plummeting

They wish they’d eaten something different, wish their last purchase had been more extravagant, regret how unattractive they’ll look in two dimensions….”

 

by lydia barker

 

Anonymity works in this fashion: you huddle, one of four off to one side of a crowded downtown cafe, and no matter how many times you’ve been there, replayed the same scene, you are no one. You essay to adhere to the unspoken codes of diners the world over: if the furniture to your left suddenly yawns, stretches, and scuttles away, you saw nothing. Your shoulders are the same hunched shoulders as the customer before you, and your tip will be the same crumpled green currency tossed among the wreckage of meals past as you turn to leave. To affect any other motion is to puncture the delicate pellicle of The Coffee Buzz.

Her refined posture and slight contempt stand out, then, in the din of culinary discussion; she is far too comfortable, too jaunty, to be innominate.

Setting down her glass of water, she allows her discomforting stare to settle upon the grungy man opposite her. She calculates the pause and then languidly begins,

“It’s kind of funny, watching someone plummet.”

She savors the last word, mouth curling around the enunciation before letting it fall abruptly to the unswept floor.

“So many emotions slip away as the poor fuck dwindles towards solid, unyielding rock: disbelief, hysteria, desperate, fledgling fear…”

She toys with her straw, never quite disregarding her prey beneath long, sultry lashes and an innocent (deliberate) pedant’s delight.

“They fall apace, faster and faster until they finally reach terminal velocity and so many thoughts are rushing through their head… you can see them wishing their last words had been different, wishing they could have done more in life. All stereotypical bullshit. Then again, people think the stupidest things when they know their organs will soon be modern art…”

(She laughs.)

“They wish they’d eaten something different, wish their last purchase had been more extravagant, regret how unattractive they’ll look in two dimensions… they start wondering who’ll notice, who’ll rush to help at the moment of impact. So many synapses fired in just a few milliseconds… isn’t the mind beautiful?”

The aura of injured anonymity begins to grow more palpable, spreading to her cringing audience. She adeptly ignores the response, focusing the full lash of her commentary upon the man across from her.

Now backtracking, “See, that’s the funny part! They did it to themselves. They made the conscious decision to jump, and nobody notices, nobody gives a shit. It’s just priceless.”

She glances at her watch and rises, smiling apologetically.

“Hey look, I gotta run, I’m sorry…” She quips, eyes still toying with a malicious intent.

He watches her go, avoiding the looks of the table’s other occupants, and reaches uneasily for a cigarette. The table hovers millions of miles above him along with his sick stomach, spinning vertiginously with the echoed sound of her voice:

“It’s kind of funny, watching someone plummet.”

Originally published:
Issue Thirty
March 2004

 

(illustration: john richen)


Lydia Barker is a full time workaholic-student in northern Virginia. When she’s not frantically trying to memorize something for an exam, she can often be found inking, composing, or doing editorial work for the literary magazine Threshold. Her passion, animals, is expressed through her Humane Society work.

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