Zone

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You never explained to me the significance of the metal gate with any kind of satisfaction. Then again, perhaps I’m over-thinking. Perhaps there was no significance. It was convenient. It was there. Unfortunately, things are never just *there* with you. Everything has a purpose. Everything has a point. There’s no room for frippery, disorder, chaos. It’s maddening. Sometimes I want to kill you.

You keep playing with your hair and now it is greasy and lank against your cheeks. All we can smell is the sulphur. The liquid below is as still as moon dust. Rain dies in it. Plants shy away from it. Animals cannot bear it. You once swam in it. Three weeks later, you were back on solid food.

I feel fluttershy, so I look at the sun for an anchoring point. All around me is green dust, brittle as dawn ice. My elbows are weird, but that’s okay – so are yours. If you died of old age still a virgin, you’d probably be in the tiny minority of people who wouldn’t care. All those body parts crashing against each other bores you. When you can be bothered to watch pornography you sit with your arms wrapped around your tucked legs and you only think of steam trains, and the pistons hurling themselves back and forth to drag the wheels full circle full of noise, steam and violence.

Here, I say. Grip this thistle as hard as you can. You don’t flinch. I tell you to stop, and you squeeze harder. That’s enough I say. Let go of it. You pull it out of the ground without breaking your gaze from mine. I stare down at the brown hole left behind. I see your eyes transition from waking to dreaming. Your head tilts slightly. You slowly raise your hand and I can see your knuckles going white.

At the end I’m going apeshit as you stand like marble with one arm outstretched. When you raise it above your head trying to take your clenched fist out of my reach, I can see blood running down the insides of your arms, searching for the paths between your raised veins. Your long fingernails have penetrated your palm. Throughout the entire futile exercise, you never stop looking at me like a disappointed teacher. You look exactly like my Geography master, blandly sliding over a piece of paper detailing my extensive failure to embrace longshore drift. It takes me over an hour for you to open your palm, and when I see the thistle is gone the corners of your mouth curl upwards into a smile.

At the hospital, even as small pieces of leaf are being plucked with tweezers out of your wounds, you tell them a dog bit you. Any particular dog? That one over there you say, pointing out of the window to a passer-by in the street with a pushchair, barely containing a thrashing toddler in the midst of a heavy weather tantrum. The doctor looks back at you unamused as I try and climb into my own, scarless, palm.

‘He likes to play with fire.’ It’s unfair that the one interesting facet of my personality is such a hideous cliché. I feel the frustration when I have to explain the three fingers and two stumps on my right hand. I cannot see out of my right eye and yet the pupil still contracts and pulses when I see sunlight, shadow or when I feel fear, lust, anger. My eye has lost its voice and yet its lips still move soundlessly.

I’m not saying I’m normal, for the record. No one else in the history of the world is as obsessed by parallel lines. I can drive you crazy too. Sometimes I think you are frustrated that someone else embraces order as much as you (pretend?) to value it. My apartment is symmetrical. I have two cookers, but I only use one. I threw out a nest of tables with ornate curving legs and I burned them in the street. For this, I received a temporary misdemeanour and the permanent distrust of the local community. I wish you’d come over more often.

When I had friends, I told them about you. I told them about how, at your ninth birthday party, you disappeared for a few minutes and managed to remove four of your toenails. You stuck them to your little birthday outfit. I told them that you will end up being the first person in the history of civilised human society to be banned from a hospital. They laughed when I told them how you’d loudly announce the time during quiet study in the library. But then they stopped laughing when I told them how you’d come to school in one high heel and one flat, and how you’d fall down the stairs and break your nose. Again. And again. And again.

And yet, you always did well in Geography. Sometimes I should just shut my mouth.

‘For the record’, you say, ‘longshore drift is the transportation of sediment along a coast by tidal forces or the power of the wind.’ You’re still tying the corpse to the metal gate, lashing string around the torso, limbs pinned together, as though trying to mummify it in blue twine. If I squint, I could be looking at a hideous steampunk butterfly, frankensteined out of cast iron and flesh. ‘Wave action, and the direction of the wind push the sediments, such as sand or clay, along the coastline at an angle, usually as a result of erosion. Thus, it is deposited somewhere else, resulting in new coastlines and new areas of land – sometimes called spits – being formed. This can be resisted, although not with any finite success…’

Enough, I interrupt, as the gate and passenger are slid gently into the dark pool below. No ripples, just a dank absorption as it respectfully accepts this gift. In a few moments the pool is still again as though nothing untoward has happened. Peacefully content. Cloud has gathered, the air is thick with electricity, and you’re standing there freaking me out with your arms upward in a ‘V’ as though you’re summoning this shit. I’ve lost my anchor point, and I tell you I want to go home, and I eventually leave you behind as you remain on your invisible cross, lost in a lucid dream.

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