The opening sunset.
The modern cut glass door closes unexpectedly, hinges pushing forever forward towards the chiaroscuro street and the humidity of the sprinkling on the light green grass, on the blackened asphalt, on the unscathed puddles. And the barely occupied spaces of the sidewalk hide laughter, hide indecipherable plans for Thomas, a man of fine features and slender body, perhaps too slender and perhaps too relaxed given the situation. Truth is, for some time now, Thomas has been feeling that his life stops every time he stays in one place for a long time. He feels his feet burying in the ground, deep roots taking him from below. This sensation provokes a slight impulse forward, towards the new, the different, towards the pizzeria, where the pizza he hopes to enjoy on tonight’s date awaits…
The date… with his former girlfriend.
Cut to black:
– Wait wait wait… you said he was running away to the new, the different, but it turns out he’s getting together with his former girlfriend.
– Steps my friend, these are steps he has to take, even though his life is moving into the future, paradoxically that future is shaped like his past. Perhaps because it is the barrier he has to cross before he gets to what is really different.
– Don’t cloud me with your metaphysical logic. Okay then, I’ll play along, but I’ll be watching.
The living room of Thomas’ apartment.
Thomas wakes up next to the sunrise in the window, for the third day in a row he has fallen asleep on the living room couch. He gets up as quickly as he can and goes to the bathroom, brushes his teeth, eyes closing, but he slaps himself a few times to wake up completely.
Then, he rushes out the apartment door and into the hallway, where a group of people wait for the elevator to arrive.
Among these people is Gloria.
Thomas stops dead in his tracks on the ceramic tiles in the hallway, thanks to the specially designed rubber in his sneakers, guaranteed to produce controlled braking on any surface (patent pendant).
Escape options are limited, the most certain possibility of escaping unnoticed is to make a fleeting dash for the emergency door and descend to the first floor using the fire escape stairs. But the window of opportunity narrows with each passing second and a decision has to be made.
– To the ladder!
Thomas shouts without having thought about the possibility, very close indeed, that Gloria might hear him. Luckily he makes it across the threshold of the emergency door before she notices.
Ten or eleven jumps later, he makes it to the first floor of the apartment building, he happens to live on the third floor.
– I don’t think what I do is heroic.
– Whatever you say, sir. Have a nice day.
The concierge greets Thomas and bids him farewell at the exit door, but not before reminding him of something important.
– Sir, the common expenses.
– Yes indeed, the expenses. Very important.
– Sir… sir?
– Very important, thank you for reminding me.
Thomas waves goodbye, walks out the glass door to the street and finds himself facing the sidewalk and the walls tinged with light blue, other colors still waiting for the sun to come.
Perfect time to jog to the end of the street and back to the apartments’ entrance. Thomas has been running every morning for a year and four months now, every step he takes is a mantra that propels him forward, toward the future he longs for.
Insert: a photo of a happy family by the Christmas tree.
This image is the main reason Thomas feels that his life is a failure, he doesn’t have a family, but he wants a family, and he wants it more than anything else in the world. So… Why did he avoid Gloria in the hallway?
Thomas’s love nest.
Thomas on top of Gloria, to Gloria’s side, underneath Gloria, they are both naked and sucking each other’s bodies in search of pleasure. Then they rest lying on the bed. Gloria feels like talking.
– We should live together.
The chiaroscuro street.
Thomas, running alone down the light blue-tinted street after having escaped from Gloria in the apartment hallway, receives a phone call but does not answer, he is even annoyed because the incoming call interrupts the music he’s been listening to, which is a fundamental piece of this whole “I want and I act to get it” narrative driving him.
As he reaches the end of the street, Thomas turns on his right knee, the one that still hurts so much after landing with his whole body on a large round stone on the beach.
Insert: Thomas lands on the round stone on the beach.
Thomas takes the devastating image out of his mind and continues to move forward. This time around, the street goes upwards. The phone rings again, and Thomas prefers to answer.
– Hello? (kinda annoyed tone)
– Thomas? Hello, how are you?
– Excuse me, who is this?
– Paula? You don’t remember my voice anymore.
(Of course he does)
– Paula… Paula! Hi! How are you, long time no hear.
( He has been preparing for this occasion).
– I’m fine, you?
– I’m great, I just love living, you know.
(Strange answer, also, he doesn’t like living so much).
– How nice to hear you are so happy.
– Yeah, I’m so happy.
– Listen, I’m calling you because I’m in town for a few days.
– Are you? Great, if you want we can get together, and do something.
– What a nice idea, we do have a lot to talk about.
– We do! I’m free in the evening, 8… 8:30 is a good time.
