Edited by: Sam Martin
I just wanted to start off by saying thank you to everyone who submitted their work to be published over the last couple of months. It’s absolutely wonderful to know that Aomori Prefecture has such talented and varied creatives living in our midst! Thank you for being so willing to share your work with us all; we really truly appreciate it. Now on to the main event for this issue…
Last month’s prompt-inspired short story was one of magick, heartache, and business, brought to you by our own Kim Andrews. This month, we have another anonymous submission for your reading pleasure. The vivid imagery that this piece captures–from an intriguing source of inspiration–will leave you feeling introspective and pleasantly cooled. It’s the perfect read for a warm office day, or when you’re looking for a distraction and find yourself looking inward.
How Could You
[Inspired by the phrase how could you, and the lyrics to “How Could You“ by Mario]
The silence of this place is deafening. This apartment is a coffin: New Orleans after Katrina, Chernobyl after, well, Chernobyl, the gulf coast of Mexico, the long lost city of Los Angeles a hundred years from now. His spoon scrapes the bottom of the bowl, removing milk, shredded wheat, and my final nerve. Staring at him there is nothing, no sign of anything. A void. No, worse than a void. He is a black hole. They say the reason you can’t see a black hole is because the light can’t escape its gravitational pull. That is what he is right now: a black speck dominating all of nothing. Nothing I have said has made an impact.
“I’m going to work, Eric.”
No eye contact. I won’t give him the satisfaction.
“I’ll be here when you get back.”
He turns to me, and winks. You nonchalant prick. This is every other morning for you, isn’t it? My teeth fuse, “Maybe it would be better if you weren’t.” There is a breathless pause in the silence. It registers. His face doesn’t twist or screw, but I can see it. Bloodless, sallow skin, and the eyes of a hangman. Plunge the dagger in between the ribs and twist. It is barely perceptible, but I see it: pain. I turn and give him my back in sympathy, close the door, and exit the building. If I had been holding a mic, it would be on the floor right now. For once I walk away a success. Walk away with a rare victory. Maybe this time, after we inevitably make up, when all the reconciliation is done, it will be him reluctantly clinging to the pain. God, I hope so.
When you don’t know what waits at the end of them, three flights of stairs can make for a remarkably long climb. Resolution is a good thing, probably, but it isn’t always a pleasant process. How do you take the high road without burying yourself alongside it? There are concerns. Things need to be addressed. It seems like a smooth reconciliation is a weakness. Something done to avoid problems, not solve them. How is he going to play this? We are not on the same team right now; we are definitely opponents. The door is unlocked. We will see the gameplan now…
Something is wrong. Everything is wrong. The apartment is completely empty. There is nothing left in the rooms, with the exception of all the things they contain. My stomach moves with the worm. A sheet of egg-white paper sits dead center of the kitchen table. I have forgotten how to breathe. Inhaling and exhaling are words associated with a secret, long-lost art. My heart knows before my head; it always has. I sit, lift the white pink slip, and read. I can only assume that I have turned an enchanting shade of blue at this point. Every word is civil, without venom; if anything, the tone is conciliatory. None of the fault is my own, apparently. Fury and sadness compete for my attention. The fury dies a bloody death. Its body is buried at sea. I manage a stuttering, stumbling breath. It rolls down my throat loudly. I see stars, which is odd as I was pretty sure they had all been blotted out.
No one has heard from him. Just like with the apartment, he has left me everything. A clean sweep. Even the people. Though he took their sympathy. They know “how I am.” Eric was never anything but pleasant. How could they not take his side? Though even as they do so they assure me that this isn’t about “sides.” Hell, I threw him out, right? This is how you work, Eric; this has always been how you work. You never win, because you don’t compete. No one else wins either, though. Their effort, and their lack of success, is always a loss. We are all losers standing in your shadow, aren’t we? Goddamn you, Eric. Goddamn you. How could you? Goddamn I miss you.
Two people, when they embrace codependence, create their own unique ecosystem. Not just in the home; the entire world is changed and altered fundamentally. I mean this literally, not figuratively or philosophically, and I know that it may not be observable scientifically, but the physiology of the very world is changed; trust me on this. When those relationships crumble so too does that world. That isn’t what happened, though. This is an abandoned world. Life was still present… Why? You were always so controlled. I needed that stability. This is chaos. All that I have left are remnants of a world that no longer exists. Things that used to make sense, but are now awkward relics of two people… No. Of an entity that has ceased to exist. I am taking an internal inventory, but nothing adds up. I can’t tell what was part of me, originally, and what was an addition made to accommodate you. The process of discarding these now-superfluous components is proving to be difficult. What will I ever replace them with? What used to belong there is rotting in a landfill, somewhere south of Center Point. Is this emptiness in you, too? Or have you escaped unscathed? Staring at the ceiling again, watching the fan blades cycle endlessly. Their timing, their rhythm, is somehow different. Everything is different.
It has been so long now; no one has heard a word from you. At least, if they have, they haven’t told me. I was wrong. Often. I know I wasn’t always fair, but I cared. You knew I cared. This time has given me clarity, though. I know you better now than I ever did when we were together. You don’t fight back, do you? You let people tear themselves to pieces. I am better now, but I wasn’t for an unnecessarily long time. I want you to know this because I am not writing out of anger; I am writing for closure. Our relationship wasn’t perfect. Maybe the signs of its death were written on a piece of paper clasped to a clipboard, and dangling at the foot of the bed. I don’t know. But I think you do. Maybe I am wrong, but I think you saw a way out, and I think you knew it was the way that would do the most damage. Be careful what you wish for, right?
Well, I did bring it on myself. I own that. What do you own? You don’t argue; you maintain silence while nurturing superiority. But your high ground is illusory. You may never yell, you may never kick or scream, you may never do bitter things, or litter your words with spite. I think you believe that you have mastered your emotions. Actually, I know you do. That is what I used to think too. Now I see the truth. Eric, you may just be the angriest person I have ever met.
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