This is the first thing I wrote in 2015 and I’m glad it was both catharsis and short fiction. I didn’t publish it earlier for fear of hurting someone. But it seems it doesn’t matter anymore. Here goes:
“I’m having a Clearance Sale for 2014,”
“You see, 2015 comes in the shape of a cupboard that I haven’t opened yet. And I don’t want to put anything old in there. 2014 needs to go before I can open 2015.”
He surveys the life that she has laid out in neat stacks and tidy piles. He notes that her OCD has not made it to the ‘Sell’ list. He looks over to her. She’s doing something to her hair, stringing it out between her fingers and squinting up through the strands. Now and then she draws out a hand and a grey hair comes away with it, which she deposits into a carton she has labeled ‘Worries’. She’s sitting on a poorly assembled chair, whose seat is askew and all legs of different lengths.
“I made that when I decided to take up carpentry.”
“Carpentry and you??”
he guffaws, picturing the skinny girl in front of him trying to pick up a power drill.
She frowns at him and opens her mouth, while he waits for the entertainment that usually follows such a remark. But she stops short of saying anything. Then she places both her hands on her head. Her face contorts and she looks like she’s trying to pull her skull off.
she goes. Then she stops and breathes noisily.
“It’s too deeply entrenched, my Patchy Feminism.”
“If it’s patchy, you should dab at it with stain remover, not try to pull it off like a helmet,”
she says, Resentful Acid oozing from in between syllables,
“Stain removers don’t do their job well. They remove everything. Oh. Oh.”
He waits for her to reach the conclusion. She doesn’t lack for Intelligence (another thing he notices is not on the List) but Determination is something she tends to have in short supply. It might have been used up already. He watches till the Rebellious Spirit ebbs and she replaces it with Fake Detachment. And he turns away grinning. No matter how hard she tries, there are things that will always be left behind on her shelves.
“Maybe you’ll be able to take some of them up in 2015,”
he says with a yawn.
“No! I have to get rid of everything. It was such an untidy year, arriving in bits and pieces and messily wrapped parcels. I spent most of it cleaning up and picking up things that got broken.”
She stares at him and her eyes grow wide. She can never keep up Fake Detachment for very long. There are inflections in her voice, the neon plastic colours of 2014 flecking sound with styrofoam shards and smothering thermocol. He hates when he can see the inside of her mind this way, without feeling what she feels. What’s wrong with styrofoam and thermocol? She just thinks – or feels – or is – too much.
He nudges a stack of paper with his toe and touches the top. It starts at the base with a couple of diaries, sheds to writing pads and ends with looseleaf sheets of paper, held down by a little box of glittery paper clips and thumbtacks shaped like ladybirds. This, he is not unhappy to see leaving. The Fancy Stationery is a veneer around her Compulsive List-making. Her Elaborate Time Arrangements are lurking in there too, making paper shells and digital mazes around Quiet Desperation. He steps away, breaking contact. Immediately her Too Many Adjectives and Catchphrases drip off his fingers and congeal into the general mass of Excessive Verbosity. They need to go.
Paid Bills lie in a corner and he is careful to avoid going there. They are the noose around his Spontaneous Excitement and he won’t risk any more of it getting choked, than it already does, being around her.
He turns and is surprised to find her standing right behind him. Their noses are touching and he thinks she looks like Cyclops. But he can’t move. She shuts her eyes and he feels her eyelids scrape over his cheeks. Then he hears a sickening sound like velcro scabs peeling off raw human flesh. She is peeling him off her. Their eyeballs (which he realizes only now are melded together) flatten and stretch. Finally they pop out, her optic nerves hitting him across the face. She’s ripping his fingers off her torso now and something small and hard hits him in the stomach. It’s black with slivers of pink and the maroon trickle seeping from the ventricles stains his clothes. He looks up (her optic nerves swing across his nose this time) and sees a hole in the middle of her chest. A thunderous sound jolts him, which he discerns as the word SOLD!
He realizes dimly that he is shouting but his words are getting further and further away. As he watches, her form now drained of melanin, starts to fade. It thins to a hair fine line. Now the line breaks under her right ear and moves snakelike to her right. There it stops and just like in the game, turns right angle, growing just a bit. A little above her head, it turns again. He watches as it turns into a doorframe around her. In a flash, colour fills in between them, a solid wooden door with a polished brass handle. Incredibly, he can see her even through all this. He tries to turn but he is packed in tight. Plastic boards that say FEELING crush his ribcage. A glass case containing a replica of her in his favorite dress, presses down on his shoulders. The carton of Verbosity is dripping unwieldy, catatonic words on his shoulder. And look, even her Patchy Feminism is growing on his jeans and now on his belt in green, furry strokes.
He manages one last look at her but she isn’t even looking in his direction. Beyond her, a cupboard stands slightly ajar. He watches as she pulls it open and steps into it. There is only white light and it melts everything that is on his side and is him. His last impression is of the cupboard doors. The right one bears the numerals 1 and 5 while the left says 20.
He doesn’t know how long has passed before the wooden door that he is behind, opens again. He tries twitching a finger but all he hears is the sound of paper rustling. A damp finger touches a corner of him and he feels himself turned over.
“I’ll take this book,”
a voice says.