Standing Wave

Listen to yourself. These noises coming out of your mouth: do they ring familiar? You’ve said them, shaped them this way with your anger-heated mouthparts, propelled them with this tenseness in your chest, this burning and nausea below your liver and diaphragm, uncountable times. Is this a natural process? An oscillation between metastable states? Are you Old Faithful, erupting bile on a schedule? Should there be tourists standing around checking their watches, camera-phones ready to catch snapshots and video? Discarded soda cans and burger bags and after-hours condoms and their wrappers?

Same people, same situations, same cycles, same words, same tears. Perhaps you’d like to stop now?

Listen to what you can hear when your own mouth is closed. Your sparring partner there, with milk and whisky on his breath, is content to carry on his part without you. Watch how his eyeballs, pink and blurry with strained capillaries, wobble. See him pause in strange places in his repetitive near-sentences to draw a breath. His words are an overlay. He is just an angry dog barking. The words in that, slathered on top, are a pathetic attempt for a disused frontal lobe to pretend to itself to have control. He is a mammal. Barking. Nothing more.

Don’t smile. You were doing it too. Just barking. Two dogs through a metaphorical chainlink fence.

You are about to make him angrier. Just leave. But carefully. Don’t storm out. The body language of that is just a different kind of barking. You are standing at the metaphorical fence, looking over the yard for the owner, a one-time friend. He is not present. Instead, there is a barking dog. It will not stop barking. So just turn and walk away. Maybe the owner will be around to talk to later.

That’s it. Perfect.

The walls of this place must be soaked through with the noises you and he have been making all these years. Peel off the yellow paint, that unfortunate contact paper beneath it for which the previous residents were responsible, the huge floral print wallpaper beneath that that must have made anyone in the room feel like they nibbled the wrong corner of Alice’s caterpillar’s mushroom, the gray plaster-filled plywood paneling beneath that, and those spaces between the studs, those wall cavities, must be like the Kenelly-Heaviside layer for trapping and bouncing old signals from old arguments — or the same argument echoing back and forth like light between two mirrors, the same words, traveling for hours, weeks, months, years, until it achieves laser-like coherence from self-repetition. Trapped in those walls. These walls.

That’s right. Extend the metaphor. You’re nearly there.

Vacuums are magical. Create a vacuum such that it is physically possible for only one thing to fill it and the universe will oblige by producing that thing from nothingness and depositing it in the space you’ve created. Look at this space you are in. See how perfectly you fit it. Think of how long you have been bouncing back and forth between these walls, between floor and ceiling, until your waveform has settled, rough edges filed off, until you are the perfect standing wave for this cavity, coherent from years of reflected parallel travel.

The part of you that does not fit this place is already outside and has been for years. Waiting.

This next part might be painful, but it is critical. Do not be afraid. In order to escape this trap, something must happen to change you so that your shape is wrong for this space. Just cross the carpet, get the door open to the hallway so your open apartment door is visible from the elevator. This really is the only critical part, so don’t fuck it up. You’ve tripped on this strip of runner carpet a thousand times, this cheap faux-Persian thing, dusty and cat-fur-matted regardless of the weekly vacuuming, but that’s not going to happen today. The globby no-skid strips you put under it two weeks ago to keep the cat from shifting it on his two-AM rampages are doing their job. One corner might be peeking out from underneath. See it? There it is.

Now is the perfect time to notice how the sun has faded the brightness from the wall in the living room it can reach, bleaching a fuzzy-edged rectangle-cornered partial analemma into the baby-blue-that-used-to-be-cornflower. The unequal figure-eighted analemma is the symbol for the encapsulated year. Open the door and the infinity symbol is broken. You don’t even have to go through it.

There you go. Perfect.

This strip of carpet is a lot dirtier close up. You should have thrown it away rather than bothering to nail it in place with the tacky stuff. Or maybe it’s the vacuum that needs replacing. But right here, with your face pressed against its furry grittiness, it’s intolerable. Right here, tasting blood in your mouth, smelling copper and tin in your sinuses, ears ringing from the impact of the nauseating punch to the back of your head, the weight of the angry dog of a man on your back, rucking up your dress, this carpet really needs to go.

But right now it’s cushioning your forehead from the hardwood as the man-beast on your back, fingers clenched in your hair, repeatedly pounds the one into the other.

Yes. This changes the shape of things.

With a prosaic “ding!” the elevator door opens, and there is a face, and you escape.


January 2, 2012 · by xalieri · Posted in fiction  


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