Somewhere, someone thinks only of another
Two people struggle with avarice.
P1 substitutes the [ə] with [a̠], the [ɹ] with [h], the [ɪ] with [ɨ̟], the [s] with [se].
Within these walls of learning, time is a vise, the tightening of which squeezing the participants’ spleens, organs on the verge of rupture.
P2 is impatient, correcting and demanding a reasonable predicate of P1 as this combination of /æ/, /v/, /ɘ/, /ɹ/, /ɪ/, /s/ refuses to be affixed and transformed to work the copula in the standard agreed upon manner for such a self-centering proposition.
P1 attempts the suggestion, expostulates a half-hearted [g], [h], [ɨ̟], [d], [ɨ̟] with a knowing roll of the eyes, a disgusted click of the tongue. Ultimately, they are two people entombed in their disagreement as for P1 there is no alternative patterning of sounds to transfer the absoluteness in the barrel-bottom of this particular thought from vessel to vessel.
And so the weight of expectation swings wildly in the minds of P1 and P2 from total ontological confirmation to complete withdrawal of mutuality.
The clock ticks on, the door shaking in its frame while the wind sweeps through cracks in the rotting wood of the windows’ edgings.
On another day, P1 is crossing the road and feels disturbed by a train passenger who just then, pinching a dropper of E-Juice in the left hand, with the right hand holds a vertical phone to watch a film, seemingly unperturbed by the screen ratio of 1/4 video to 3/4 ratings and comments. The world is full of beasts, thinks P1 later, sleepless and looking up into foreign darkness, repeating I am a good person, I am a good person.
Meanwhile, P2, drink in hand, sits at the corner of a four-seater, concurrently wrecked and never-more-lucid, interrupting a friend of a friend to say: You don’t know my fucking pain.
The divorce meant I didn’t have to worry about losing anymore. It wouldn’t have been me who’d have gotten married and it wouldn’t have been me who’d have sought to dissolve it. The marriage took place as a right angle in my periphery: the corner edged into my sight while I was trying to concentrate on the circles in front of me. But I didn’t mind it, the angle, as it reassured me. Of what, I could never figure out. A kind of human credential, I suppose. When we said goodbye, the sadness in me was for the mental redactions to be made to the past nine years, and I wished I was someone else who felt different things.
There were no calls, no messages from then: simply two people apart who didn’t know what the other was having for dinner. Who were we to speculate? The absence of another set of jaws chewing didn’t need exposition. Our names were for what was spoken, said even just in the head, and the need for saying new spellings came faster and thicker than the need to preserve. ‘Ex’ anything seemed a little too much resolution for subjects who cried at photographs of themselves smiling.
Borrowing a line in adventure, I fled.
The peaks stuck up, threatening the skies as they were passed over; skies numerous in color and weight, the peaks kept up, kept jutting, whilst the drag of the dust around my feet never gave the ground a look in. Land outstretched as unfrontiered as views without horizons. The world, they say. Look at the space. Look at the enclosures you find yourself looking at the space from. I traveled until newness no longer worked on me. A woman I met in a desert told me not to think in terms of old and new. She said I was exhausted from the grate of the years, that I let each 365-day unit strip a layer off when it was supposed to be a give-and-take sort of thing. Otherwise, she said, there’ll be nothing left of you. You, you’re not exactly the wilting type, no, more like the last one standing out of fear of surrender, which has the same result, the same deadness, don’t you think? She stood next to her helper, a deaf man she’d hired indefinitely, as she made notes about the consistency of the sand. Her forehead dominated our circumstance; it led us through the vastness with a confidence unseen in most heads of state. I followed respectfully. I thought: the sun is going to burn me and the conclusions I hoped would be ready-made aren’t reachable. At any rate, not taking offense at the humor of false prophets was the beast to be reckoned with on the slow walk out of there.
In front of me, a child picked at page corners of a moldering prayer book. The church was four people shy of being entirely vacant, barren. I’d turned off a main street loitered on by its permanent structures to enter through the heavy, arched door. Being in the town was a shock. After the expanses, I found that communities harbored intentions I couldn’t guess the crux of. I needed somewhere uninhabited. By the living anyway.
A service started. I realized the emptiness had been miraculously filled. I couldn’t get up and walk out without sets of eyes disapproving my point of departure. The child was happy watching the greenish, brownish paper come off in his fingers and flicking it over to the other side of the pew. His father focused on the men singing songs for which I experienced some kind of preternatural recognition. Last time I was in church was for a christening of a baby whose cries could not be stopped by mother or father from climbing to the highest rafters and echoing through the lungs of guests trying not to hold their breaths. Being placed in something bigger than itself the baby had something to either reject or embrace as it made its way through all the uncertainty it faced. I’d only ever wanted a dichotomy. There was too much pluralism, I felt, in my upbringing: my parents flung freedoms around forcing me to sneak into binaries. I cosseted myself within the gists of opposing arguments I liked the sound of. It got me through the tumult of endless placidity that was the privilege I was born into. The low notes of the singing lodged in my sinuses. Dressed in a style of shawl I wasn’t aware existed, a woman paced the aisle at the side of the pews, in the shadow, cradling her handbag and speaking halves of words. Her head was down, practicing; the sounds coming out of her were spiked by a snort, a tic or a bronchial affliction, I considered, and the seriousness in her concentration upset me. Was it for the words themselves? Did she feel them flow in and out of her, change her? It was upsetting. I was right to be disturbed. How could she care for words? How could she feel their meaning? After the singing ended, she approached the pulpit. She was familiar: that fussing perennial in all neighbors of mine in each neighborhood.
The tic or affliction began the reading. Tone took on clarification as the words stated our duty of care towards one another, a sentiment I knew I would never be able to understand. For all my wanting of sides, I didn’t believe I could pick one. How would I know how to? I didn’t want any burden of duty.
The woman, a redness around her temples climbing up from where her gun-metal grey headband pressed the earpieces of her glasses into bone, kept her palms on the lectern. I knew her, didn’t I?
A year later I, the laziest agnostic, was in another church getting married to someone I used to take baths with as a six-year-old.
Cassandra Moss was born in Manchester and grew up just outside the city. She studied English with Film at King’s College, London and subsequently worked in the film industry for Sister Films, Working Title, and Vertigo. Since 2009, she’s been an EFL teacher. After moving to Ireland, she recently completed an MPhil in Linguistics at Trinity College, Dublin. Her short fiction has been published in Succour, 3am Magazine, Cricket Online Review, Squawk Back, And/Or, and The Passage Between.