Her voice was everywhere. Telling him provocatively that there were special deals in lingerie, reminding him that preferred shoppers were eligible for discounts on some items, singing out the names of the cross streets as he made his way home through traffic. Telling him he had reached his destination, or if he rode the bus, that this was his stop. Her stop. Their stop. Before she stopped.
Someone should've been able to fix this. He had never quite been able to let go of that idea. If she had had some illness they would've been able to make her well. If she had been a machine they would've been able to repair her. But so far no amount of progress, technology, or therapy had been able to find a way to change a human being's mind about affairs of the heart. They had talked to several people, or at least he had. But she had said that counselors could only help a relationship if a relationship existed. And it didn't. Not really. Not any more. That much he admitted to himself. He had reached the point of almost accepting that she was gone, gone on to a life without him, but couldn't as his friends said, "move on" when she was still following him everywhere like some creepy psycho stalker. That's what it felt like every time he heard her voice, prompting him to buy something, to make a right turn, to change his socks and his life, to upgrade his home system, to do something. She hadn't nagged when she was there. They had thought it funny then, that one time when her recorded had voice echoed her real voice. He had bought the socks. He was still wearing them.
It was aggravating the way those socks lasted. When nothing else had. Every time he put those socks into the wash or took them out of the dryer he silently willed them to be shredded or one lost so that he could throw them out. He stared at them so hard when he put them on that he wondered that his gaze hadn't burned holes in the toes. "You need new socks," she had said prettily. "A new you begins with your feet." Echo. Echo. Echo. It stuck in his head. A new life had certainly begun with her feet: she'd walked right out of his life and into another life.
"Fresh juicy oranges," she said succulently at the supermarket. The produce section was one of her specialties. He had taken to ducking out of produce so quickly that he feared he would come down with some dreadful archaic disease like scurvy, from the lack of vitamins. A smooth robust male voice prompted him to take vitamins. He took them. They didn't help. Vitamins are no help at all for heartbreak and haunting. Not that he wished her dead. No, he wished her silent. She was a noisy ghost in his life.
He started wearing ear plugs. When that proved less effective than he hoped, he opted for music. Loud. With any luck he'd become deaf, he figured. Conversation became impossible. His friends began to give up on him. He stopped talking to strangers. The genial man who chatted briefly and amiably with everyone was now a lone shopper, a lone pedestrian, alone.
Until that day when he found a woman slumped against a shelf of vitamins crying uncontrollably. He unplugged his earbuds and helped her gently out of the store as she, hiccuping and gasping through her tears, recounted to him his own story. They would, he told her, find a store where his ex cajoled people into buying vitamins. And maybe in return she could do a little produce shopping for him. He was getting awfully tired of loud music and pre-packaged food. So off they went, picking up everything they had missed, chatting so happily that they never again heard their exes voices.
YOU ARE READING
Her Voice, EverywhereScience Fiction
Here's a little something for Valentine's Day. It was inspired by an article I read some years ago, about the widow of the actor who gave the "Mind the Gap" announcement on the London Tube stations, or used to. It's a sweet story with a happy ending...