Within the breath of the hospital door click, he was both alive and dead. A Schrodinger’s situation. He insisted on the glass of water and I had not wanted to go. But I did. He didn’t like me seeing him in that state–which seemed so unlike everyone’s perception of him, he was not the regular vain sort of actor one would think of. Or at least I never saw him that way.
People have asked just how it was that Sandra and me got together in the first place. I mean, it seems a bit unlikely, if you know what I mean. After all, there’s Sandra, small, educated, a right stunner that makes men choke on their beers at first sight, a snappy dresser that causes men’s eyes to wander rapidly southwards in the hope of even better stuff below, and a helpless looking nature which she uses to good effect when she wants somebody to do something for her. Not that she needs it, as she is quite capable of looking after herself whenever there is nobody else around.
There’s a wrinkle of land in Stone County, an isolated pocket valley so remote you can hardly find the sky. My wife Sarah and I were happy there. A nearly feral cat lived there too, a scruffy calico that hung around to avoid coyotes. Sarah called her Josie. That cat was neurotic, delusional, paranoid and pathologically afraid of me though I never gave her cause. For three years all I ever saw was a flash of motion or the tip of her tail disappearing around a corner. The exception was anytime my wife ventured outside. Josie would glare death at me and sidle by on stiff legs, back arched and tail fluffed, to get to Sarah’s lap. I didn’t resent it. Sarah could talk tadpoles from a puddle, chant clouds from the sky, charm ticks from a mule’s hide. She surely charmed that cat, and the cat was good for Sarah. I’d leave them to practice their healing magics on each other and go find something useful to do.
“Good luck.” Peter kisses the top of my head and walks out the door, turning his key in the lock. I sip my coffee, curled up in the leather chair by the window. Finally, the house is quiet. If I prayed anymore, I would pray. The job would mean more stability. Peter hadn’t wanted me to work when we married, but we are past that as an option. As much as I want to be excited for a new start, doubt rolls in and blankets everything. I’m not qualified for the position. I have to go through the motions to show him I’m trying. I hate wasting time. I drain the cold remnants of my cup and allow for one slow, arching stretch.
Mary closed the door behind her, the third chime from the grandfather clock was just a memory from her hall. She walked down the front path into the darkness. It was cold, so cold. Her gloved hand held them tightly; the reason for her torment.
No shit, there I was watering my flowers. Orchestration or habit bent on outcomes, I do it daily, making sure I can get back from all my Elsewheres in time to do so before the day is gone with the moon. I am faithful to that compulsion, and when this chick comes along, made nice in a certain way, yet points out dismal little failures in the front garden or the narrow plot beside the driveway to an occasional walking companion, it pisses me off no end. I’ve heard her through an open window say things like, “Wouldn’t you think someone would know better than to plant the short ones in the back.” Or, “Don’t you agree that his color scheme is a bit off base? Needs a little more imagination?” Or, like one totally elliptical occasion when she said, “Who does he thinks likes so much orange?”
I’m Saga and I live in a suburb of Stockholm, Sweden. I have a disease. It’s not fatal, but I am going blind. My doctor told me that I was slowly going blind. My mother said that my eyes were only losing their clarity. It’s true. Before it gets dark it will first become blurry. It already has.
I rewrote that intro several times and finally ended up with that one. I don’t want my disease to define me, but it is the only reason I’m slightly interesting. I was seventeen years old and I went to a public school in a county that had almost no public schools. I wore large glasses – still do – which I had to change batteries on every week. A function inside the lenses automatically adjusted to the daylight. When I started my first year of high school we were supposed to stand up in class and tell the others a little bit about ourselves. I told them I enjoyed reading, knitting and playing the piano. My teacher laughed and asked why I used past tense. She was right though. I could still enjoy most of those things, the piano made a sound and I could feel the fabric when I knitted, but I couldn’t read as well. I can still read to this day, but it takes longer, much longer. I lose patience.
December sweeps her dead hand around my throat. My capuche swooshes open and I come to life in the morning hour rush. A beggar scratches the furrows between the cobblestones outside the metro station. When I get close to him, the automatic doors open and the warm breath of the subway hits me. He looks up at me, then back down again to the cobblestones.
I walk out on to the escalator, a boy runs past me, then a girl, then another boy. The latter boy shoves the girl when he rushes by her, down the escalator. She yells, but keeps going. Yesterday the fungus to the right was green, but today it’s covered in white foam.
The subway train comes in and I get on. It’s full, so I stand. I can always tell which state the country is in by looking at the adverts. Education, insurances, job seminars and cheap groceries. I’m reminded of what the prime minister said; the lowest unemployment rate in Europe by 2020.
Promises aren’t worth much to the poor. That’s why the adverts look the way they do, and why the beggar scratches the furrows of the cobblestone.
”Uhm. I’m here to see Pam.”
“You the kid?”
“I mean the kid she’s been sneaking off with. The … No, let me think. The Williams boy, right?”
It wasn’t all about the mushy stuff. The cards, the roses, the poetry, meant nothing if you weren’t sincere. He knew many people whose love was only for show. Did he buy her flowers every week? Not at all. Did he profess his undying love for her in front of all their family and friends? Probably never. Holding hands and other public shows of affection was something that he never did, but no matter. He knew that this wasn’t what it was all about. He was being thoughtful. Even if it seemed stupid to other people, it meant something.