Author Topic: Time (6,008 words)  (Read 210 times)

Michael_Surname

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Time (6,008 words)
« on: December 19, 2020, 04:09:57 PM »
[This is a character drama/philosophy fiction. I like what I have so far but I feel like it's missing some drama. Any and all feedback is welcome, but criticism about pacing, where the philosophy stuff feels redundant or boring, and how the central relationship could feel more engaging would be especially appreciated!]

[1/4]

For the purpose of rendering this piece comprehensible, some philosophical consideration is needed. For our protagonist by the name of Ty Murphy, stuck still in his room with nobody else around, is nevertheless undergoing a profound psychological transformation which cannot be illuminated by simple catalogue of external occurrences. To understand this moment's drama, we must join his headspace briefly. Apologies for the lack of space within this narrow premise, though with hope a greater field of reader interpretation will soon be applicable.
   Do we really live? Rote inquiry this may be, yet it was the fundamental question our protagonist rested on, to hide from his other immediate concerns. A sharper phrasing might be, do we really live in the present? Let us resist an answer from the scientific perspectives, ungenerously assuming a literal plea, and instead take it as metaphorical. We live, of course, and breathe as our protagonist Ty does, though not quite as heavily as he does currently, in this lynchpin point between the infinite past and the lengthy future we call the present. Ty would not dispute this fact, lest he was performing either a rather radical Devil's Advocate, or the action which constituted a great intersection of conundrums for philosophers known as dying. The folk logic of observation suggests he is doing neither.
   Rather, living, here, constitutes a passage through the present in line with a certain kind of value, that of a life worth living. Here we are instead talking of life as considered through the combined lens of retrospect and speculation, a living in the moment with the anticipation of some later evaluation combining the past and assumed future into a judgement of a person's worth. This judgement was one the titular Ty now considered, in the context of a personal crisis regarding a radically disintegrating friendship he will later attempt to rectify.
   We seem to be getting ahead of ourselves, so perhaps we'll try a different tack.
   Many have written about the future, and many more about the past. There are whole genres of literary fiction and philosophical thought dedicated to each, and still, the enormous role they play in every aspect of our conscious lives can only be understated. When, say, a friendship is sparked, it is built on a future promise that you will see this person again. We often measure the depth of a friendship in chronological accounts. Relationships are constructed not by the transient present, but by the imagined stability of past and future, to the point where the present moment appears trivial in its scope even when such moments emerge to smash the constructed ideas of these relationships. It is hard to imagine social relationship existing without time. Without time, discussions between our closest become mere exchange, unmoored, hopeless. The common materials of such relationships – the initial discomfort, the small commonalities and the later, deeper connections formed in the long conversations where there is no sense of time, the late-term buzz of nostalgia, the rough patches, and the dismal failure of an imagined reconciliation over coffee in the back booth of a sunless café – all of these may be enjoyed or endured in the moment, but it is the relation to what precedes and succeeds that give them their meaning.
   Or, rather, our meaning. Our more alert readers may have already considered the further consequences of this theory: firstly, that we account for almost everything in life within this metric. What other way can a life be deemed 'worth living' but in the consideration of its entire scope? 'Life worth living' is a concern for the deathbed, but it is one we work to anticipate and influence throughout every stage of our lives. It is the central question of much philosophy – 'How to live the good life' – and despite its ubiquity, few philosophers have seriously examined how essentially this idea is related to time. Yet it is a concern well known to many of us, including many of the readers of this soon-to-be-unravelled tale, and it is a concern that will no doubt plague many of our own deathbeds.
   The second consequence of this understanding of time is that much of this past/future is selective, in ways analogous to storytelling. If you have ever encountered failure, or lost a close friend, or stubbed your toe, and spiralled into a radical revision of your self-image and view of the world, you will understand this question. 'Why does everything bad that could happen, have to happen to me?', we ask, responding to one too many minor inconveniences. The sense that we will never succeed, or that the entire world is out to get us, are (hopefully) rare tendencies for the mind, but they are merely more extreme examples of a constant reshuffling of the narrative within our own lives. It may be noted that these tendencies are more common among the public under certain sociological conditions, such as living in a society as predatory and economically precarious as this one, though many wish to elide this analysis. From the results of experiments such as the Diurnal variation test (Clarke and Teasdale, 1982), we are more likely to remember our past lows when in a period of depression. Our answer to the 'good life' question largely depends on our mood, which is never as objective and unchanging as we would like to be for the purposes of such a supposedly universal and objective question. Self-evaluation is fluid, and even unambiguously happy memories can become malleable over time, especially in the light of later destabilising events.