– 8 is fine. Will you send me your address?
– Yes, don’t worry. I’ll send it now.
– Great, see you soon.
Thomas hangs up the phone and resumes jogging with a smile that defies gravity and fatigue.
He walks quickly, forgetting the steep path at first, remembering it back near the entrance of the apartment, where he meets Gloria, and he’s out of breath.
At this point, she has barely reached the first floor after waiting for her turn at the elevator for several minutes.
Cut to: (minutes earlier)
The hallway and the long wait.
Gloria waits in front of the elevator and next to a group of people. The light on the ceiling flickers constantly, generating almost imperceptible spaces of darkness that feed the general “why the fuck do I have to get out of bed” kinda feeling in the air.
An exasperating buzzing sound from the busted light makes the wait increasingly unpleasant.
The elevator opens and is already practically full, people inside making the supreme effort to squeeze into the limited space to allow Mrs. Nicole and her two children access to the elevator.
– They are very late for school. Thank you very much.
Mrs. Nicole utters a couple of incoherent sentences before the door closes, Gloria wonders if the lady was talking to herself or to the rest.
She also wonders about the competitive advantages of having children, the operation reports positive results in favor of singleness.
A quick glance at the rest of the people and the epiphany strikes her though… she will be the last to enter the elevator.
List of the other people in order of entry to the elevator:
– An elderly woman with no apparent direction.
– A rival woman very similar in appearance to Gloria, but with bigger cleavage.
– A guy in a suit with the face of a rapist (she’s not gonna enter with him).
Outside the apartment and the unexpected encounter.
The gloom in Gloria’s mind has not abated after the long wait in front of the elevator door.
The accidental, though completely avoidable, encounter with Thomas leads her to experience contradictory emotions. On the one hand, she recognizes a bond with the individual, a special affection that she would like to protect. On the other hand, Gloria preferred to wait in the elevator and not go down the stairs exactly because she saw Thomas avoiding her in the hallway.
Yes, she did…
– Hello, Thomas.
– Gloria, good morning. How are you doing this momorning?
– Sorry, morning. This morning.
– I’m fine, I’m actually running a little late, talk later?
– Yes, later.
– I think I’ll be back by 8 pm.
– Oh, you mean like today. Later today.
– Sure… Later today, can you?
– Yeah obviously… I mean no, I can’t today.
– Oh, are you gonna be busy?
– Yeah, busy. I have to go out… and come back. Out and back.
– Ah, a short thing.
– Not that short, I think. I’m not sure how long it’s going to take me, but I’ll be back, don’t worry.
– Okay, that was weird. I guess I’ll talk to you another day.
– Yeah, of course.
– Well, see you then.
Gloria says goodbye to Thomas without kissing him and heads to the curb, where her Uber ride awaits to take her to work.
Before getting into the vehicle, Gloria wonders if Thomas noticed her saying goodbye without kissing him.
Also, the end of the flashback.
The initial sunset part II.
Thomas arrives at the pizzeria in search of the pizzas he has ordered to celebrate with Paula, the woman who abandoned him a year and four months ago, the woman who left a hole of hopelessness in the center of Thomas’ compulsive dream of starting a family.
The toppings on both pizzas are Paula’s favorites, Thomas remembers them completely, as he still remembers countless details about her.
– I’m here to pick up some pizzas.
– In whose name.
– In the name of love, my friend.
The cashier stares at Thomas, his gaze intrigued.
– You… you’re a romantic.
– I think so, my friend.
– That’ll be 13.95.
– How do you know what order I’m getting?
– Pizza with ham, extra cheese, and pineapple? Only a person looking to impress someone else chooses pineapple, dude.
– Only an extreme rhetorician chooses dualistic arguments. Dude.
– Touché. Here are your pizzas sir, enjoy your evening.
– Thank you very much.
Thomas receives the pizzas with honest kindness and walks towards the pizzeria exit, the journey is interrupted by a phone call, it’s Paula.
He leaves the pizza boxes on one of the restaurant tables and answers.
– Paula, hi.
– Hi Thomas, hey, I’m outside your apartment, I’ve just arrived.
Thomas’s gaze crosses witheringly through the interior space of the pizzeria and stops nimbly at the clock on the counter, it’s 7: 50 pm.
– You’re early.
– Yes, is that a problem?
– “She’s early, she wants to see me, she misses me, she needs me! Do I have any condoms? I think I have some left in the medicine box, at least one strip.”
– No. No problem. Wait for me there, I’m at the pizzeria.
– I’ll wait for you then.
