Out Out by Kel Eckley
Every month, NWS members are invited to respond to a writing prompt in 500 words or less. We love to celebrate the immense talent and creativity in our community by featuring the work of one writer on our blog. This month, we have decided to feature two pieces of work because we just couldn’t choose between them!
July’s prompt was She was wearing a wedding ring. But then again, so was I.
Kel Eckley submitted a piece of work called Out Out. What struck us most about this piece is the powerful sense of a bigger story outside of the tiny space of the lift inside which this piece takes place; we loved the sense of setting and the use of the lift as a liminal space. There was a strong sense of sadness, but also hope and humour that pervaded this piece, which is quite an achievement in so few words!
Kel said: “I’d been listening to a lot of music by Ren before I started writing this, and there was one particular line, in a recent release, that stuck with me – ‘it never really felt like the right time’. So I was already contemplating the concept of agency over our bodies when I first read the writing prompt. The writing prompt made me consider how we find affinity with others through common elements, and how wedding rings symbolise both beginnings and endings. I’m also mid divorce paperwork at the moment and cannot recall where my wedding ring is so I think I was struck by the fact I couldn’t be either of the people alluded to by the prompt. Also… I really like liminal spaces. I woke up at 4am in a weird half light not wanting to wake my partner but not wanting to go back to sleep, so I wrote a first draft for this instead.”
As with most elevator rides, nobody was making eye contact. There was no chatter, just the hum of the Schindler as we moved between floors, descending to LG1. It was early evening and everyone who had boarded the elevator was dressed to go out. Out out.
Having been one of the first to board, near the top of the building on upper C7, my legs were already beginning to ache from standing. I was no longer of an age where I could tolerate long stationary periods. Despite the discomfort, I didn’t mind the longer descent to LG1 – it gave me time to reflect; to find a reason to egress before our destination. The doors swished open and closed, I saw faces of those who were as focussed on leaving, as I had been on boarding. There was nothing here for me.
I watched as each passenger got on. They were dressed in a way that suggested they hoped to meet someone tonight. Maybe for the first time. Perhaps, once again after a long time. I, myself, had only recently considered going out out again. I’d considered it shortly after I’d found myself alone for the first time in 23 years. But I’d resolved to stay by myself for a bit; that being alone was okay. Some said to me that ‘it’ll happen when it happens’ and that I ‘shouldn’t rush into anything’ but recently I’d been thinking that I didn’t want to leave things to chance.
In the elevator, there were looks of hope and quiet contemplation, determination and fear. If any had made eye contact, I would have reassured them; we’re here for a good time, not a long time.
The elevator stopped on one of the lower floors and a younger woman got on. I found myself staring at her. Out of place was an understatement. Her choice of clothing indicated that they would just have to take her as she was; she had no care for tradition or conventions of going out. I thought perhaps for a moment that she was mistaken, that she had got on the wrong elevator. She was wearing a wedding ring. But then again, so was I. Still. I recalled the hollowness I felt when my partner passed. It remained with me; never changing in all those years. I wanted to say something to her. But how could you? What would you even say? I could only presume.
The elevator doors opened at our final destination: LG1. The young woman stepped through them into the windowless room beyond, without hesitation. The necessary consent forms were signed and we were respectfully directed to the much colder room beyond. Shoes clacked against the metal grating beneath our feet. I stood next to the younger woman and reached for her hand. We stood together in the quiet. She didn’t look at me but squeezed my hand in return. We had chosen to go out today. On our own terms and not alone.