Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Short Story: Stages (Part 1)

“What did you say?”


“Really? I could’ve sworn you said something just now.”

And with that the silence kicked in. I didn’t know what else to say. She didn’t know what else to say. We were silent for what must’ve been a full five minutes. We were just standing there, on the sidewalk, not doing anything in particular. Just standing. We weren’t even having a proper conversation. Both of us were plagued with silence, interrupted by instances of meaningless chatter.

I couldn't remember what we used to talk about anymore as two youths in love. How did we fill those long walks on the city streets? How did we manage to fall for each other in the first place? Certainly not with silence. At least not this piercing kind. I wished I'd remember. Then maybe I could fall in love with her again. For the second time.

A man walked past us. He was in his forties, and he carried with him immense sadness. He’s had a few drinks, I thought. The strong smell of alcohol – and the bottle of cheap vodka in his hand, funnily enough - made it all too obvious. He was mumbling words like he was trying to recite something he couldn’t quite remember. A compendium of seemingly-unrelated, mostly unintelligible words with angry interjections of the word ‘bitch.’ He must’ve used ‘bitch’ every fifth word. Then as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared into the alleys.

“He’s angry.”

“Yeah, he is.”

“Wouldn’t want to be him.”

“Me too.”

Again neither of us attempted to keep the conversation going. Neither of us tried to slip in a sad story or a funny anecdote. The strange ambience of silence was dominating this so-called exchange, and the flickering streetlights sprinkled the air with a hint of warmth that I craved desperately in the cruel winter cold.

But then like all silences, it was bound to be broken. This time it was two people shouting at each other. Both of them were in their thirties. The words were loud, but they were unclear. The sheer volume of their argument and the frightening silence of everything else around them created a surreal scene, as if all the sounds in the world were concentrated in that one epicentre, and for that one moment everything was listening to them. Even the winds were silent, hesitant of getting involved in the conflict.

Whatever they were fighting about, somehow I could tell it was petty things. The biggest of arguments usually come from the smallest of disagreements, and I knew this from experience. Little things accumulated over the years, broken pieces like shards of glass from a smashed vase, used as weapons to hurt each other. Certainly that was how my parents split up. In fact they had split up long before they even realised it. I always thought I had something to do with it. Somehow my existence complicated their lives, pulled them back from whatever it was they set out to do as idealistic young teenagers before I was born. The day I was born, the cracks in their marriage had started to appear.

That was long ago. I've maintained contact with the both of them, and though they had a turbulent marriage, their divorce was surprisingly amicable.

My thoughts wandered back to that present time. The angry couple had already quieted down. Or maybe they had simply taken the fight inside. Who knows. All I knew was that the streets were silent again.

To be continued.

Signing out

Over and out

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