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Memory, Subtitled

Where the Lines Bisect

By Andrew Forrest BakerPublished 11 months ago 3 min read
Memory, Subtitled
Photo by Carrie Borden on Unsplash

He spoke in subtitles, garbled and a little too late or too soon, grabbing attention away from the action in desperate attempts to understand the language before the activity. He spoke in desperation, an innocent depression of vowels; a game of roulette, in wait and hopeful for the right letters to appear. Too many fictitious words, there, in the air with nothing underneath them but a faint history of too much time lost, too many lights extinguished, and nothing said of those who would live on in the dark. He spoke in the manner he lived.

If he could remember, he would have.

Sunlight had long ago reflected from the mineral mirrors of dust, ricocheted to dance along and yellow the wallpaper, a muted vibrancy, peeled and wasted. Now he knew the wallpaper was yellow. Only that the wallpaper was yellow.

He kept his things in lines which bisected only where he knew they needed to. Bottle opener, can opener, spoon. Bowl, hammer. The little ceramic statue of a bulldog his mother had given him after a night out drinking red wine with her book club and painting ironic colors and glazes on its skin. Pinks and blues and tans. An abandoned bird’s nest.

Pages went missing from his books, from his notebooks. Pens scratched the margins with ideas inspired by texts which changed at the will of someone he’d never met. He wrote poetry as he waited for the men to come and take over. He wanted his words to belong to someone else.

He hated responsibility.

He met Maryanne on a Sunday, wed her on a Tuesday. Two forgotten years later. Two as one he would never retrieve. Laughing his garbled laugh and dancing in lines which divulged only where he knew he needed to.

He knew he needed to.

Bees had once flown across the stamens in his garden. That he thought he could remember. Maryanne entertained. People who understood distance as pinpoints on maps. Three pencil erasers and a staple corresponding with two point five miles. Doors with majestic knockers, ringed lions and devils. Or plain, unornamented. That he thought he could remember.

Maryanne entertained in grandiose choreography. Each movement planned in advanced (and remembered!), executed with precision (he remembered!), and fluid. Wine poured. Laughter littered like lifetimes of frozen water clinking in never-emptied glassware. He sat. His offerings staccato. Stilted. Stilton. And brie. And red wine. The wallpaper was beige then, he thought, when he thought, but he understood it was yellow. Faded from rushed light awash with particles pickling in the vinegar air. Spilled wine turned. Acrid and teeming with sugar ants.

Outside was cobalt and chartreuse. Trees which forgot and recalled their leaves like Maryanne’s appendages wrapped around him nights and left in mornings. When they weren’t there, he believed them to be, but never knew really how they felt. Painted brick which scraped with branches, moved by unseen forces, wind winding up the world and allowing it to spin until it finally fell.

Outside was nondescript, except for where she was lined up straight and undisturbed. Outside was exuberant in a way which left him scattered. He walked in lines only he knew how to bisect, determined in the lush absence of narrative, liquid blades of grass hatched awkwardly, yellowed little stems, and clovers only special when mutated. He sometimes found them fascinating. He sometimes found them. Fascinated. Young hearts still green with desire.

The cat, Maryanne’s cat, missed her from the welcome mat. Preened across the letters as if they spelled a return, a slumber, deep and scratchy, but good for removing soil. She likened herself a lion, her mane instead a halo, mainly angelic, declawed in her youth, still too painful to walk too far. Others would see a demon there. He saw a memory forgotten and on repeat.

In the end they would be the same.

The world was not inherently wicked time spent chasing rain and sometimes hitting the right spot, urging blooms, a forced abundance. His world was not inherently sacrificial, but he made it so. His things lined up toward inevitable ending.

Short Story

About the Creator

Andrew Forrest Baker

he | him

Southern gothic storyteller.

My new novel, The House That Wasn't There, is out now from April Gloaming Publishing.

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