Psychic

A friend she hadn’t seen in years sat down on the bus, across the aisle. Claire knew that if they made eye contact, they would speak to each other, and she knew exactly how the conversation would go.

“Claire, is that you?”

“Mary Ann? I can’t believe it! How’ve you been?”

And so on. Just as they started to reveal anything real about where their lives had gone, one of them would arrive at whatever destination, and they would mean and fail to call each other for the next few years once again.

She stood up and sat beside her friend.

“Are you okay?” she asked, grabbing onto Mary Ann’s shoulder. “Tell me what’s wrong.”

Mary Ann said nothing at first. The sudden invasion had shocked her and made her forget where she was. Claire could tell. When she spoke, she said simply, “I’m fine.”

Claire knew she was lying, but as she considered the possibilities of their next three minutes together, she saw that she would never be able to coax her friend into dropping her guard.

“I can see that you’re troubled. I found out that I have heightened perception, and I can tell that you’re unhappy, deep inside. You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, but I’m going to balance your chakras.”

Mary Ann squinted and took a sweeping look around her. In a deep breath, she asked, “I’m sorry, but do I know you?”

Claire waved her hands. “Not yet,” she said, staring through her friend. “Not yet, but you will.”

#friends, #powers, #pretense, #pretention, #psychic, #self-awareness, #self-fulfilling-prophecy

Robustness (part 6)

A woman passing by looked their way and sneered cheerfully. He couldn’t move his arms to shrug or otherwise gesture, as he was pinned in place, but he wanted to respond somehow. He turned his face slightly red. Their asymmetric hug was not of lovers or of relatives, nor was it the reunion of old friends. The way she had him smothered was an imitation of affection. It was the hug of a case worker, rooted as firmly in fear as it was in forced positivity.

When she let him go, he felt like something had been taken from him. He checked his pockets.

“Are you all right?” she asked, but she didn’t care. She hoped he was sick and dying. She wanted him to tell her he had cancer and wasn’t long, or that he was on the run from police or bandits or both. Something like a story, and assurance she wouldn’t have to deal with him very long.

“I’m good,” he said, and watched the muscles in her face atrophy with disappointment. Later he would tell her he was dying, and that he was on the run from police and bandits and working with both. He might discuss the mayoral coup with her if she seemed amenable to it, but she was always bored by politics. To him it made no difference what was happening in his life. He would leave it up to her.

They went back down to the underground. The escalators were narrow, and she led the way, slower than he would like. He felt like she was walking him.

They just missed their train, and had to wait for the next. Aquarium air suspended them, and they shared a silence. He thought it was a comfortable silence, but he waited.

#awkward, #expectation, #expressions, #fiction-in-parts, #other-people, #robustness, #self-awareness, #silence, #subway, #underground, #urban

Robustness (part 5)

Leslie was not attractive. He didn’t want to objectify her in any specific way, but she was ugly, no question. Whatever part of him made inventory of physical characteristics and analyzed the data worked automatically. The conclusion was in his favor. The great worry he’d had was that she would trigger the hormonal crazy part of him that had been his personality at twenty, and because she wasn’t attractive, she was safe.

He had not yet started a conversation, or alerted her to his presence. The sculpture in the center of the square was a good enough hiding place for him to catch his breath. It was cube-shaped, on its corner. It represented modernism. His own place in the metaphor seemed less clear, though he supposed if he was hiding behind modernism, it would be some statement on self-awareness in media, or perhaps how modern art obfuscates more than it elucidates.

Leslie hadn’t seen him yet. She was smoking a cigarette, as was her custom, and he watched her take deep tar-filled breaths through her drooping beak. Though she wasn’t wearing a watch, she looked at her wrist several times while he watched. The twilight suited her, especially with the cigarette. She was like a Hopper, or a Norman Rockwell on an off-day.

She was waiting for him. He couldn’t believe she wanted to see him.

“Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m not attracted to you anymore.”

She put out her cigarette. “Hi. I was never attracted to you in the first place.”

She hugged him like a belt. He didn’t know what to say. He never knew what to say. He was glad to see her.

#awkward, #fiction-in-parts, #idiot, #male-gaze, #misogyny, #reunion, #self-awareness, #self-deception, #self-loathing, #selfishness, #stalker