With teeth on show, top lip pulled up past the gum, he says it again, the exact same words in the exact same order: What did you do with the money? Hollis keeps focus on the images below her. She was tricked out of it. She wasn't to know the guy did this kind of thing all the time. Only the loneliest of people suspect everyone. So she was flattered, enjoyed the encroachment of a foreign body into hers, outright adored the exit of her libido from its holding. Chancing a look up, she scans the kitchen. Two of the tiles over the oven hobs have scruffy, liney drawings on them. Because a whole set of plain tiles wouldn't do? The frying pan and boiling pot are discernible and self-explanatory, though the curves haven't a single credential between them, but the other scribble could be a kettle or it could be a genie lamp. Inevitably, more problems than solutions would come of her three wishes. That's what it is with live desires: they're cocking their leg over someone before you've even realised you're responsible for them. She sees stuff on the shelves attached to the cupboards, things such as photo frames, small plastic plants, and then the cupboards themselves, three shades of brown, then the peeling paint of the coving; she sees everything amongst the walls except for Victor. He won't understand what she did. For him, affairs are the mistakes of those who are too interested in their own weaknesses. Not like him and her. So telling him something that he's unprepared for, letting him know that she's not what he'd already come to terms with, that's grit in the glands. Because Hollis is going to have to reveal that which she can't bear the most, the thing she wears exclusively inside herself, which is that, complimentary to loving him, she also can't stand him and she doesn't always take a back seat on that feeling, she acts. Admitting this is admitting that her goings on lack any meaning beyond the opposing forces he exerts upon her and if this is the case then she may as well not go on, may as well cease. The appeal of that foreign body was that he wasn't Victor and therefore his exertions on her were so novel it was as if her feelings were entirely of her own making. But, she decided, if it isn't Victor she's with, it will only be someone else whose close proximity fills the gap between her and whatever is beyond, and if it's not that someone else, it'll be another someone else yet again. So what she's aggrieved by the most, that is, his Victorness, is mostly a by-product of the role he's in. And perhaps she'd rather the 'ness' she knows to one she doesn't as there's no prefixing it out of the way, no un or dis or in to get rid of or reverse a person's 'ness'. She and he are one big 'ness' now. His specifics are also hers. 'I' refers to symbiosis; 'I' isn't a whole individual but code for the way things go. Victor won't appreciate the way he complicates her choices or see that he, as in the things he says and the things he doesn't, results in the withdrawal of liveable moments. Like the ones of blank calmness, sitting in the living room reading about people who are doing things, those are mostly gone, or were perhaps only ever so conspicuous in their spareness anyway. He's shifting his weight from right to left, lurching forward a bit, so she looks down again at the picture of a block of flats. A grey, almost beige, building, windows, one above the other, in seven columns, a leafless tree stencil in front of the door up to the third floor. This is in Berlin, the place they are going to live. And here virtual past will become actual past. The present passing on and such. Here in Berlin they will continue as people, he in his communicative, trusting manner, she in the way of corners around staircases. She lifts her head to him and they eye each other up, whites and colours wavering like rudimentary UFOs. His arms cross his chest, her right hand grasps her left fingers, cracking each joint. She sees in him that self that used to peer through the bars of her rib-cage. Next, she's back to the tiles, not to the patterned one, but one of the plain ones that when honed in on is like a big tub of natural yoghurt consumed all in one go, sameness added, multiplied and divided, appealing until it becomes too noticeable. Now at his eyes again, noting how seldom he's blinking nowadays. Yup, she thinks, Victor's level to a fault, an 'always-already' of emotional honesty, no roundabout digressions or deceptions. He's the type who says 'How was your day?' because he wants to know the answer. Hollis? No echo in a room this size, any reverberations are purely her own inner prolongations, or the grumblings of the dissatisfied clients within. If she refuses to speak, what's he going to do about it? It is remotely plausible that they could perform these same movements, with diminishing returns, until they are immobile and decay because that's all they've been doing, all they're going to do anyway. Flakes will fall to piles from the grind of bones in their around the compass adjustments. Fungal and bacterial enzymes will do their thing. She thinks of flies, thinks of the sounds of them in the kitchen after she and Victor have been disposed of. Every part of her is a rough translation of him so when she tells him that there's no money, no flat in Berlin, none of his predictions left, and the reason for it, the devastation is going to speak with the disconcerting jar of subject-object-verb. Again, he lurches, shifts, and he bears down with such irreducible weight that she can't keep it up any longer. There are no tiles, shelves, cupboards, no kitchen, the walls having receded beyond impression. There is only him and the words gathering in her throat, demanding release or death, and against all of her ideas of the tolerable, she's going to open her mouth and she's going to look him in the eye and she's going to say them.
It's a dark place.
She felt herself being pulled down, as if she were being sucked through the centre of the earth, but now she's in a peaceable drift.
A memory of the feeling of stealing a bar of lavender-scented soap from her elderly neighbour when she was five: if nobody missed it or knew she'd done it, then whether it was right or wrong didn't matter, she only had to reconcile the act with the parameters of what actions she could cope with. That's the feeling most similar to what she's currently experiencing.
Temperature is, mostly, unnoticeable.
The lack of him is startling in its tangibility. She had thought he'd ceased for her as an object and him, the sensation of him, was only really experienced immaterially, but he is definitely missing, his bones and organs gone.
Like closing your eyes in a state of sleep deprivation or hangover, negatives shimmer in and out of shot, making and remaking themselves as animals, graphs or dancing figures.
She tries moving upwards, make her limbs push through the liquidlessness. There is no upwards. Every way is the same. Perhaps if she concentrated on one direction, focused on an endpoint, there would eventually be one. If she fought for it enough. But return to what? This was the point, wasn't it?
The feeling of the memory solidifies, crumbles, and is replaced by solace, a washing of the most out-of-reach places, leaving warm and tingling skin. As it soaks in everywhere, her extremities elongate with the release of tension and go slack and remain there, sticking out yet hardly noticeable. Then there is terror. This comes on quick. It abolishes her one reasonable argument. For the hormones running as fast as possible from their glands, racing lanes lead to her heart. After a while, it only gets worse before solace returns. These two alternate staccato-like for a while, spiking and dropping off, until, out of these conditions emerges sadness. It requires her whole body to give in. She could be mourning if the pain were a blade instead of a handle pressing on the skin over her heart. Its surface-area widens and its weight covers her body for a period that continues going on and on. Although even this isn't permanent and it lessens and returns to solace, then to fear and then
back again, an order that, once established, shows no signs of changing.
What was is what was. It could never have been present as long as there was the possibility of a future. This is now. No futurity: what will and is going to happen can only be what is happening.
After an indeterminable period, the rotation of her feelings slows and the impressions begin to subside. They may completely stop altogether, a concept rolling in the back of her head.
Expectation coats the last recognisable moments of sensation, the ternary of emotions fading out to infinitesimally small implosions, and finally the coating evaporates, the infinitesimal shrinks to nothing.
Still there is no ending, just an endurance.
Like shots under the city, no one hears the start or finish of the commotion; feet above move towards their destinations, rest, and move on again, while a life lives out its limits with a stretch of terminal absence from the thinkings of incompatible beings, the flexes of a spirit in drag undressing alone.