   Ty was in such a period now (I use 'was' and 'now' together in this sentence because of the dual nature of this period; it was a time of reflection on the past and, simultaneously, one of urgent, present, active decision). He was in bed, lying on his back, half dressed to leave, half dressed to stay. His feet wrapped around one of the wooden pillars as he stared out the window, at an angle which only gave him the further corners of the sunset, the deep blurry watercolour emanating from the sun somewhere out of frame, and a sharper sight of some bare autumn trees billowing below it. The frosty brown image condensed on his window lended a murky portent to Mr Miloss's mood – even the sun seemed frosty and the marked contrast with the dazzling behemoth that was the summer sun, now a mere glint in the eye as even memories went, was registered but not deeply examined by Ty. He had always preferred Autumn to Summer, always anticipating the latter with greater fervour but enjoying it less. (His phone dinged and a notification from Rían came up. He ignored it).
   Especially the autumns with Seónaidh. Her name would pop into his head during otherwise unrelated daydreams, lacking in context but bringing with it a new range of ideas and reminisces. For illustration, the bare branches outside his window reminded him of the time spent trampling them on the Christmas walk, one of his earliest ever memories. The crunch of frozen leaves underfoot, the steady gasps and the frosty glitter of everything felt as strong and sharp as it was when it initially happened. With this came a stream of other consciousnesses, recollected haphazardly from a pool of tangential memories like a fistful of pebbles wrenched from a river shallow. The trample sound was likened to a bag of ice, applied to the head after a nasty fall in playschool. 'Playschool' universalised in Ty's head and became school, its regiments, the bell, the clock, above all the friends he made there. Sleepovers at Ty's house (and the long, revelatory conversations that came with it) were evoked by the strong image of a dim blue bedroom that seemed to glow in the dark, which further abstracted into meditations on blue, and the snowglobe Seónaidh's winter wear. Admiral Seónaidh, with her Aegean palette getting old, soon adopted frosty tones and ghosted.
   Ty was drowsy and didn't understand that last part, but we continue. Autumn was Seonaidh's season. She would blend into the morning blue, seemingly vanishing from her house when she left for school on a dim morning. When the morning bell struck, she would come in from the cold like Blue Riding Hood, with no word of where she had been.
   “I just hate being early” was her only explanation, and that was certainly true: in the time of the school play, she was the last to audition and even up to showtime she would emerge moments before her scenes, much less before the start of the play. Coming to Ty's house or any other social event, she would arrive exactly on time and promptly leave when she was done, sometimes without a goodbye to everyone. But when she did appear, on the stage or as a friend, no-one could ignore her. It was dismissed as 'arrogance' by people who said the same for any confident girl in the year, but 'Seó-off' (a cruel nickname) didn't cowtow to even the cruellest social pressures.
   Ty currently continued to strangle the bedpost with his shoes. A cloud passed over the sun and his room darkened in tandem. Ty had read a novel where the darkening of stray clouds was said to have a unique cognitive effect akin to a persecution complex, leading each character to feel as if the shadows were cast upon them alone. This destabilised the emotional security of the various characters, causing them to make the decisions that kicked off the story and led the formerly disconnected characters to unite through circumstance Ty thought the notion to be as foolish as the novel itself, whose title he had forgotten within a month or so, and now he thought of the current clouds as an act of retribution from the book. The irony in this was lost on Ty, though he did entertain himself considering the precarious luxury of forgetting one's enemies long before they have forgotten you.
   Ty had gotten sidetracked again, and refocused.
   When Ty and Seonaidh first met (sort of – we'll get to that), they were in line for the principal's office. Their school had a new and an old building, and the hallway to the principal's office was a small bridge connecting the two with a glass surrounding. Hockey matches hurried themselves out, kicking up September dew from the grass and outsinging the morning birds with loud commands and directions to other crashing players. Beyond that, the waving line of houses snaked around the school and over the hills and valleys like a domestic siege (or, a sit-in). Ty thought he could remember Seonaidh heading into one of those nearby houses after school, while he waited for the bus. “Do you live near” was no great ice-breaker for the person sitting two seats to the side of him, whose name he knew largely from hearing it over the intercom every morning. Seonaidh, Seo-off, already a reputation. She was looking at the hockey match too, squinting as if she could make out the players' faces through the foggy glass and the morning mist that stood in its way, possibly trying to spot her friends.

