An effort to stay afloat while determining which way is up

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Separate Footing

This is my second time trying my hand at fiction.  I was thinking of a story by Hemmingway called “Hills Like White Elephants” and how during the most important moments of our lives, we still are compelled to hold the most mundane of conversations.  So I thought I’d try my hand at some dialogue. It’s not very long, but I’m new at this.

Additionally, you’re always told to write what you know, and if there’s one thing I know well, it’s having to say goodbye.  So here’s my story.  For now I’ll call it “Separate Footing.”

 

 

“Nice day.”

The stone bench and its immediate surroundings are inappropriately radiant and saturated in color.  Exotic potted plants border the boundary of the platform.  A light breeze settles the scents of the nearby medina gently on us.  Dried fruits and spices; leather and textiles; the salt of the Atlantic.

“Huh?”

“Just said it’s a nice day today.”

“Oh.  Yeah.”

“How are you feeling?”

“Fine.”

“Slept okay?”

“Yeah.”

“My neck hurts a little.  Hell, maybe that bed was too soft.”

“Anything I can do?”

“No.  I’ll be fine.”

In situations like these, shoes always seem to become disproportionately interesting.  I direct all my focus to the fifty-cent plastic flip-flops dangling from the balls of my feet as they involuntarily twitch and spasm back and forth.  The gaudy blue-and-red floral print of the soles flash in and out of view.  Most interesting are the markings on the tops of my feet left by a layer of dirt that a week of hot showers seems to have diminished only slightly.  My legs are outstretched on top of my overstuffed and mostly broken suitcase; my wrist is tangled in the handle of my duffle bag.  This is my insurance against the imagined riff-raff tampering with my last possessions.  I don’t have the energy to keep the world out any other way.

“Déjà vu”

“Huh?”

“Just feels like we’ve been here before.”

“I’m pretty sure we haven’t”

“I know.  It just feels familiar.  Like we’ve been sitting here before.”

There’s a clock on the wall.  Five minutes give or take until the train arrives.  I wonder how I’ll carry the weight of the bags by myself across these continents.  I’ll find a way.  I always seem to figure something out.

“Five minutes left.”

“Looks like it.  You can never tell if these things will be on time though.”

“Yeah.”

“Do you ever stop moving?”

“Huh?”

“Your feet.  It’s just funny.  You never stop fidgeting.”

“I know.  It’s a pain in the ass.  You’ll be able to sleep better.”

“Eh.  I don’t mind it that much.”

We spend our time watching the other people waiting for the 10:30.  The passengers here all look far too purposeful.  I feel much more like flotsam than anything with a specific trajectory.  I’m sure I look it, too.  I’m sure I look like hell.

“It doesn’t all happen in a line, you know.”

“What?”

“The time.  It looks like a line to us, but that’s not how it really happens.  It’s like a great big 3D painting of everything, everywhere, all the time.  Every feeling, every color, every sound.  It all exists at once, constantly.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard that.”

“So we’re still where we were.”

“In theory.”

“In theory.”

The train is approaching now, exuding all kinds of mechanical grunts and groans as it slows to pause on the platform.  The improper sun is gleaming off of its brilliant metallic shell.  We rise up as I fully slide my darkened feet back into the shoes.  After a brief struggle, I shoulder the weight of both bags.  I might as well start learning how to move with them now.

“Well, you’ve got a long way to go.”

It’s a short ten feet from the bench to the train, and one foot upwards as I rise into the threshold of the cabin, pulling my possessions behind me as they try to burst from the seams of my luggage.  I turn around.   We are on separate footing; there might as well be the entire gulf of time and space between us now.

“This was fun.  We should do it again sometime.”

The joke falls flat.  There is a whistle from the front of the train; everyone has boarded.  The train begins its slow heave forward to the tunnel north of the platform, and beyond that the shantytowns of this windswept city and whatever else lies on this vector.  All of it has to be said now.

“It’s all still happening.  We’re still there.”

“I know.”

“I love you.”

“I love you.”

“Don’t come after me.”

“I won’t.”

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