She always gave up just before hammering the final nail. Whatever the debate, he never got very far. She started at the edge, hands reconstructing the world in the space between them, spice jars and spoons framing coordinates for her arguments. Suddenly, she would stop, mid-argument, and concede, submission stained red on her warm cheeks. He hated her for losing. Even like that. Even to him. What kind of love demanded this? What kind of marriage created this? He was never sure how to accept victory when he wanted the aching comfort of loss. He thought of his lover instead, her desire so lush, her wit so dry, as if the universe and every quark in it was created only as a hapless target for her humour. How often had he stayed up all night wanting to hear her shred reality into the kind of laughter that came from a faraway place of longing. A longing for everything to be wrong. A longing for everything to be right. He wondered if he could love her in silence. In tears. With a face without secrets. Or on the other side of a wall that could not be broken down with a clever word. He wondered if she loved him in that warped way – where theirs was a world within a world, the penultimate babushka doll that they dared not open, fearing the end. Would she still be real if he woke in a sea of abject darkness? What was she thinking about now? Maybe love is just the universe’s way of paying for its mistakes. Maybe life is the irony that love must endure just to be. Maybe it is all an orgy of expectations and improbables that time conjured up when it was doing nothing.
Outside, the lockdown raged as a noiseless storm. Birdsong floated above the trepidation of the occasional car. The dry summer was slipping away into the arms of another approaching cloud. It felt like mornings rose, hungover from too much quiet. 65 days of being inside. 65 days of a rectangle of window-framed sky. 65 days. Of being all alone. He couldn’t remember when his phone had stopped working.
Flash Fiction #6
Flash Fiction #5: Lockdown