You Beat Until You Break

*Note to my two readers: I was cleaning out my saved files of writing and came across this flash fiction like story(?) from 5 or so years ago.

So, I wait. I wait for it to upload. I wait for the numbers to change on my inbox. I refresh every few seconds. I wait for the phone to ring. I see a number I don’t know and let it go to voicemail. I dial voicemail and the message is a mistake, a wrong number, a false start. I wait to get new texts. I check each new one and they are always from the same group of people. I hit reply or I hit delete or I pause and wonder over one that was sent randomly or by mistake. I got one that asked if I was going to the party. I got one that asked if I was alright. I got one that had number signs forming a heart. I hit delete. Delete. Delete. I wait for the letter in the mail, but who sends letters anymore. It’s just bills and catalogues and bills. I wait for class to be over. I watch the clock tick in slow-mo. I wait for the push back of the chair and the vault to the air outside. I wait for work to end. I spin in my chair and I answer the phone. Ring. Pick-up. Sound cheerful. Answer questions. Be polite. Hang-up. Ring and repeat. I wait for the water to boil. I wait for the pasta to cook. I wait for the news to come on. I watch the headlines carefully. I watch every news story. I look into every picture of every crowd. I wait for the day to get over. I wait for the clock to hit eleven. I wait to fall into bed. I wait to fall asleep. I never fall asleep until I don’t think I will be able to sleep. I wait for the dreams to get over with. I wait for the next day to start. I wait for it to start over again. Be polite. Repeat.

A list of things I lost the year I was eight. I lost a 25 cents bouncy ball from Piggly Wiggly. It was a brilliantly off shade of red with silver sparkles in it. I threw it high up into the air above the basketball court. I wanted a big bounce. I don’t remember it coming back down. I lost a piece of blue sea glass I found at the beach. I don’t remember where. I think it fell through a hole in my pocket. I lost a story that I wrote. I lost—

There are sounds we keep. The sound of a glass breaking and the way that our feet avoided the shards in a sort of dance without elegance. The sound of waves cracking against the stones. The sound of voices at the top of the overlook. The sound of laughing at the back of the movie theater. The sound behind those songs that you picked out for me, the summer that we stayed apart. The sound of that mix CD put on a continuous loop, so that every time it ends it starts. The sound of the phone ringing in the house before I went in. The sound like it was coming from a television show and I could reach out through the screen and pick it up. The sound of lasagna sizzling as it comes out of the oven. The sound of rain, the kind of rain that falls and twists, crawling down the window panes, and glancing down your face. The sound of champagne that you only hear if you put your ear to the glass and listen. The sound of fists against my chest until there was only the crack of
silence.

Here are the photographs of the trip up the river that we took that summer. I have one of the road with the cool name that you thought was ridiculous and I thought was perfect. I never wrote that poem about it like I wanted to, though. There’s one of the overlook. It was awesome. You could see the water for so long that it turned into the sky. If I have five perfect moments, that was one of them. I took the photo, but it doesn’t really capture what I saw. I never was meant to be a photographer.

I found your notebook in a box. I didn’t read it. The words were smudged. I told you not to write in pencil. You wrote in pencil because you couldn’t stand the idea of your words being permanent. What an idiot.

Lemon pudding so tart that it shocks, but there is whipped cream on top which cuts the sour and smoothes the taste buds. Naan bread with onions and mixed seeds, topped with hot onion chutney.

There are shelves and shelves of books which line the walls, occasionally I will run my fingers over the spines. I will feel the pages of the books and I will imagine the stories that might be unfolding within them.

There is a list of things I meant to tell you. A list of numbers and names on the fridge, people I meant to call. A list of things I thought that I would miss and a list of things that I do miss. I keep some of the lists in a box. I keep the box on a shelf in the closet, near the top, and almost out of reach. I don’t read those lists.

The water looks unsettling today, like there are things that circle just below the surface. Step right in and up to your knees.

E-mails and phone rings and lists to keep you up. A box of photographs, food, and books that you will reread. Music pours from the speakers. Voices echo down the hall, a conversation that bounces back to where it started. You will wait up for me, you will watch the clock as each minute ticks by, and you will understand how silence enfolds you in its embrace only before it breaks.

So, I wait. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

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