Michael_Surname

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Re: Time (6,008 words)
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2020, 04:11:41 PM »
[2/4]
“Do you play hockey?”
   Seonaidh looked up. “No, I'm just waiting to see someone lose.”
   “Oh?”
   “No, not really. It's just Sarah keeps annoying me in history. She's on goal now.” Seonaidh turned back towards the match and leaned forward, squinting again.
   “It's a friendly match today, isn't it?”
   “Not from up here.” Seonaidh smiled. “And you play, aren't you getting picked for something?”
   “Uhh... Yeah, there's tryouts but, hoping I'm not picked. It's really competitive, and I kinda just like playing the game.”
   “Don't want to get picked out and taken away from the team here, fair. You're close with Rían, aren't you?”
   “Oh, you've been watching us so?”
   “...I just like people watching, if you're in this school long enough you have to notice things.”
   “I was joking, actually.”
   “...oh... same?”
   They both laughed quietly.
   “Is he close with you back?”
   “What do you mean?” Ty felt his chest tightening.
   “It seems like you like him. Have you asked him... about it?”
   The words came out of Ty's mouth involuntarily. “I dunno, he doesn't seem to notice me. As much, anyway. I was thinking of asking him to the Friary, but it closed then.”
   “Hmm. Maybe try the Mardyke Bar off Washington Street, he'd like it. It's very arcade-y and there's board games and stuff. So it's fun, but it's very quiet and intimate too.”
   “Yeah, I should try that actually. Thanks.”
   There was a pause, then Ty said.
   “I haven't told anyone about that before.”
   “Oh, I won't tell, don't worry.”
   “No, I mean, no-one's asked. You're the first person to talk to me about it.”
   Seonaidh smiled. “No bother. There'll be others, once you get out of this school anyway. So have you any questions about me?”
   Ty felt nervous and settled safe. “Well, why are you going to the principal's office?”
   Seonaidh leaned back in her seat, stretching her legs along the floor until they were a third of the way across the narrow hallway. “Lateness, basically. I just find it hard to get up for classes in the morning.”
   “But when you do...”
   “People know.”
   The principal stepped out and called Ty to step inside. Ty moved to join him, but not before stopping next to Seonaidh and saying “You're in with me for Biology, right? I'll see you there.”
   “I'll see you then, Ty.” Then he stepped out of the room.
   While Ty was now the one stuck in bed and unable to find the energy to move, this time well into the evening, a few details about this 'first encounter' stand out to Ty with the benefit of hindsight. The most glaring being that this was not their first meeting. As Seonaidh mentioned to him some years later, they were actually paired up for a project in First Year during the horrible awkward icebreakers thing during orientation. She was surprised and maybe a little hurt that he had forgotten, but by then they'd known each other years and had no (little?) ambiguity about the state of their friendship now.
   The other was her dismissal of her former friends. As he had seen before but never noticed, and was later told by Seonaidh herself, herself and Sarah (the bullying girl she had been watching play hockey) had actually been close friends since the start of secondary, after Seonaidh had drifted from her primary school friends. They bonded over a love of films, until the films began to overtake their friendship and they came to discuss little else. Sarah was an important moment for an uncertain inductee who had no friends and knew few people from primary passing over to this secondary school, but over time the differences between them became too sharp and too unspoken, and Seonaidh decided to break it off. This led Ty to reflect on stepping stone friendships, ones which did not last but helped you see your own value, eventually enough so that you can accept the friendship's end and move on. From that, it led Ty to question this 'skipping stone' theory, in how it dismisses the damaging effects of that experience as momentary while assuming any positive character development from losing a friend is eternal.
   Finally it led Ty to stop going off-topic and focus on the next key memory. It was a sleepover at Ty's house, and though a few of their friends came over, including Sarah and Rían, by the end it was just Ty and Seonaidh.
   Ty was extremely nervous about having people in his room. When he did have people over (like Seonaidh, Ty had few friends), they hung out in the front room and seldom went anywhere else. So when (at about half 12) there were only four of them left (including Ty), and the room was a little big. When Seonaidh mentioned moving it to Ty's room, he felt anxious about showing them but the desire to fit in and appear normal had overpowered him.
   “Sure, let's go up.”
