You’re fuzzy, or the room is fuzzy; with too much smoke and too much noise and six people melted out to the sides, mixing with the shadows in the grain of the wood on the walls. I don’t like how you’re looking at me, as if there’s something between us, something attached between us. I wonder what it is and look down to find that there is something attached between us. A string attached between us, running cheek to cheek. To span the distance between people who are more than just casual people. I turn my head to look away, but you pull the string and I snap back towards you. I glance from the corner of my eye at the people sitting next to us; afraid to turn my head and tear a hole. I glance to see if anyone notices the string stretching across the middle of the table tying me to you, but no one does, so I keep quiet.
And look at your face. Stare at your face. And notice that your nose is crooked. And I think that a person has probably hit that nose. Some person in the past. That I didn’t know, and who I couldn’t stop, but I think just now that I would like to have stopped it. Stopped them. You look away and I feel the string tighten as you laugh with a friend over something that’s been scratched into the table with a knife.
I pretend to cough, to break the tension, but it doesn’t work. A friend is talking about the future of farms in America and we pretend to listen for a moment. He is laughing and declaring, “I think there should be a national ban on pesticides,” and we all nod as if it’s something that hadn’t been said before and we all laugh too, as if something was funnier than it was.
I’ve forgotten about you for a second. For a second I am thinking only about pesticides and a fruit revolution. So you give a little tug. Leaning back in your chair, turning to your friends, saying your goodnights and getting up to leave. Already, so soon? And you look at me for a second, I think that you look at me for a second; or maybe past me, I feel unsure; so I take another drink and look away. And turn back to watch you walk out the door, the string snapping as you go and falling limp onto the floor. I wait a while and smile at the group still talking about farms and soil and dying trees. I nod my head to what they say, wait five minutes more, then head for the door; stopping to pick the string up and put it in my pocket as I go.
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Portland Fiction Project
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