16 Apr Stephen Thomas
A person is seized by the seeming intractability of aloneness, and the physical world grinds to a halt.
Though her body is paralyzed, Ashley is still able to look around: a middle-aged man in a café window with his coffee spoon frozen mid-stir; a car unmoving in traffic with its windshield wipers paused mid-wipe—everything has been halted mid-act.
A spherical raindrop is suspended in the air very close to Ashley’s face, and Ashley can see a tiny reflection of herself, upside-down, in it.
“It’s a miracle,” thinks Ashley, fighting back tears. She thinks of her many years of procrastination, and of how the gods have repeatedly granted her further periods of grace, all of which she has wasted. It is time now to recognize the nature of the universe to which I belong, she thinks. Use the time you have, or it will be gone.
A FINE BALANCE
In a truly large room with futuristic curved white walls, hundreds of people of every description have loaded and cocked guns—machine guns, rifles, pistols—pointed at you, and are laughing at the possibility of you ever taking yourself seriously.
Between these people and you is a one-way mirror that divides the room in half.
You are on the reflective side of the mirror.
A red balloon appears, drifts slowly down to the cobblestones, and rolls onto its side. A woman, at her window over the sink, watches. A snowy landscape; a tryst; hurtful words; a cabin in the woods at the end of a very long road that twisted through the mountains. It’s strange how nobody has conversations the way they used to, she thinks. She misses all those people, even the ones who caused her the most grief.
Especially the ones who caused her the most grief, in fact.
She looks down. She has a half-tomato in one hand, and a knife in the other.
She crushes the half-tomato, slowly.
Angie wakes up.
Nothing important is happening that day, but it is still a day. She gets out of her bed and sits at her desk and looks at the internet.
She goes into the kitchen to make coffee. While waiting for the coffee, she looks out the window.
It is raining.
A person with a) above-average self-consciousness but also b) an above-average ability to tune into other people’s wavelengths is having trouble deciding what to wear, and that problem spirals into a more generalized anxiety, and she decides to email a community member. The email says: “Give me a reason to live.”
She goes out to her back deck. The sun is hot and the stadium reaches above town to high heaven. Her roommate’s panties have been left out in the rain and cling uglily to the railing. The person feels kind of fucked, she’s freaking out.
A breeze comes off the cemetery, scatters shriveled gumwood leaves across the sidewalk, and fills the person’s nostrils with sweet new air.
She thinks: “Oh my fucking God, when will the angel of mercy descend for me and pluck out my heart with a talon?”
Kizzy is in a checkout line with a bottle of wine held tightly to her chest.
An old woman in front of her is having trouble with the debit keypad—she’s leaning down very close to it, to see it better. The cashier asks if she needs help.
“I think I have it,” says the old woman.
Kizzy looks up at the network of geodesic trusses in the grocery store’s extremely high ceiling.
She realizes that the squandering of human potential is not aberrant at all, but the norm.
Stephen Thomas is a writer living in Toronto. His debut, The Jokes, will be published by Book Thug in 2016.