Thomas cuts the call, takes the pizzas, and walks again towards the exit, but stops (again) when he sees Gloria arriving at the entrance of the apartment with another person, a man.
From the type of clothes this man is wearing, a leaden jacket with a typical white shirt, and those shoes polished to a boiling point, Thomas deduces that this man is a fucking bastard.
– What are those, solar panels?
– Excuse me, sir?
The cashier enters the conversation.
– Nothing, I was talking to myself.
– Of course sir, why would you be talking to me.
The cashier leaves the conversation.
Thomas looks through the small windows at the top of the door, those little windows that allow him to see the street outside.
He stares at the apartment’s entrance. First, he sees Paula standing near the edge of the sidewalk. Then he sees Gloria next to the unknown guy, saying goodbye to the Uber driver who has brought them back to the love nest Thomas thought he was the only guest there and now it seems he has to share it with someone else.
Gloria and the stranger enter the building, clearing the way for Thomas to decide to come out of hiding, but unable to stop the pizza boxes from crashing against the door with the little windows that close thanks to those hinges that are used to close to push people forward.
With a determined movement with his arm, Thomas manages to control the boxes without losing the momentum that leads him to cross the street next to the passage of one of those cars that always pass by unexpectedly and whose movement produces a light breeze that moves the hair of both of them, Thomas and Paula, as they meet again.
A flickering flash unleashes forgotten emotions when the eyes of both meet, like an eclipse that unleashes parallel universes, mystical universes of an unreal nature where affection is the law and where the concrete reality is completely shattered.
– Hi, wow, you look good. Paula doesn’t hesitate to flirt with him.
– You too, hey, have you been working out? Thomas responds as freely as the situation allows.
– You noticed, yes, I have a routine that has worked wonders for me.
– I’m not going to deny the results. A mischievous smile from Thomas, more and more determined.
– So, what about you? Do you do weights?
Paula gently strokes the upper side of Thomas’s left arm.
– No, no. Not that kind of exercise.
– What do you do, basketball? Tennis?
– No, no. I do… Hey, I’m glad you came.
– Yeah, I was in a meeting with some clients but I finished earlier than I thought, so I came, I figured you’d be here by now.
(Clients? the word resonates in Thomas’s mind like a thorn against his skull)
– You’re guessing right. But come on in, come on in.
Thomas invites Paula inside the apartment, in passing he uses his super fast gaze to take a mental picture of Paula’s body, those exercises have really done wonders for her figure.
The beauty in front of his eyes leads him to look up to the sky in an unconscious movement, towards the row of balconies that extends to the roof of the building, he stops next to the third-floor balcony and finds Gloria looking down at him with an expression of disbelief.
Again that flash is triggered that invokes those emotional worlds that take over the spaces of all things and tinge them with colors and shapes that make sense only when you understand that Gloria and Thomas have actually just seen each other naked (metaphorically) for the first time since they met.
A shy response, a wagging salute on the fingers of his right hand is all that Thomas manages to conjure up in a supreme attempt to escape the blow of the judge’s gavel. Gloria finds herself in a similar situation, she prefers to let out a nervous smile and retreat into the interior of her apartment.
Tension mounts in the third-floor hallway.
The elevator doors open, and Thomas looks out before stepping into the hallway with that flickering light and that buzzing sound almost imperceptible to outsiders, but absolutely present and devastating to the locals.
He does so to make sure the place is clear. Paula is surprised by the “different” behavior of her companion but dismisses the matter.
They both walk down the hallway and every step they take echoes on the ceramic floor. Thomas remembers the properties of the rubber of his sneakers once again and Gloria bursts out laughing just as Paula crosses the threshold of her apartment door, which is on the way to Thomas’s.
Gloria’s presence prickled in the hallway and urging Thomas to move forward faster, this time without hinges to push him through. Seconds later, Paula and Thomas stop by the last door in the hallway. Inside, the lair of the man struggling to remain calm in the face of unfolding events.
– We have arrived.
The door opens, Paula goes inside, and a pale sigh echoes through the walls of the corridor. Thomas enters and closes the door slowly. The hallway is silent.
The moment of truth in Thomas’s apartment.
Thomas enters the apartment and leaves the keys on the table, on top of the pizza boxes. Paula sits on the couch in front of the TV screen, where she finds a new planter on the edge of the table, topped with a beautiful bunch of lavender flowers.
– Yummy, I love lavender.
– Yes, they smell so nice.
– What’s that?
– I didn’t realize you were a flower man.
– Oh, I guess there’s a lot you don’t know about me yet.
(What she really doesn’t know is that it’s Gloria who has placed the planter topped with lavender on the edge of the table, after diagnosing Thomas’s apartment as the lair of a deeply depressed person).
