This is in response to a writing prompt by Anna Spargo-Ryan.. A little game she has going on called Flash Fiction. The prompt was: “What about the others?” he said. “What others?”
When Rob left me I’d like to say my heart broke, but my heart stayed strangely intact. Which made everything so much worse because it meant that I felt every last bit of vicious shit he threw my way. I felt it when he said I was a bitch. I felt it when he said it was my fault he was leaving. I felt it when he said that if I hadn’t been so frigid he never would have had to “get a root from the horny bird up the road at number 28”.
Frigid? Horny? Where were we, 1982? It’s a wonder he didn’t send me a fax outlining all of my faults. Which in the scheme of things would have been better, kinder, because every word from his honed tongue hurt like a stab and caused me to spear off into separate parts. I wondered if the fragments of me would ever meld back together.
The days and weeks and months mooshed together.
I went through the motions. To work and back, shops and back, work and back, gym and back, work and back, work and back, drinks and back, work and back. Then the fissure of the weekend to sit within until Monday came and I could climb back out into the world, hoping that the weight of the air out there wouldn’t press me to the ground.
The girls from work were kind and sweet in the beginning, but after three months they were sick of the sight of my slightly greasy hair and my unironed shirts. They wanted me back. Back to how I was before. They wanted me to laugh with my eyes and down to my toes. I laughed with my teeth. They wanted me to be enthusiastic so that my skin tingled, but I couldn’t even feel the sweet scores I made in my skin every night.
They insisted I go out with James.
It’ll be fun, they said.
You might even get laid, they giggled.
He’s lovely, he’ll be kind, they said, eyes big and earnest.
So I went. Not because of a glint of desire, but because they were kind and I wanted them to believe I was trying. Even though I couldn’t give a fuck.
Weirdly, James was really nice. Or, not weird that he was nice, but weird that I noticed. It was the first thing I’d noticed in another person since I noticed that Rob smelt like another woman, and I’m not talking about a smell you buy at Myer. So noticing things about other people wasn’t my plan these days.
James and I went out for coffee and then to lunch, and finally out to dinner. We hit it off, and after the dinner at Miss Moneypenny’s we had it off in the silence of his Camry in the National Park carpark. I couldn’t really get into it, between keeping my sleeves down to cover the scrapes and thinking the ghost of Harold the Koala was watching my white bum jiggle through the windscreen.
I kept my sleeves down and my thoughts encased, and James and I saw each other every other day. I didn’t allow any cracks in the carapace of my mind, I skated along, just this side of a diagnosis, with James oblivious to the sensuous ruptures I performed every night after he left.
We sat on the picnic blanket-the one I got from KFC after Rob left, and I ate a whole FatFuck sized bucket of original recipe until I vomited- and talked about what we would do for the holidays. I wanted to go on a cruise, and James wanted to go camping at Imbil. I hated camping and Imbil sounded crap, so I pushed for the cruise a bit more than I usually would. James started to get the shits, and it was pissing me off, because he wouldn’t give me a reason for not cruising.
Why not though? I said, again.
Look, I just don’t want to okay, he said.
It’ll be fun, and besides, everything is included, so it’s a bargain, I said.
I told you, I bloody don’t want to, can’t you just drop it? he said.
No, I won’t, not until you give me one good reason why not, I said.
What about the others? he said.
What others? I said.
He made a gesture, like Delvene Delaney on Sale of the Century, pointing out the rich prizes, sitting on the KFC blanket with us.
What others? I said, a little more urgently.
James just smiled.