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A Few Short Words

Dense Not Thick

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tactile honesty

Samantha

She moves so softly I don’t know she’s there until she slips her hand into mine. ‘Come on,’ she says, and leads me towards the cab rank. I let myself go with her. I don’t want to be alone and I don’t want to be around people. There’s something empty about her that makes this feel like getting both. It’s wrong, but it’s easy.

In the back of the cab she takes my hand again. She’s telling me about her night and all her friend’s problems. I listen dutifully, detached. The way she talks about them I can tell she thinks we’re perfect.  It feels like her hand is getting tighter the longer she talks, like cranking a vice. There’s no air in the cab. I wind down the window and press my face into the breeze.

Of course we sleep together, but I can’t switch off. I don’t feel anything, my thoughts override my senses. Afterwards she slides across the gap between us and lays her head against my chest. ‘How long have we been doing this?’ She asks.

Fucking? I say.

She slaps my thigh playfully. ‘I mean all of this.’

I’ve been doing this my whole life, but I know that’s not what she means, so I grunt. She goes quiet. I can hear her breathing in and out in a sharp little staccato that punctures the silence around us.

I tell her I know, trying to stop her saying what she wants to.

She lifts her head up, startled, and raises an inquisitive eyebrow at me. ‘How do you know what I want to say, huh?’

I tell her that she’s most transparent person I know, that I can read it on her.

She throws her head back down on my chest with a little huff. ‘Well, I want to say it,’ she says. ‘I need-’

I tell her she doesn’t.

I push her away and slide to the edge of the bed. She looks so small, when I look back at her, lying crumpled in the sheets, wearing only a look of sad resilience. She catches my eye snorts defiantly. ‘I don’t care. I love you and I want to say it.’

I tell her she shouldn’t be in love with me, that it was never what I wanted. I don’t realize I’m shouting until I see the look on her face. She’s fragile, but somehow I’m the one who starts crying.

I shouldn’t, but I stay the night. I have strange dreams.

When the morning light pries my eyes open I try to sneak out, but she stirs as I’m halfway through the door.

‘I want to talk about this,’ she whispers.

I know you do, I say, closing the door.

Caroline

I run into Caroline outside Wicks office and she won’t shut up about some band she saw on the weekend. I’m told they’re named after a dinosaur and have almost a dozen members. The coolest part, she’s telling me, is how the lineup keeps changing but the band stays together, brought to life by the music.

Caroline talks the way a house fire burns.

I suppress a yawn as the oxygen around me dies. I can’t concentrate. A group of high school girls walk past. It’s hard to tell where one starts and another stops, they’re indistinguishable but for the colour of their clothes, like watching a slutty rainbow slink across the sky.

I’m thinking about killing myself.

There’s a jab in my ribs and Caroline asks me if I’m listening. I look at her and try absently to focus. I tell her, of course, that I was just trying to imagine how cool that must be, all those people.

‘Oh, you have no idea,’ she says.

I point at the pack of smokes she’s holding and raise my eyebrow. She draws two out and slips me one without missing a beat. ‘I mean they play this really cool mix of old school surf rock and instrumetal, but it has this really heavy indie twist to it. It’s like, if Brian Jonestown Massacre and the Beach Boys had a baby, and then Muse fed the baby to Sigur Ros. I mean, it’s just incredible you know. I can’t believe you weren’t there.’

I want to get out of this conversation, but she doesn’t leave me any spaces. I nod slowly and light our cigarettes.

‘The lead singer, Tony, we kind of know each other from around, you know. Well, he was completely making eyes at me the whole time. I’m pretty sure he has a girlfriend, but it can’t be that serious if he’s making eyes at me right? Anyway, I saw her out one time and she wasn’t even that cute. I’m way cuter right?’

In my head I’m imagining a bottle of red wine, something vintage, and a bottle of valium. The note I leave next to my bed reads: This isn’t a good enough reason to stay.

Caroline flicks her cigarette into the planter behind us. ‘I have to go,’ she says. ‘I have to meet Jessie over at Caxton and then we’re going to some cider bar he heard about. I’m sure he thinks it’s cool, but I don’t even drink cider and he knows that. If he wasn’t so good in bed I swear I wouldn’t bother. You know what I mean?’

I have no idea. The words seem to make sense, but I can’t decipher them. I nod and tell her I’m meeting Dylan in the valley. She throws her arms around me and brushes her lips lightly against my cheek.

After she’s gone, I stand there and count my breaths.

Wicks

Underneath all his hair, Dr. Wicks looks like some kind of rat, twitchy, nervous and cunning. He’s okay, I guess, but he’s a total hippiecrit. He keeps shoving all these affirmations at me, telling me about the power of belief. I can, if I believe I can, sort of thing. He still charges me by the hour.

I’m reading the spines on Wicks’ bookshelf. Most of the titles sound vaguely pornographic and I’m thinking about masturbating, only half listening to what he’s saying. I grunt inquisitively and look up. He’s got this, We’re both on the same team, look on his face that really grinds me for some reason.

‘Why don’t you know how the story ends?’ He says.

‘I haven’t made my mind up yet if they die or not. It’s the same either way really. I mean, in my mind, both have already happened. It doesn’t matter if they live or die, because both are true. So nothing happens.’

I can tell he doesn’t get it.

Wicks looks out at me from the underbrush of his eyebrows and twitches his nose. ‘Let’s talk about something else for a bit, hey?’

I don’t want to talk about something else. I don’t want to talk about anything really. I feel so tired.

‘I feel so tired.’ I say.

‘How are you tired Jonah?’

I sigh and don’t tell him. Questions like that really fuck me off. They’re meaningless little probes designed to open me up, but all they do is get under my skin. Wicks just sits there companionably, twitching his nose and darting his eyes at the notebook on his lap. The silence in the room itches at my skin.

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