Fragments

-8-

Perspective of Zaria Flimkien



The phone falls out of my hand and onto the floor as I remove my aching extremities from under the blanket and my similarly aching brain is stuck in a loop of asking itself the same question it always does: ″oh god, why am I like this? Who in their right mind would ever choose to be like this?″. 
It got boring years ago, not only because that particular self-deprecating train of thought is patently unproductive, but also because my own stupidity has proven to be useful in at least one way. It makes it almost impossible for me to lie to myself, because even as the more clearly verbalizable thoughts go on and on about how I essentially haven′t slept in four days, how dumb and pointless it is to get up and how the sensible course of action is to die and decompose beneath this pillow grave, there is nonetheless that warmth returning to my body. That flame which never quite goes out, being fanned to a blaze by the unexpected call from a friend. A physiological reaction contradicting an unhelpful automatic pattern of thought. And so the soles of my feet make contact with the cold floor and carry this person I have chosen to be toward the wardrobe, painfully, but in a good way.
On the kitchen table stands a wine glass to catch the water dripping from a hole in the ceiling which I still haven′t had the time to fix. Originally it had been a sauce pan, but the sound it made proved unbearable after only a few days. Maybe Seth could..? Nah, he′s busy enough. We essentially hadn′t spoken since I started getting more involved with the city council. Or maybe it was that I didn′t have the time to do things anymore. I sure wonder what that elusive guy is up to nowadays. 
A few more articles of clothing and half a grapefruit later, I leave the apartment to brace the outside world once more for today. With each step toward the docks, the voice listing the immense benefits of simply decomposing grows quieter and quieter and by the time I see Seth waving at me it has become almost inaudible. Drowned out by the sound of crushing waves and devastatingly refuted by the observable reality of human connection.

″Been a while, how′s your day been?″

The smile on his face is bright as ever as he comes in for a hug

″Lots of getting yelled at, lots of people not knowing what the city council is or does... One fine gentleman mistook me for his maid, which was a bit of a new one, but aside from that: the usual.″

I say this with a smile. In say most things with a smile, but it doesn′t stop Seth from uncomfortably grinding his teeth at the implication.

″Hey, at least the board has gone from not knowing who you are to profoundly disliking you and all of your proposals″

″Flattering, for sure, but I don′t really consider public distain to be my main achievement. Being hated has always been a side-gig, less a hobby and more a part time job to keep the lights on. Interviews pay, and the scorned are prime talk show material, it seems. Not that that′s intentional. There′s never any profit in the intentional bits. Helping people with their issues, listening to their concerns, found a new home for a family last week... small victories, small unlucrative victories.″

″I know, but it′s the only thing the radio keeps me up to date on: Who does corporate hate this week? I′ve got a bingo sheet, you know.″

″Glad to hear you haven′t lost interest in my perpetual running against walls. I put too much effort into it for the whole debacle to not at least be entertaining.″

″You′re not giving yourself enough credit, Ria.″

His expression is pained, but I can′t exactly place it. Lips curling the way they do when someone is biting down on the inside of their cheek. Like teeth digging into flesh, like thoughts digging into each other. Sincere eyes making a travesty of the whole thing.

″Oh? I was under the impression you didn′t approve.″

Immediately the stuck gears are torn apart, a tension transmuted, a shocked expression.

″What? Why?″

″The radio silence for one thing, plus you never particularly seemed one for politics″

″Well yeah. That′s why I left you alone. Being associated with someone like me would damage our campaign beyond the shadow of a doubt, don′t you think.″

″I feel like the people have bigger things to worry about than some of your more unsavory connections, and the media is already tearing me apart from so many angles that one more couldn′t possibly make a difference″

″Oftentimes contradictory angles″

″Oh yes, did you know that I was a nobody who can′t change anything due to having no connections and also that my strings are being pulled by various ominous forces? Never figured out how those two go together.″

″I′d have to ask some of those ominous forces″

″The soul-chain?″

″For example. I′m still trying to get into contact with some of the higher-ups to figure out if this whole thing is... you know, a scam″

Staring toward the horizon, I make an exaggerated show of thinking, blowing out my cheeks as noncommittal clouds drift overhead.

″Hmmm, I′m willing to believe that that′s part of it″

″Part?″

When I turn back to him, he has produced two bottles of beer from his bag and is presenting one to me with a look of playful curiosity. He′s in his early thirties, but he looks like a fourty-year old with the air of someone in their twenties. Like he aged asymmetrically.

″Well from what I know they primarily recruit underprivileged teenagers and I′m well aware how quickly you get attached to those, sooo wanting to make sure they aren′t being fucked over is definitely pretty high on your list...″

″But?″

″But underprivileged teens are getting fucked over everywhere and you are specifically pulling this rogue-investigator bit for the church, so I think you just want to learn about empaths in hopes that you can become one. Like a food critic who wants the public to be informed, sure, but it′s the free steak that haunts their dreams not the educated-decision making of consumers.″

″The idea has crossed my mind″

″The idea has been stuck in the exact center of the intersection that is your mind since we were in school″

″Important term in there being ″we″″

″I′ve told you that there isn′t such a thing as empaths for years now″

″And your words have been irreconcilable with your existence for just as long″

″Not a thing in that it′s not a distinct class of people, not a... What would be a kind way to put it? Dangerous mental disorder, as the media would want one to believe″

″That still wouldn′t explain you, but for what it′s worth, I hope you′re right. That would mean that I can learn it after all.″

″Glad to hear that with all your criminal connections you still consider me to be dangerous″

″The distinct class of people part, not the dangerous basket case part″

″I know. Cheers″

″Cheers″