Flash fiction: secret meetings
If Sasha had told anyone, he would not be here. He’d had a sense about what it was when he’d got the call asking if he could drive across Poland with some unspecified goods, when they’d asked for his phone and he’d had to bargain for one last call with his wife. All of this was confirmed when he finally arrived at the given destination.
Science fiction type metal gates in the middle of a forest, six guys carrying the kind of guns money can’t buy. Six guys prodding him away while they unloaded barrels from the car.
Why were drugs illegal anyway, when so much else wasn’t?
They showed him a basement where a few mattresses lay perpendicular to the corridor. They grinned, guns in hand, and kicked him in. He wondered numbly if he’d be let out again, but he was too exhausted to contemplate the future much further. He fell into sleep, like a pebble to water, he dreamt he was led by the men unloading the truck, taken to a well in the middle of the forest, and made to strip off and dive. He awoke heart pounding and his clothes damp with sweat, before getting ready for the drive back.
Jobs like this made his skin crawl, but they were the jobs you couldn’t really refuse or get wrong without someone deciding you knew too much to be allowed to just walk free. It had started small, this involvement. Through an ex girlfriend whose dad had always seemed nice enough at the time. Nice enough could have you killed for one wrong move, and while the relationship ended years ago, decades, the jobs had become a till death do-us-part kind of commitment.
He drove eighteen hours home, wondering. Did Nadja know? Had she someone set this up? He preferred to stay clear of the family as much as possible, wary of their scheming, the endless talk of how they’d get more money, where from, and who would pay the price if it all went down. Sasha worried his name came up too often as a lamb for the butcher in those discreet conversations, but what could he do? If he told anyone, he’d be dead, and Susanna would be left alone.
Still. Life wasn’t so bad. The jobs were enough, though he’d trade all of it back if he could, for a past with no secrets.
How to set a boundary one two three
I set a boundary baby,
You’d be so proud
But I’d shrug as I pulled the trigger over your head and say
once your life becomes someone else’s investigation
you get a little reckless with the power of one two three
You’d look over at where I shot and see only clouds passing by
We’re not hunters, you and I
Just prey, baby
but you know
I can disappear whenever I want
Go back into the folds
Of spoilt daughter, of one time too many storyteller
so watch me one two three
Leave without a trace, unscathed
I’m fucking priceless baby
You can’t buy me and you can’t win
can’t replay just any old tune
I’m the main character baby, pulling strings and threads
I’m the master of the narrative
and you know I never really lose,
I just get more yarn to spin
by making them all feel like they aren’t just a chapter
they always try to bribe their way in
and break their way out
like I don’t hold the keys to Eden and some other type of paradise
anyway tonight I got better at it baby
got better at setting boundaries
this man said baby come to bed with me
I said darling no and when he insisted I
one two three
Shot him through the head.
Lose (plagiarising John Murillo)
The most important thing I read somewhere is that life is about losing, to play at life like you’re trying to lose and then lose it all again. To master the art of loss. Lose your books and then your friends when you swear they borrowed them. Lose your love of poetry when you go to one too many open mics, forget how to laugh the minute you learn stand up. Lose your socks and blame the washer, and then your pride when you find someone to keep your toes warm. Lose your fingers to the cold, lose all that common sense to heat. Lose your dignity as you fall in love. Lose your mind while trying to find your heart and then lose your heart while trying to clear your mind. Lose it all, become a master of loss, over and over, till your heart breaks feel like the push and pull of the tide
And again here we go we’re standing on the roundabout and there‘s so much cloth to choose from to sew together and all of it will make or break the tapestry which paves the roads going east west and north and south and that way and which way.
a lifetime should be enough time, don’t you think? To do the hard thing to do the right thing, but you can make a decision a hundred times and never feel happy with it, because at every step someone gets hurt. it doesn’t matter who is worthy and who isn’t, what matters is that a person is a person is a person, and there’s no amount of conscience smoothing that can wipe embroidery clean like a time smoothed stone.
we are delicate, life is too short and too long and every instant feels eternal, like tomorrow might never come. Sometimes I wonder if time is longer for some people. Do seconds feel like decades to the butterfly? I always feel like time is so extended, that the past is this rich artefact we carry as the make up of our hearts. the future always comes, but it’s the waiting that cuts us up. What choice is right, what stop makes sense, and who will hold us when it’s done?
there’s always some sense of isolation I think, unless you’re religious or a fascist of some sort. Because every choice separates you from the person who didn’t make it. When we grow up we stop having conversations. We just go for consequences, their sharp edges and bated breath. I am waiting i am waiting i am waiting for the right thing to be clearer than it already is, like God could spell it out in the sky for me, more clearly than the vicious and vindictive words of villains, now disappeared into the ethos but etched across my brain. What do I do? how do I protect everyone and myself included? and how ill will I feel in decades to come if I chose myself above it all?
