I missed last week’s Wicked Wednesday prompt—foreigner—due to having no power after Hurricane Irma. Even if I had written something before the electricity was lost at 11pm Sunday night, I wouldn’t have been able to link to the prompt in time. What I found fascinating about the etymology of ‘foreign’ is that it comes from Latin meaning ‘outside’.
ORIGIN Middle English foren, forein, from Old French forein, forain, based on Latin foras, foris ‘outside,’ from fores ‘door.’ The current spelling arose in the 16th cent., by association with sovereign.
I don’t think when people talk about immigration as being an open-door policy, or closing the door on illegals, they are aware of the literary link to the past.
The current week’s prompt, eavesdropping, has an even more interesting origin. Eavesdrop is an literal word created to represent one specific action.
ORIGIN early 17th cent.: back-formation from eavesdropper (late Middle English)‘a person who listens from under the eaves,’ from the obsolete noun eavesdrop ‘the ground onto which water drips from the eaves,’ probably from Old Norse upsardropi, from ups ‘eaves’ + dropi ‘a drop.’
When you link the two prompts together you get this: Outside the door, the ground onto which water drips from the eaves was churned to muddy paste where the foreigner was eavesdropping.
As an aside, in The Fellowship Of The Rings, J.R.R. Tolkien uses this bit of dialogue quite adroitly.
‘Well, well, bless my beard!’ said Gandalf. ‘Sam Gamgee is it? Now what may you be doing?’
‘Lor bless you, Mr. Gandalf, sir!’ said Sam. ‘Nothing! Leastways I was just trimming the grass-border under the window, if you follow me.’ He picked up his shears and exhibited them as evidence.
‘I don’t,’ said Gandalf grimly. ‘It is some time since I last heard the sound of your shears. How long have you been eavesdropping?’
‘Eavesdropping, sir?’ I don’t follow you, begging your pardon. There ain’t no eaves at Bag End, and that’s a fact.’
He calls me—I am positive he thinks it’s a clever endearment—’a drowned rat’ whenever I return from my run; rain soaked. He’s never understood my passion for exercise (an obsession, is his term when he’s being nice). He’s never tried—never even asked—why it is I seek to flee and only reluctantly return. As I toweled off in the mudroom, for once, my shivers were not from being wet. It was not the runner’s high that caused the silly grin; no, it was my foolish whim to follow the strange rhythmic smacking I heard over the sound of the pelting rain and pounding footsteps of my shoes. I eavesdropped: first with caution, then shame and at the last, unabashed curiosity that led me back here, outside the door, hand raised to knock, hoping they will understand my need that seems so foreign to me.
A week prior:
“Are we clear on why you’re being spanked?”
The smacking noise that had drawn me like a butterfly to pollen had ceased. I eavesdropped instead on the scolding lecture and the teary replies. His voice; stern and uncompromising, yet I heard no anger in his leading questions. Exasperation—that I sensed—but with an underlying respect and determination to teach his woman a lesson. Her voice; wheedling and needy, yet also resigned to taking her punishment like a big girl.
This big girl huddled against the building, collar upturned and hood drawn against the steady gush of water through downspouts. To those passing on the sidewalk—not that anybody else was crazy enough to run in a monsoon—would have assumed the figure in the bright yellow slicker was simply seeking rough shelter from the storm. The window above my head was open, the overhang sufficient protection from the elements; although, at the time I did not think it was odd that the drawn blinds allowed sound to radiate.
The smacking sounds resumed. I sagged against the damp brick and squatted in the puddles amidst the bundled yellow-red leaves of autumn. I folded my arms tight against the sudden twinge deep in my stomach. I felt sick, not with anguish at hearing a fellow female being spanked, but sick with envy. Her yelps and cries, her sobs and pleas; all settled in a soulful place that had never known this craving was possible. Spanking wasn’t possible; not in my current relationship, never, never, ever would I allow ‘him’ to spank me.
When the hard slaps finally ended, and the noises now competing with the splashing raindrops turned to a rhythm of a more primal nature; I crept silently away from temptation: for now. I knew then I would be back.
Laughter spills from their windows. Music, modern hits, flows out into the twilight bringing visions of a party in motion. I hesitate at the threshold. ‘He’ was gone, sent packing with no regrets, the apartment both emptier and freer without his snarky presence. I wanted answers to questions I couldn’t articulate. I had no expectations. I was naive; but willing, oh so willing to find out for myself how it felt.
So, I knock.
The laughter eases. Muffled conversation ends on a rising note of query. The door opens; warm light rushes out like puppies seeking freedom to gambol amongst the vibrant chrysanthemums; tearing off the multi-petaled heads and spreading fragmented jewels across the green carpet.
“Yes? Can I help you?”
I shiver once more.
A distant cry. “Honey? Who is it?”
A louder roar. “I don’t know! It’s a woman!”
Rapid tapping of heels arrive in a whoosh of Estée Lauder. “Hi. Whatever it is you’re selling, we’re not interested, dear. Honey, we need to leave soon.”
She spins to leave. I call out with a desperate croak. “I heard you!” She pauses looking back over her shoulder. I clear my throat. My eyes never stray from her knowing expression. “Last week, during the storm, I was jogging, and I heard you. I heard you both.” My gaze slides to his. “You, sir, were… were…”
“Spanking my wife?”
I swallow hard at the flaring heat in his response. I don’t notice her return until her arm slips possessively around his waist.
“You were eavesdropping, dear? How very naughty of you.”
“But your window was open!” I protest in a vain attempt to explain my guilt.
“That excuse doesn’t work for me, dear, and I suspect you don’t expect a free pass either.” I catch her smirk as she peers up at her husband. “It seems we may be a wee bit tardy to the concert, honey. I do believe this woman owes us an apology.”
“Well?” he states with a demanding tilt of his head. “We’re waiting.”
“I’m sorry I listened to your private… erm, session. I’ll never do it again.”
She quickly steps forward and seizes my hands. “That’s not how apologies are given around here… as I’m sure you can guess. If you are truly sincere and wish repentance, then you know what is required, else you’d not be here tonight on our doorstep asking for punishment.”
She tugs lightly. I submit, as I knew I would, and allow myself to be drawn past the door, and deep inside their world of discipline and painful pleasure.
I’ve never regretted a single moment of eavesdropping.