With things listening

With things listening

[Written by Jędrzej Kierys (he/him)]

[Image Credits: Florence Bridgman (she/her)]

WITH THINGS LISTENING

They were sitting on the black sofa, uptight, as if they were guests in their own house. To their right, were the windows—you could hear people talking on the street outside, even though they lived on the fourth floor. To their left, was the open kitchen, recently refurbished, lights on.

“I just don’t know if I can even say what I want to say, that’s all,” the woman said.

“Well, Denise, you might try just saying whatever comes to your mind.”

“Like what?”

“Call me a cocksucker, for starters. Or a bastard.”

“But see, even if I wanted that—” the woman sighed “—look, Mike, what do you see there?”

Mike’s balding head turned left to follow Denise’s extended index finger. “There? The kitchen table? A butter keeper?”

“Yeah, that’s right. It’s the vintage butter keeper. From the antique shop. A fifty-seven-dollar butter keeper.”

Mike expected more words to follow but none came. “So…?” he asked.

“So it’s impossible for me to say what I want to say here. Not in this living room. Not next to that butter holder, not while I can see it.”

“Well, it was your idea to come sit down on the sofa.”

“I didn’t know it at the time, O.K.? It’s the first time I’ve been mad at you in this house.”

“Listen, sweetheart, I’m sorry—”

“—you see this?” Denise interrupted him, lifting her chin slightly upwards, as if to indicate she meant ‘everything’. “This…place. The whole place.”

“What about it?”

“It’s so not like in the movies.” Denise stood up and started walking in tiny circles. “Like, take this table. It’s such a nice table, Mike. Johnny and Tasha gave it to us, remember, and I didn’t even think they’d show up at the wedding. Or that lamp—I mean, how do you even argue in a room with a lamp like this one. They don’t make them anymore, it’s the only thing I got from my great-grandmother when she died.”

Mike wasn’t sure whether to pick up apologising or not. He preferred things to be bad than uncertain and his wife’s rambling he felt could go anywhere.

Denise sat back down. “And don’t think I’m not angry at you—I am,” she said. “I just have a feeling this would be a bad setting for that kind of scene, you know. Like they’d never make a film in this house. We can’t argue in here.”

Mike blinked. “Do you want to go outside then?”

Denise barely noticed that he’d spoken, “I’d like to scream and kick and break something, you know?” She looked through the window and back. “But what? We hardly have any things in here anyway, and most of them I really like. This house is just too much me and you. If we were in the fifties, back when they had those human-size dollhouses that didn’t even look real from the start, you know, I think I could argue then. I could punch a hole through the wall, no problem. Or maybe if we were on a movie set. They never care about objects in the movies, they just throw them around and go.”

“Do you see what I mean, Mike? I wish I’d been told that before. I wish someone had told me that with every object, with every day we spend here…”

Mike had stopped listening. Suddenly, he felt the weight of all their things—the butter dish, the wedding-gift table, the lamp—bear down on his shoulders. He wondered if he had been right to apologise.

Outside, you could hear the wind blowing and someone cursing. Inside, something has ended.

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