[Fiction] Skeins

What you’ve got to understand is that things don’t always happen for a reason.

It’s like she said: you’re walking along one day and suddenly you open your eyes and everything’s different, but nothing has changed. You know the mailbox is empty, but you still feel compelled to check; you plunge desperately into the tedious patterns of your life, seeking cover, hoping that immersion in pointless grasping futilities will keep the doubts away. It doesn’t, of course, and you knew it wouldn’t; but you check your phone again, just in case, driven by pathetic, helpless optimism. Thanks for asking, I’m much better now, and maybe sometime next week? Only if you can; there are things to be determined, and time does have a tendency to slip away.

She says it’s the universe’s little joke. Some joke, huh? Comedy isn’t absolute, we know that. What I find funny, you may not and so forth; but this one’s in poor taste, I feel. You read the news this morning, peering at the shrunken text on your too-small screen : “Startling events! Man left shocked, but alive.” “Forecast grim with troubling times ahead.” “Girl, 7, does something you won’t believe!!!” You’re living the events, and the article’s in development while everyone is waiting for the punchline. When it arrives there’s a formula to follow, baddabing baddaboom, perfunctory laughter through the room, a smattering of polite, robotic applause. But the punchline can’t fall flat if it doesn’t arrive first, and therein lies the universe’s cruel little jab.

It’s a sort of cosmic sideswipe, an existential jolt of realization that leaves us off-kilter and scrabbling for support. The worst part is we know it’s happening but are powerless to stop it, no matter what sage advice is handed down to us. We are powerless to stop it, do you hear? No, I don’t want it to be this way, obviously, but it is, and that’s okay, because it has to be okay. Anything else is like blunt force trauma to the mirror of our selves, and I don’t know that the poor fragile dear can take another blow like that without shattering entirely.

Yes, she’s been ill recently, thanks for asking. No, not a cold, nothing like that. She’s getting better, I think, but it’s been slow. Perhaps we can make a date, soon? If time permits, of course.

“This whole thing’s a set-up,” she declares, brushing a single strand of hair impatiently from her eyes. “We only get one shot at this, right? It’s not like we get to go again. Okay, so, I’m here, and I’m doing things, trying things out. Look, let’s get it straight. I know you’re trying to be supportive, make sure I have a plan, make sure something’s in place so the future’s not just littered with dead-end I don’t knows, over and over and over like a goddamn broken record. Trust me, I’m sick of it too.

“Yeah, I spend time, a lot of time, staring into space, not applying for jobs, not laying foundations for that all-important future. Of course you won’t be around forever, and yet it’s all a little overwhelming. I was never really that good at multitasking, you know? I don’t even know who I am or what I’m like or what neat boxes I fall into, and trying to decide on a course of action’s pretty terrifying.”

The possibilities are endless. Life is your oyster.

And yet, there’s just something… she’s played games with her friends, hunched over sprawling boards with swarms of tiny plastic pieces shifting this way and that according to rules laid out in 12-point Helvetica. There’s a lot of options at any given time, and it’s easy to get trapped in the labyrinth of possibilities that swirl endlessly about in your head, hampered by the freedom you possess. Analysis paralysis they call it, taken by the cuteness of their rhyme.

She’s never struggled to seize on a course of action in such games, sending pieces to their fate with that cavalier off-handedness we’ve come to expect. Interesting results are sought after, and if a decision lacks tactical soundness, so be it. So why is life so different? It’s the same scenario: options aplenty, choose one, move on. But she can’t.

She’s trapped in a conundrum, and she doesn’t know the way out. Nobody does, but that doesn’t stop them trying, or at least that’s what they say. And when things happen, well, who can say why?

She says that things don’t always happen for a reason, and my thoughts become conflicted.

I think that I am her, and that she is me, but don’t quote me on that, for I lack the confidence to claim it is so.


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