Every morning, he saw his flatmate’s shoes and socks in the hallway. She would arrive home from her late shift and take them off immediately. They rarely saw one another; he worked during the day, and often she felt like a ghost. But when he saw the shoes and socks, her physical presence became real once more.
When a pair of her socks went missing, her favourite socks, she asked him if he’d seen them. He’d taken them while she sleeping, just before he went to work. He thought he heard her waking; it felt almost like a bank heist. It meant he never had to leave his room to feel her presence. They were musty but he didn’t want to wash them.
He had some other mementos, from the one day they spent together. It was autumn, a couple of weeks after she’d just moved in and they went on a day trip to a forest.
‘You know, I never really go out of the city much. This is the first time I’ve been to this forest.’
‘Oh, really? I love nature. Hiking, the beach. If I didn’t have to live in a city for work, I’d move out into the countryside.’
He swore to himself that he’d explore more of nature from that day forward. And he did; but only the same forest every time.
He walked ahead of her for a bit before noticing she was behind him. In her hands she had some acorns. She began gently throwing them at him. He caught two of them in his hands and put them in his pockets. He ran towards her and grabbed her, she stared into his eyes, they kissed.
He kept the acorns on his bookshelf, next to the socks.
She never came into his room. And they never kissed again. Sometimes he could hear her in the other room with a guy. They drifted apart so quickly.
But he caressed the acorns in his hands some nights.
One day she knocked on his door. He hadn’t had time to respond when she burst through.
‘Hey, you need to move your clothes out of the washing machine. They’d been in there for ages and I need to…’ She stopped suddenly. ‘Are those my socks?’
‘Oh, I don’t think so…’
‘They are. The ones that went missing. Why are they in here? Did you take them?’
‘I hadn’t even noticed they were here. No clue.’
She walked over and picked them up, squinting her eyes at him slightly.
‘I’ll go get my clothes out the machine.’
As she walked out, he picked up an acorn and threw it at her, laughing.
‘Why the fuck did you do that?’ He didn’t respond and she shut the door behind her. He sat in silence. At least he still had one of the acorns.
by James Hunter