Marjorie returned home smiling, thin, and tired. She gently told them that the journey had exhausted her. “I’ll need to sleep for weeks,” she joked. Elise thought her voice sounded different. The skin around her eyes crinkled now. Did it used to crinkle?
The song didn’t sound right. But something about it did, still.
You sent me a message on Facebook out of nowhere. It was a regular afternoon. I was doing nothing, feeling nothing, just enjoying not being at work, not being anywhere or doing anything. But all this nothingness evaporated when I got the message. Time stopped, then buckled in, turning now into a living memory.
The first lie was clean and easy. The whys weren’t considered. The whys came later.
When I get home from work I have a smile on that I don’t mean. My 3-year-old can’t tell the difference. He thinks I go to a fun place all day. I don’t want my kids to think my life is bad, to pity their father. I don’t want my kids to fear life.
“How do you cope with life?” he asked me. I could smell him before I heard him. It was the smell of the streets, the miasma of a kind of life I feared. It was a life that was waiting just around the corner for me. Some people, people I’ve known who didn’t truly know what they were talking about, thought it was a more honest life, a noble life. I just wanted to always have blank beige walls to come home to, no matter what. I wanted soft, warm covers to envelope me and a glass of water at my bedside. I lived a comfortable horror, and I could not imagine attempting my life without these slight and simple amenities.
Randi tried to be nice to people, but it backfired. Like a spy, she would stealthily listen to what other people said to each other, but then when she said those same things, Randi got a different reaction.
Robert came up with a theory of time in his notebook. He knew there were others, scientists, who were better qualified for this. But, still. It felt like a breakthrough. He had always had a sense that he was at the verge of getting at something, but it was so hard to communicate what that was. His girlfriend Sara used to laugh at him sometimes, and that laugh, so bitter and red, was fuel to him now. He tried to have compassion for Sara now that she was somewhere else with some cretin, the two of them slouching towards the grave with nothing but silly pleasures for their empty heads. She just didn’t have the capacity to understand his brilliance.
I used to think I had friends, but I’m beginning to wonder what that means. I think maybe my heart is broken. It’s a pressure, a strange pulling. My body seems separate from “me,” somehow, like a costume. In the middle of a conversation, I sometimes wonder who the other person is talking to.
Lydia got the letter on a Friday. She put off opening the letter because her days had finally become a relief of monotony she did not want to disrupt.