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Ordinary Things

I remember the phone call and how ordinary it seemed.

At the time, I didn’t see it. Couldn’t see. I was blissfully unaware. As such things happen, I failed to pay attention to the signals and signs. Never mind the signifier. Derrida would be ashamed.

But since you can’t define anything without its opposite, I consider you. You, with your sea-colored eyes and all-too-dense apathy. That is the opposite of love, really: disinterest. Hate at least has a breath of passion to it.

Love? The word feels like a ghost, a haunted thing. A small puff of light captured in the dark by people who want to believe. Does that make me cynical? Perhaps. It is not what I believe, but it is what I have seen. Not all wisdom is garnered from books. In fact, one is an echo of the other. Who creates the originating sound? Sometimes, it is impossible to tell.

But back to that phone call. What I remember most, what rings the loudest, are the things that were absent. The heavy silences that I mistook for pauses. If this were a work by Chekhov, they would’ve been glinting like failing moonlight on old, shattered glass. Refracted a thousand times, left to signify what? Nothing.

With hindsight, sharp as a Toledo-smithed sword, I parse through the mess, the aftermath. The missing nickname. The slow answers. The words that dripped with lies sweetened by desire – we see what we want to see. To paraphrase Nin, we see things as we are. This side-effect of humanity is our greatest asset and most crippling weakness. Don’t ask me to explain that. Some things must be felt to be believed.

If I were braver, I’d write every word down. Every truth, half-truth, and masquerading lie. I would get a pen and go through it all, bright with textually analysis. What does the tone say? What does the silence convey? And how does the imagery reaffirm the central theme?

The central theme? I suppose, in a fashion, it’s goodbye. A simple thing. An honest thing. Some might say the most difficult word in any language. It isn’t I love you. It’s goodbye. I don’t love you anymore (did you ever? Could you ever?) goodbye. Maybe Marber was right. Maybe that’s the only way to leave someone, surprised and stunned, with and without warning. I don’t know. I’ve never been very good at it myself.

Time has passed. It always does. I’ve been reassured by your absence. Funny thing, that. Like a whisper behind a lyric in a song, sometimes the strangest things conjure the memory of you. When the melody is over, the rest is silence. An absence that weighs heavily, like the thick night air in summer. A heat wave that cloys to the skin, as if trying to sink through it.

I remember the phone call and how ordinary it seemed. But it wasn’t ordinary, was it?

  1. August 22, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    This was wonderful Ali. I think we all can relate, far too well, to being taken off-guard by a seemingly normal phone call or conversation that upon reflection feels wrong in every way possible.

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