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<p>A short story by Candy James-Zoccoli.</p>

I watch as he lowers his terracotta mug onto the handmade table. Between the cup’s set-down and the opening of his mouth, I think two things: wow, terracotta is an overused colour in literature and gee, how is a table made if not at some point in the process by hand?

“The TV’s broken.”

I look past his shoulder and stare into the TV’s polished abyss. It’s like I expected it to have a hairline split straight through the middle or a collection of smattered bruising in the lower right hand corner. He must mean internally.

“Sorry to hear that.”

Condolences. Wow. Could I be any less my usual, acerbic self? Not completely remiss, however, Lon spends more time with his TV than any other appliance.

Existential thoughts drown me during the next bout of silence. What do we lose when we while away the time in front of moving images removed from our reality? Why do we even have clocks on the wall to stare at if we’re as lazy as the both of us are? No, Lon’s not that lazy. And really, if I were to face the day with more conviction, neither would I be. I figured we were used to this silence. I always liked it. It doesn’t mean I didn’t notice it, wonder about its being there, surrounding us, uninvited but not resented. Lon runs his hand across his scalp, stopping at a spot behind his ear. Dandruff dusts his faux-denim shoulders, powdered through the sieve of his palm. He smacks his lips and reclaims his mug, taking his tea in tentative, puckered sips, the kind with an edge of slurp.

“You’re making progress.”

“Hmm?”

I gesture to the backyard. The pile of boxes that was there last time has decreased significantly.

This is the second time I’ve been allowed in Lon’s house. The first time it was three in the morning and it seemed more practical and cost-efficient than hiking 50 minutes from the city in a cheaply air-freshened cab. I usually provide the transport. Every time I’ve driven Lon home, I’ve left my foot on the brake pedal and the car in drive just long enough to see if the offer to come in would be ripe enough. He’d thank me for the day, dart his eyes around and then get out, not even turning around for a final wave. I’d linger for a few seconds, unsure of whether or not it was rude to drive off without witnessing an open door. I convinced myself he hardly needed my hovering.

Our silences have always occurred in previously designated venues. Silence in cafes, art galleries, on park benches. At times our forearms have bumped, mine frozen, against his running warmth. I think I’ve always felt an undertone of safety, comfort. Like he would be there when I finally decided to confess to the torch I’d been holding for him under my collar.

 

A compilation disc of opportunistic melodies designed to placate anything akin to someone who would respond to her romantically plays on a loop in my car; lyrics composed with the intention of altering perceptions, morphing passive feelings, a tentative call to action. I don’t know why I don’t change the disc. Lon always shifts to the radio.

 

 
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