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#19 Tiny Fragments Lost Forever
This week, a couple get into a petty fight, but a bizarre event changes everything.
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#19 Tiny Fragments Lost Forever
The moment it’s gone too far is always the moment it’s too late.
For me, I realised this just after Sumona launched a plate of food across the room at me - cutlery included. As the steamy clumps of ground mince, intertwined with onion, garlic and tomato sauce, reached out towards me, I was hit with that reality.
‘What is wrong with you?’ I shouted, as the food, the plate and the cutlery banged against the wall behind me and sank to the floor.
‘What is wrong with me? What the hell is wrong with you? You’re a madman if you think I’ll just sit here and put up with this.’
‘Sumona, please -’
‘Don’t ‘Sumona, please,’ me. Keep my name outta your damn mouth.’
‘Will you calm down?’
Whenever I spoke, however, she flared up, cornering me, pushing me backwards. It irritated me. As much as I wanted to placate her, her anger was unwarranted, disproportionate.
‘Calm down? Calm down? Oh my god. You are an imbecile.’
‘That’s enough. Just stop it. I don’t need this shit.’
I swept past her and turned to the door. I had to leave.
‘I’m going outside to cool down.’
‘Do not leave this flat. I’m not done with you.’
‘I’m going to cool down.’
At that, I opened and slammed shut the door. I trotted down the stairs and emerged into the dusk air. The sun had receded behind buildings so that everything took the same dull tone. The road was quiet. A few passing cars skulked by.
Rocky, the neighbour’s black and white cat, sat sleepily on a nearby wall.
A fresh breeze took the heat out of me.
Sumona and I fought a lot. First it was over small things. Who did what house chores. Who said what to who, and why. But then they grew into more substantial fights. Or, rather, fights with more substantial implications. For example, they became about how different we were: that I am too relaxed whereas she is more organised; that I have one outlook on the world and she has another. Now I just feel too tired to fight. I feel bone-tired. Tired all the way through. Like I could sleep standing up, right there by the side of the road.
Rocky stood, arched his back to stretch, and then repositioned himself so that he was no longer facing me. Even he was done with it all.
I sat down on the steps and watched the lady at the nail salon lock the door and pull the shutters down over her shop. I gave her a wave. This was how she knew me now, the man sat on his steps watching the world. I reached into my shirt pocket for a cigarette and lit it, the smoke clouding around my face.
I closed my eyes and, for one reason or another, saw the serpentine streets of Haverock, the town I grew up in, where I cycled everywhere, jumping the dips and climbs of the pavement like a professional biker.
When I opened my eyes, the strangest thing happened. Rather than seeing everything as it was before - Rocky, the receding sun, the streets, the shutters - now a large metallic orb appeared in the middle of the road. It took me a moment to fully comprehend it. It was like a mirror, though everything reflected in it was upside down and warped to the shape of the orb. It was a perfect pinball, ballooned up to stretch the width of a lane, floating above the street. Its surface rippled like a puddle touched by a raindrop.
I looked around to gauge if anyone else could see what I could see. Rocky had gone; the lady from the nail salon had gone. There was no one here.
I stared at the orb for a while until an unsettling feeling crept into my stomach. At first I had no idea what it was. I thought it was just the discomfort of seeing something I had never seen before in my life. The questioning of what was reality and what was hysteria. I thought I was hallucinating, delirious from a lack of sleep. But then I realised it was what the orb represented that caused this. I suddenly felt as though the orb was a collection of my life’s memories, my entire existence, all in one place. And that if something were to happen to it, that my past would all shatter into tiny fragments and be lost forever.
My daze was broken by a loud, approaching engine. I turned to the left to see down the long, straight road a motorbike blitzing forward. Its rider was black leather-clad from head to toe, leaning forward, their expressions hidden by their helmet and visor.
It approached quickly, but before I could comprehend what was happening, it crashed straight into the orb. It was as though the rider couldn’t see it. The rider spun off onto the pavement, brushed a lamppost and hit a bin which flung the rider from their bike, hurtling into the metal shutters of the nail salon.
The orb crumbled into a million pieces and sunk into the grooves of the tarmac, shining like an oil spill.
I threw my cigarette to the floor and ran across the road. The motorbike lay on its side, lights glaring out at me. They were acutely bright.
I stepped past the bike towards the rider, who lay still against the shutters. I bent down and shook them slowly on the arm.
‘Are you okay?’ Are you alive?’
The rider groaned back at me. So at least they were alive.
‘I’m going to call for help.’
I took my phone out of my pocket and dialed for an ambulance. I told them what happened, gave them my address.
‘Can I take your helmet off?’
The rider didn’t say anything, but they didn’t stop me when I reached for it. It slipped off more easily than I expected. There were cuts and bruises along the face. When I came to consider the face in its entirety, it was a real shock. The rider was Sumona.
She shivered and whispered my name.
‘Stay with me,’ she said.
I felt emptiness in my stomach. My hands started to shake.
‘You’re going to be okay,’ I said. I brushed the hair out of her face. ‘I promise… I’m not going anywhere.’
I held her hand, hidden behind the leather gloves. I realised then, her grip very real in my hand, that I would give everything for her. What is living for if it can’t be with her?
A long time passed. She did not move much, and I held her hand the whole time. Her eyes looked searchingly at me before occasionally drifting into the dusk sky. I kept bringing her back to me, keeping her attention, and, thankfully, she returned.
It wasn’t long before the ambulance arrived. The paramedics asked me to move aside, but I didn’t want to let go of Sumona’s hand. Eventually I did, and the four medics surrounded Sumona and I couldn’t see her.
I stood watching, trying to see what was happening. But I couldn’t see her face, only glimpses of the black leather suit. They transported her to a stretcher and into the back of the ambulance. I asked one paramedic if I could come with her but they said no, that it wasn’t appropriate, and that they needed to leave. As quickly as anything, the ambulance drove off down the road, took a turn, and was no longer in sight.
That breeze returned. I felt like the loneliest man in the world. I sat on the steps again and lit another cigarette. My hands still shook. It was dark now and the streetlamps, including the one Sumona crashed into, were all on. I took a long inhalation of smoke and put my head in my hands. All I could see was her face.
I don’t know how long I stayed like that, but I came to again when the cigarette burned down all the way to my fingers and scolded them. I dropped it to the floor and inspected the little red burns it caused.
Rocky emerged in the spotlight of a lamp, and circled it happily. He came up to me and looked curiously into my face. He sat on his backside and glared up, as though telling me something about myself in the best way he knew how: through looks. I rubbed a hand over my eyes, pulling at the tiredness in them, and wondered what I should do next. Rocky stepped forward, reached up and put a paw on my knee. I tucked my fingers behind his ears and scratched them, watching his eyes wrinkle with joy.
‘Good night, Rocky.’
I stood, opened the front door to my building, and climbed the stairs back to my flat.
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