   He showed the three of them through to the cramped interior with the low ceiling, Ty and Sarah sat on the bed that took up 1/5th of the room, Rían and Seonaidh sat in these wooden chairs pulled from the kitchen. Ty had spent much of the evening talking with Sarah and he could feel this rising tension whenever Seonaidh noticed. Ty too felt uncomfortable when he saw her talking with Rían, largely because of what they had talked about that time outside the principal's office. With four of them talking at once in a small room, their voices were cacophonous, all the words vanishing from Ty's mind as soon as he heard them but he still remembers the atmosphere. After a while the pace of conversation slowed, relying on callbacks to previous jokes to keep things moving, and Rían and Sarah politely excused themselves. Ty volunteered that they could stay over, but only Seonaidh took up the offer.
   “God, that was exhausting.”
   “Oh yeah?” Ty was pulling the bedsheets from the hot press. “Are you and Sarah not getting on?”
   “No, we're doing really well actually - I like hanging out with her, and with ye, it's just draining for me personally – I've found it hard to keep up with people.”
   “Oh, that's no bother. I'm the same sometimes.” Ty only realised, in saying it aloud, that that was actually how he felt.
   “Yeah, I was thinking that. When we were at whatever-his-name-is', on Halloween, was that how you felt?”
   “No, I wasn't too bad that time actually- well, a bit. But I mainly just didn't want to be there, I spent the whole night looking for the exit.”
   “That's how I feel all the time,” Seonaidh said and laughed.
   “Really?”
   “Yeah, I just... I haven't really enjoyed having friends for a long time. Last week I went to my aunt's house, I was hanging out with my cousin. We grew up in West Cork together, we lived close by and practically lived together, in fact a few times we did. She left to do, you know, that exchange programme last year, right during the week of pres, and I got really stressed out that whole week. I felt sick and nauseous going into school that whole week, and I remember I left during History just to cry in the toilets. It was like I didn't have anyone to talk to. Then she came back last week, we'd stayed in contact but I hadn't even time to visit cos of exams.
   Eventually I did, and we set up a date for me to head down. So we were at my aunt's, we took her dog Beavis for a run, she was showing me some new songs she'd learned on guitar, and we ended the day watching One Piece picking up from the last episode we watched before she left. We talked about everything, joked and laughed, but at one point she got up to go to the toilet and I thought “thank god she's gone.” It was so weird. She wasn't even gone, she just stepped out for the room for like 5 minutes, but I felt relieved.”
   “Like she did,” Ty said, but Seonaidh didn't laugh.
   “And for the rest of the evening, I just couldn't stand her. She seemed to talk about the same things all the time. It was like we hadn't aged past 12 - the jokes she made, her stories, every bit of it just made me more and more sick of being there. When I was gonna leave, we hugged and laughed about how happy we were to see each other again, but I wasn't. Whenever she wants to meet up now I make an excuse – in fairness, I am really busy with school, but I normally would make the time for her.
   “That's how it's been with everyone to be honest, and I don't know what it is. I just feel so disconnected from everyone, I keep chatting and smiling and clinging to people while everything feels like TV static on the inside. I don't know what to do. I hate it cos they're my friends, and I shouldn't feel this way... I'm just not really enjoying anything at the moment.”
   Ty was at a loss for words. “And do you feel that way now?”
   “No.”
   As Seonaidh spoke, Ty was shocked. At first he felt sorry for Seonaidh, then he was hurt, but at the end he felt a weight in his chest, like a sickness, suddenly lift. He was relieved, because he had felt exactly the same way. Trust issues, wanting to be alone and not being able to enjoy your friends' time were just things you didn't talk about, and Ty barely thought about them. But they were always there. Ironically, talking about disconnect and friend avoidance made him feel that bit closer to Seonaidh, more than he'd felt with his other friends - maybe ever.

