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- Slight Returns
Dylan Taylor is a university drop-out who slings cheap coffee to cottagers and builds dry stone walls in Canada. When he is not working he is spending his wages on tickets to Virginia to see his Girlfriend and Emerson the best duo on the continent. He has work forthcoming in Blotterature.
I think when we die we do it all again backwards. Not in a creepy 82-year-old baby way, but in regards to our choices. All those moments when you look back and imagine “what if,” those moments when you lose yourself for several minutes as imagination spiderwebs out. As you come back, there’s a sense of aging. It’s as if you’ve lived double time briefly. Maybe instead of living it out again death is an extension of this daydream, pushed to its most radical intensity, drawing out a handful of strands before tying off the thread, only to reach back and pick up the next dangling uncertainty. These small thoughts I keep unspoken. To talk would be to taint. Against conversation the dreams would dry up and burn off, water left to boil and forgotten. These small thoughts I do not speak.
I ask from beyond the closed door, “Do you want coffee?”
I hear “Reading my mind” or “Really not the time.”
I do not ask twice. I empty the grinds from yesterday, peel a filter, reach for the Maxwell House, and wait for the percolation to sound, to displace the silence, for the aroma to steam out the wrinkles of last night.
She opens the door. All her essentials are on and her hair is tied back in a tight ponytail. There is an air of efficiency about her this morning. If time is a flat circle, then we are pencil and compass christening a new page. Until now she was carefree, her hair down, its natural wave never ironed out. Her words were casual, talk that knew silence as an ally save for in anger, when she revealed her keen ear, knowing precisely the sentence that would harm most.
“Just as is.”
“Right, I forgot we . . .”
“Same as you.”
After handing her the mug I move to the window. The view of the harbor is wide and brilliant. The cold morning light clean and refracting off every surface with blinding enthusiasm. She comes up behind me. Her touch moves from upper arm to shoulder and down again. Her hands are warm from the coffee. Blood neglects them; these outposts at the fringe of her rely on outside stimuli. She inhales deeply as if she is going to speak, but rather than words, a sigh empties her lungs of their original inclination. Weariness fogs up the glass in front of me. Her arm drops and her steps retreat back into the kitchen.
“Listen I should go.”
“Okay . . . I’ll see you out.”
Her coat is on. Laces spinning between fingers.
“Last night was . . .”
“Yeah it was.”
She leans in and kisses me; the compass spins bottom to top. The pencil is dragged back over the same true line—that line repeated over and again until the graphite breaks skin. The initiation, then a small withdrawal, followed by a renewed exuberance, a deepening that, once it has been announced, quickly gets cut short. I can taste the coffee and almost make out the dark hours. They are hinted at but unresolved as her lips close and eyes reopen. A small grin. A quick turn of the wrist.
“I’ll see you soon.”
I wonder. I wonder.
These thoughts I do not speak.
A small grin. A quick turn of the wrist. My fingers entwined to the hand that remains still. I lock and pull. She turns, presses into me, eyes upturned, glassy with sleep unshaken.
“Maybe one more cup?”
There is a stillness I can hear fracture.
“I can’t my day is just . . . but next time.”
An old cord, worried between fingers, frays. Distances grow large, but will there be a recoil or only taught coarseness, fibers unraveling.
These thoughts I do not speak.
A quick turn of the wrist. A small grin. I let go of her hand and reach for my boots.
“I’ll go out too. I’ve got some things to do today.”
She smiles a small “seriously?” grin. A hint of teeth, a hint of doubt.
“Sure, sounds good.”
It’s cold outside. I forget my jacket. An offshoot of a river can snake across a continent. A tangent can last a lifetime.
These small thoughts I do not speak.