Thomas takes a couple of beers out of the fridge, hands one to Paula, and sits down across from her.
– So Paula, tell me, how have you been? What have you been up to?
Thomas swallows a long sip of beer before receiving the answer, perhaps it’s the architecture of her silhouette, the golden earrings, the golden curls, the seasonal clothes, or the combination of all of these items that leads to the foreboding conclusion.
– Well what have I done, so many things. As you know, I took that scholarship last year and I was studying abroad.
– I think I remember that.
Thomas takes another long sip of beer.
– It went well, I ended up finding a job in an international firm. Oh, you can’t imagine how many places I’ve seen. And the people, the best experience.
Thomas’ first beer is finished almost instantly.
– No kidding, that’s good, that’s great news. Quite a success.
– Yeah, taking that scholarship was the best thing I could have done in my life.
– Wow… that doesn’t hurt at all.
– Doesn’t it?
– Right, are you hungry?
Thomas opens the first pizza box, and the irresistible scent of melted cheese over tomato sauce overtakes the apartment…
– No thanks. I don’t eat dairy products.
… And it’s exorcised out of the place almost instantly.
– But relax, you can eat it if you want.
Thomas doesn’t take a bite of the pizza, preferring to close the box in silent defeat. Paula notices the movement but prefers to continue the conversation.
– And you, how have you been? Tell me, what’s been going on in your life during this time.
– Well, I’m… I’m in my projects, you know, doing my own thing, moving forward.
– Oh, what are you doing?
– It’s complicated stuff, work stuff. I don’t want to bore you with the details.
– No, don’t worry about it.
– But tell me, Paula, why did you call me?
Paula smiles when she hears Thomas’ question and takes a sip of beer before continuing.
– I don’t know, I wanted to see you. I was with my parents, friends, and acquaintances, but I thought, what is Thomas doing? So I came.
– Well, I’m glad you thought that.
– Yes, you can’t imagine the trouble my boyfriend gave me, he got jealous, can you believe it?
– Your boyfriend?
– Yeah, you’re gonna love him. I told him wonderful things about you, obviously.
– That’s great. I’m so glad.
Thomas does his best to endure the pain, the stab wound in the center of his heart makes it hard to breathe, as imaginary blood spills all over the walls of the apartment.
A keen eye tracks the position of the phone next to the pizza boxes, maybe there is still time to call an ambulance.
– I’ll be right back.
Thomas dismisses the initial panic and moves swiftly down the hallway and into the kitchen without wasting time to turn on the light, straight to the refrigerator, where he grabs another beer to drink almost half of it in one sip.
Stopped in the middle of darkness, partially illuminated by the line of light escaping from inside the fridge, Thomas makes a great effort to keep up appearances.
A hyper-massive black hole activates at the center of his thinking, threatening to absorb all the light in the universe. The spell fades when Paula receives a phone call.
Hi honey, yes I’m here. Everything is fine.
With Paula out of the “environmental consciousness”, Thomas takes the opportunity to cross the room, goes to the balcony, and indicates to Paula that he “will be outside” with a hand gesture. She gives a thumbs up, accepts the proposition, and continues the phone conversation.
Revelation by starlight.
The icy air and the echoes of the streets in the incipient night greet Thomas on the balcony, a new sip of beer and a controlled sigh do not deliver the calm that the movement was intended to grant.
Nor does the night seem to have endowed the stars with the loving light of hope that guided so many chosen ones and prophets in other eras.
The click of the lighter in Gloria’s hand leads Thomas to turn towards his neighbor’s balcony, where she is enjoying a puff of a cigarette.
– Thomas – She says.
– Gloria, I didn’t know you were…
– Me neither, I thought you were going out?
– Yeah, right, well, not really.
– She’s cute, is she your ex?
– Yes, how did you know.
– I didn’t.
The horn of a car honks across the nearby horizon, and a shorter one follows suit. Gloria takes another puff from her cigarette. Thomas follows.
– I saw you arriving with a friend, a male friend?
– We’re just friends, I don’t like him or anything.
– He looks nice, co-worker?
Gloria nods and puts the cigarette out in the ashtray, leaves it on the edge of the balcony, next to the lighter and gets up from the chair, prepares to enter the apartment.
– Do you want to watch a movie later?
– Yeah, sounds good. I’ve got pizza, do you want some?
– Okay, I’ll wait for you.
The window opens and Gloria disappears into the long white curtains. Thomas smiles and sighs long. He stays on the balcony for a while longer, still a bit after Paula finishes talking on the phone.