gleefully, “You want to know what happened right? Will tell you right away darling; let me change first. Gee…I hate it when I go outside, always makes me feel so filthy.”

She went to the bathroom, but before closing the door, she remembered something and popped her head out of the door, “And you know what sweetheart, I got this wonderful story idea. Just can’t wait to tell you about it.” With a smile, she closed the door and let the cold shower running. She hated hot shower – cold shower ensured that she didn’t wash properly and came out of the water soon.

“So were you being a good boy when I was outside?” Matilda came out of the shower and hunted her old nightie until she got it, and pulled it over her head. Her room was tiny, dirty; with things scattered everywhere. She’d have to clean up someday, she thought to herself. “So like I was saying, I got this awesome idea.”
She sat down by her old type-writer, at the edge of her bed. “I’m sure this time they’ll approve my story and publish it. It’s unlike any I’ve written so far. You wanna hear it right? Of course you do. Let me type it first, and read it out for you.”

She put a piece of paper inside the type-writer. She had typed something in it earlier as well, but it could be re-used again. Of course, it could be. She had re-used the same paper over and over again already, having told hundreds of stories through it.

A picture of Greg stood in an old photo-frame in front of the type-writer, by the wall. He was the one who patiently listened to all her stories. Only he knew that the type-writer didn’t have any ink-cartridge in it. He was dead, so her secret was safe.

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