I wrote this short story a while ago and I imagine it is best read with a cup of hot chocolate in bed, rain tapping on the window. But anything else is fine, too. Really.
by sophia hembeck
I see your mouth opening and closing. Only air: A vast nothingness between us. Words as heavy as the furniture we carried out on that day three months ago. Till there was nothing left from you in the apartment or to say. Just shoulders that shrugged that said: Well that’s that.
I loved her.
I try to stay away from any direction leading me back. I hate going back. There’s only forward and if forward is not leading me home. Well that’s that. Shoulders are shrugged. They can’t be un-shrugged. They can’t say: Well that was a mistake. Shoulders only say: It’s done. It’s over. Once they shrug they don’t care anymore.
There’s a language we use when our bodies move for everyone to see. I thought I had heard you say something, that there was a message in your fingertips when you touched the wall walking downstairs for the last time. Tip Tapping. But when I looked at it later I couldn’t see anything. I touched the wall the way you did. I took the steps down the way you did. Trying to translate whatever it was you said.
I don’t remember the exact moment you stopped talking to me but I do remember seeking your words. Under chairs, under tables, under blankets, under coffee cups, under photographs, inside that TV show we used to watch, between our books, behind that song, around those people we used to talk about, on the train, in the car, at my birthday. I couldn’t find them. The words were gone. They were not attached to anything any longer. I used to throw them at you like basketballs they bounced and bounced and dribbled and rolled and slowly, very slowly they stopped and you crossed your arms looking down at them. Surrounded by them. As if you had no arms. As if you had forgotten how to catch a ball. How could you forget how to catch a ball?
Sometimes when a person gives me
it’s so loose
I wish they didn’t
hug me at all.
I always tried to hold you tighter. I tried to keep you closer than the air between us. You said, that that’s the thing you liked about me the most. That I was able to hold you. Interestingly later it became the very thing you loathed.
It’s funny how that works. You had asked me for a cigarette and moved in three weeks later. As if the two things belonged together, as if they were attached. As if there was a thread dangling from that cigarette, leading into the future. „It just wasn’t meant to be.“ You kept saying later. Even though we both knew that that couldn’t be further from the truth. When they took you. – When they took you away I didn’t know it was a test. Or I knew and I didn’t care. I guess I was angry. Or afraid. „I guess I’m not good with feelings.“ You once said. And then we realised: I wasn’t, too.
We both had starred at the linoleum floor, it was hard to look at anything else. It did not look like I would have imagined it. The room looked less modern, less ugly. Less cold and hygienic and white. It actually had nice green curtains, long ones that one could hide behind. You had made it homely with posters, too. Some flowers in the green vase, that we found on the street next to our flat on one of these lovely Sunday morning walks, that in reality only ever happened once. „Are you allowed to put them up?“ I had asked nervously. Pointing at the posters. And you had laughed but were slightly offended. „Of course!“
I felt it wasn’t a good sign that you had decorated the room, after all this was only temporary and not your home. It shouldn’t look like it. It shouldn’t look like you were going to stay. I wanted to tear them down, take your lamp, the vase, your rings and necklaces, the little leather suitcase, that you used as a bookshelf, the books, your clothes, your beautiful morning gown, that I used to try on sometimes, when you were not home, I wanted to take all of you out of here, because this was not your home. Your home was where I lived, where there were holes in the wardrobe, and holes next to the nightstand, and holes on my bed, holes in the bathtub, holes in the corners and on the walls, where all of this used to fill them. So that every time when I walked into the flat it felt like I was sieving through.
Another metaphor I hold onto till you come back to me.
ONE THING TO DO
If you want to dive into more short stories: Electric Literature is one of the finest places.
"I'd like the one with the non-existential dread, please."
My book: "Things I Have Noticed - Essays on leaving / searching / finding” is a poetic memoir, about the process of finding ones own voice.
IN CASE YOU MISSED LAST WEEK’S MUSE LETTER
How Heavy I Have Gotten
“Last year around this time I was in a rush, a somewhat out-of-body experience of inspiration moving through me and manifesting on paper. Like a fever dream shivering everything into existence. Two months later my book of essays “Things I Have Noticed – Essays on Leaving / Searching / Finding” was in my hands and published consequently with the help of this lovely community.
This year I am also writing but it couldn’t be a more diametrical process.”
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