What would you do if this was your last night on earth?
Would you take a bath and fold up your clothes,
let out the cat and listen to the radio before bed.
Stare quietly at the ground, wonder about debts, bills and wills what you owe and what you don’t the right people the wrong people, would you think of what you’ve wasted and what you’ve wanted, while you peel an orange for a child you wonder how to say goodbye to, or would you unlock the doors, run out, let the rain drops wet you through till there’s nothing warm in you, not even your mouth, your tongue, all of it is just a sliver of rain. Would you daydream the futures you could have had, would you look up every article in the ashmolean museum for that inner encyclopaedic knowledge you never quite put together. Would you muster up your strength and would you map out your life’s achievements and pin them on the wall, would you remember every failure and let the mask finally fall? Would you be happy would you be sad, would you let go of yourself as an image of what you could have been, is this what it would take for you to think of truth and happiness?
sometimes we wake from dreams and can’t quite tell what was true about them, while knowing something was said to you among it all. Last night I dreamt I kept getting scared, that my garden was cleared up and made beautiful in the night and my belongings kept moving, my car stolen, my house cleaned and I felt like the killer was getting nearer, circling me like a seasoned cat with its last prey, and at the end of the dream it was with relief and wonder that I found my friends had been plotting a surprise. There was no danger, only love, and the fear in my heart was gone and replaced by the calm of loving and being loved in return.
I’ve dreamt of my friends before, of that cocoon and I think maybe they are the greatest loves of all, the ones that smooth out the fear, the hate, by simply being there, by caring.
so perhaps if this was my last day, I’d sit here exactly as I’ve done, after my Oxford train, my strange encounter, the bath, and I’d write letters to each and every single one.
i wouldn’t speak to daydreams of the futures or nightmares from the past I’d tell them all in detail how I love them, what I remember, then I’d fold up my laundry, peel an orange for just me, let the cat out, read a book in bed, and slip away to sleep.
colours hang from rails my mother’s fingers run across— the orange wool, the pale pink silk, the sea blue corduroy. I see people in them as we pass, faces of what used to be, like I’m piecing together the puzzle of who they were and who they must be now. Faces who years ago walked these streets, were here, worked in this very space, arms swinging down the high street, replaced now by this ebb of conversationalists, the warmth of my mother’s eyes as she turns to ask ‘would this fit?’
Can you feel it?
It’s in between your sighs, it’s right there, before your heel presses down on that carpeted floorboard you know will creak, it’s the five am aftermath of cats outside yowling and the foxes fucking and the bins crashing and your neighbour’s flashlight through your curtains— at least you hope that was your neighbour’s. There! it’s in the click of spit breaking between your teeth and lips, every thought ringing true right before you forget. when what you’re waiting for surrounds you like a ticking you can’t hear, that quiet before you dive into a chlorinated pool, when stillness becomes just a high pitched whirring, it’s that empty space on your chest where someone you love once pressed — are you dizzy with it yet? Here, listen, let it pull you closer in and —-shush, you.
It’s all those needless fears, anxieties borrowed from the future, it’s the upside down hopes and dreams, it’s all the things you never said. you never needed to, anyway.
There are moments like these, in the white point of the storm
where the sky and earth kiss behind the mist, form one
and you have to close your eyes to see etched in the darkness
the sparks of sunlight reflected across the snowy peaks
Beauty is in your own hands, and everything touches.
Others when you are between two corners of a table
you slice an apple into quarters, almost perfectly divided
don't hesitate about who you'll give the biggest piece to
and when you do they smile, because things are clear and cut
and you put the block-like core to compost.
you cannot slice through a storm, so when you lose sight of heaven and earth
when the alaskan glaciers pave every street, when the seeds are uprooted
will you stay in the house you love
fix up the peeling wallpaper, cut the remaining apples into cores
or will you go, right into the white point of the storm?
Currents move on with or without you, storms will stop and start,
And as you hesitate, the choice is made for you
So go, stay, slice, choose to close your eyes or open them,
the only error is to falter, and not admit
that you see where the mist starts and the corners begin