The Way I Used to Be by Vivian Doolittle

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I sit here alone. It’s dark, save for the glow of the telly. The news is on. I’ve been watching the news for a long time now. There is always something interesting going on in the world. Sometimes it’s good, usually it’s bad. The petty intrigues and cruelties of the world pass me by.

The faded, threadbare couch is comfortable in my little bedsit. I stare at the news until I can no longer see. The telly keeps on broadcasting, regardless.

I watch a cockroach skitter up the wall and over the sill to exit the still open window. It runs along the ledge, presumably to enter the adjacent flat, though I could not possibly see it do so from this vantage. I can’t blame the thing for seeking greener pastures. There hasn’t been anything to eat in here for years.

Occasionally, the phone will ring, but I don’t answer. Once in a great while, there’s been a knock at the door. I ignore those, too. Even he doesn’t try to come after me, which is good.

I think at one time there must have been a fetid stench. In this neighborhood no one would notice or remark on such a commonplace occurrence, no matter how foul. To some who live in this building, my few belongings might seem grand; my past almost royal. But my flat is dank and dingy. The grey carpet smells of mildew. I used to wonder if grey was its intended colour when it was new. There is a hotplate near the sink in one corner. The comfy if crumbling couch serves as my bed, my resting place.

Once I had friends, family, a good job. There were parties and outings and laughter. My uncle had a boat and used to take me sailing. Oh how I loved being on the water with the wind in my hair! I was pretty then. Young and pretty and full of life.

Then I ended up here and it felt so lonely at first. But when the days stretched into weeks, and the weeks into months, and the months into years, I resigned. It was clear that no one missed me. No one outside of my flat found my absence remarkable. How could that be? Yet it was.

The knock at the door today is less a knock than a pounding. The angry voices outside are demanding and insistent, but I do not heed them.

Soon there is a much louder pounding and the crackle of splintering wood. They’ve broken the door down. It’s about bloody time, I think. But there is no humor in the thought.

Nor can I find humor in their horror, as the two men who burst in find me sitting on the couch, watching the news with empty sockets. My once lush black hair is brittle and stringy now. Still, it might hint at who I used to be, in a way that my fleshless bones cannot.



Vivian has been writing as long as she’s been reading. She has previously published short stories in, Our Country, Our People and The Scarlett Leaf Review, along with several non-fiction pieces in Horse Illustrated, Horseplay, and Washington Horse Breeder’s Digest. Her first novel, Rock’s Wages, will be released early in 2021. A lifelong equestrian, Vivian divides her time between writing, riding her horse, teaching dressage professionally, and enjoying her day job as the Sales and Business Operations manager at a small software company you’ve never heard of. Her identical twin sons are adults now, but always the greatest joy of her life.

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