A Few Short Words

Dense Not Thick




We festoon ourselves with curios cut from catalogues and call it chic — shorthand for happiness. Urbane couches in faux country fabrics. Modern apparatus for minimalist meals. Serving sets for absentee guests. Overblown glassware and unhandled mugs. Gewgaws that seesaw on surrealist values — some even with sentiment — where sat amongst these trappings we fete our taste. Haven’t we made something for ourselves, we say, believing an idiosyncratic arrangement of items is unique amongst others. We bury ourselves as pharaohs surrounded by worldly goods and social ills in a kingdom of kitsch and clutter, ourselves becoming as dust on the shelf.


I keep thinking that I matter and get devastated when I don’t. I look at the stars and they say nothing to me, barely twinkle, and I realise I’m just as dead to them as their light to me. Years before I was nothing but genetic potential, years hence I’ll be naught but dust, lucky to be growing flowers from a grave. What is the use of feeling futility, why experience it or anything at all if we are simply the universe’s iterative expression of self. I keep thinking that I matter and it’s this that brings me pain.


Stardust and light poured into the shape of a woman, Arris says, ‘Sure, the dust of creation settled and compressed.’ Like diamonds, I suggest. ‘Yep. Trillions of particles forced into form and held together by luck and habit.’ I ask her what the space between is made of. ‘It is the elemental nothing opposing the desire to be something.’ Moving us like magnets. ‘Invisible repulsion.’ Attraction. ‘Compulsion,’ she says and winks. Beyond the eye of measure one star blooms and another wilts. But how did we come to be from dust? She tells me, ‘That’s a matter of time.’


‘Like eighty percent of what I say just comes out as ash and lands at my feet so you can kick it around and complain about choking on the dust.’ Sometimes while Jo yells I like to trace the path of my life. I picture little stones placed on a sea of fog and I tiptoe over them, making light little leaps where necessary and cooing at the ruined splendour lurking in the haze. Nothing we tell each other will build me a stable path. ‘Well fuck that,’ he says, ‘don’t light a fire and bitch about the heat.’


Dana puts her hand on my knee and looks at the tip of her cigarette, a yellow red corona in the dim night. There’s the sound of evening bustle aching wearily over the hills, tired commuters and the wheels of industry, endless trains with spliced punctualities that blend the rumble of their schedules. There’s no wind and the air feels one step removed, not coy nor cautious but aloof, distant in the way of oblivion, had it cause to notice I would be as dust. Dana squeezes, biting at my jeans with her nails, and looks into the light.

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