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The Silence

8 Aug

Sometimes I feel like I can’t quite get comfortable in my chair. I’m not hungry. I’m not thirsty. I’m not tired. And yet something feels completely … off. As if the world is spinning crookedly on its axis and nobody else can tell, but I’m constantly leaning to one side to compensate. I itch to sit straight up.

This happens every year. It’s my mother’s birthday. She is turning 50.

I do her chart again. I have done this so many times I don’t even pay attention as my hands lay out the numbers, the stars, the planets, the predictions. My mother is suffering. The stars tell me. I hear them, and I do listen. But I don’t call her.

He doesn’t mean to hurt you. He loves you. Don’t worry, he really does love you. Her words echo in my ears.

I put the chart away and lock up my little office. For the 10th time since leaving home, I open my mind across the thousands of miles and encourage her to say, “It’s over. I have had enough.”

My phone doesn’t ring either.

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barking in primes by emilushka

5 Sep

After another night spent tossing and turning, Adam’s hair stood up in every direction imaginable. He glared at his unruly image in the mirror. His part, so carefully constructed the day before, had been overwhelmed by cowlicks and tousled tufts. He counted 43 ways in which his hair was disobeying.

And then the dog began to bark. Bark bark bark! Bark! Bark bark! The dog always barked in prime numbers, as if to torment Adam’s numerically-oriented brain further. It was the next door neighbor’s dog. A pomeranian. The only kind of dog city people can easily keep: small, easily walked, pretty, and yappy whenever the owner is not at home. This kind of dog made his neighbor feel needed, Adam was sure, although her routine was imprecise. Some days, Emma took the dog out three times. Some days, four. Other days, they would be out all afternoon and the atomic clock’s regular ticking could be heard throughout Adam’s apartment. The dog’s barks implied a desire for routine, for reliability. Adam smiled. The dog understood numbers in a way its owner obviously did not.

The apartment building was split between two wings. It had been a hotel in a former life, and each room still had its own bathroom. Listings in the paper were distinctive: 2br, 4bath. Like so many older hotels, the doors had grates at the bases and privacy was more a shared denial than a reality.

Families avoided the Windermere. Unable to control the commotion of small children or the blaring music of teenagers, they were quickly driven from the building by the unmarried yuppies who took over most of the units.

Adam lived in the very last apartment on the 13th floor. 1301 was a 1br, 3bath. The hotel’s owners superstitiously relabeled the 13th floor as the 14th, so as to avoid misfortune. Adam had corrected this error on the front of his own apartment. 1401, the apartment he rented, was now 1301. He had updated the United States Postal Service and building manager accordingly, and while new mail carriers provided temporary difficulties in the form of delayed or returned mail, Adam always rectified the situation promptly.

Emma and the numerically savvy dog lived in 1402. The barking was thus able to travel straight across the hall, invading the serenity of Adam’s living space. Adam had attempted many soundproofing measures, reported the dog’s yapping to the building manager, and written accurately worded letters of complaint to Emma herself, all to no avail. The soundproofing only served to muffle the barking, which made the prime numbers even more distracting as they snuck into Adam’s thoughts. I’ll need to go to the store. I need three bananas, one chicken breast, two loaves of bread, seven grapes … The building manager took one look at the calculatedly adorable expression on the Pomeranian’s face and forgot Adam’s complaints. Emma disbelieved any report that cast her “snuggy-wuggums” in a poor light.

And so Adam sighed, picked up his perfectly straight comb, and began rectifying his part. 43 hair adjustments later, he closed the door on 1301 and began his 27-minute commute to work.

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