Michael_Surname

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Re: Time (6,008 words)
« Reply #2 on: December 19, 2020, 04:12:41 PM »
[3/4]
This irony ran through the entire rest of their conversation, which lasted a couple of hours. As Ty stuffed the pillowcases and shook out the blanket, Seonaidh laughed with relief about how much she hated primary school, how the people there worked daily to make her feel wrong and out of place. Ty asked if she knew anyone from home she could talk to about her worries, she might as well have shook her head and announced defeat as an answer. The duvet kicked up, and softly floated down on the bed where Ty and Seonaidh popped it over the bed corners. They sat on the floor, Seonaidh leaning against the same post that Ty was poking and prodding through his socks years later as he stared at the ceiling. Seonaidh cursed her old friends, how she was nervous to talk about anything personal around them, how they were too immature and Seonaidh had outgrown them. Ty heard all this and considered it a sign of trust in him. He responded in kind, talking about friends of Rian making him the butt of their jokes, trying to shut down Ty to seem cool. If Ty was savvier and not so enamoured, he would have noted how tenuous many of his friendships were, how much he had filled that lack of trustfulness into a persecution complex rather than fixing it, and how enthusiastic Seonaidh was about leaving behind her old friends once she got the chance. With the simplifying benefits of hindsight, the flaw of having a moment of bonding predicated on airing your problems with other friends seems incredibly clear-cut. But this would not manifest for another few years. As the conversation ended and he climbed into bed, the little sigh Ty made mirrored the one he would make several years later after realising his friendship with Seonaidh had ended. A flat breath of air, easing the chest but clarifying nothing, it was the weary way he'd accept another morning for a significant time, including long before she left. This, too, didn't occur to him until after things it had gotten far too serious to be easily fixed.
   There are a few philosophical concepts Ty had to help him understand this experience, ones which he could only hazily remember and so his memory had mashed parts of them together to suit his current needs. Ty liked to call it 'deconstruction', though the name was already taken by one of the philosophers Ty was butchering. One key aspect of Ty's(?) theory that is relevant to our narrative is an individualist approach to language and communication, and the implications it brings for human relationships of all kinds. Put simply, the old way of considering language is to believe that each word directly corresponds to a single idea. When we say “tree”, for example, we are identifying the concept 'tree' and using the word it corresponds to, with no other complications. In this theory, language and thought are linked directly, to the point of being different forms of the same thing.
   In recent decades, however (as far as Ty remembers), a counter-theory has emerged: primarily a literary theory, it instead proposes that words are symbols that carry a whole nest of ideas with them. Under this theory, when you think of the word 'tree', you will think of their colour, images of the different kinds of leaves they have will come to mind, you will probably start to think about trees you have encountered throughout your life, especially the ones from your childhood or that are otherwise significant to you. This may lead you to think of trees in metaphorical terms; the tree of Life, the changing seasons as associated with ageing, the pattern of your own life... 'tree' is not a single idea, it is a web of associations we have built up throughout our life. Thus, when we use the word 'tree', it triggers an explosion of senses, images, smells, colours, ideas and associations, from all the interactions we have accumulated over time that link to the word.
   As delightful an idea this is, and we should appreciate the colourful and vibrant flowing character it gives to language and art, it also raises several troublesome implications for how we talk to people. Since words are informed by experience, and no two people's life experiences are the same (unless they are the exact same person, this is impossible), then a word will mean something different for every person who uses it, especially with those words assigning more general, universal concepts. If this difference of experience can influence how we understand a word like 'tree', imagine what happens when you apply to more loaded words, like 'love', 'identity', 'past', the name of someone you've known a long time, etc. When we talk with someone, be they a lifelong friend, partner, or casual acquaintance, we are not communicating directly. This is not an intimate communication where two minds each take their ideas, passions, worries and visions and bring them to another person, thereby validating those feelings and sharing wonder. Speech, rather, is a simultaneous translation, where ideas are converted (roughly) into words and then translated back (roughly) into similar but not identical ideas. Even when we're speaking the same language, all communication requires interpretation.
   So when someone says “Everything is getting to me,” even a measured, professional diagnosis cannot convert these words back to the original subjective experience being described. When someone says “I don't really fit in here anymore,” as Seonaidh did, the true implication here could never be certain, only guessed at. Likewise, in the year-long fallout after Seonaidh ghosted Ty and all their mutuals, he found it hard to talk about. He went a month without mentioning it to anyone, hoping that this was just a misunderstanding between himself and Seonaidh and which she would explain and resolve once she got back to him, until eventually it was brought up at Sarah's house. Then he finally spilled, giving a garbled and rambling account of her disappearance, but even then it felt incomplete. Some spare details emerged, like Seonaidh's relative distance from her other friends, but even those were minor suspicions only made notable in retrospect. In truth, Ty is lying in bed in the early afternoon over a year on, nursing new problems, and yet his mind still returns to Seonaidh, with no answers and no new insights. In that time he had made new friends, found solidarity with old ones and moved on with his life. But his mind had not escaped the pull of this mystery, and it was a mystery he ultimately felt alone in. Because of the deconstruction problem, he still found it difficult to get across exactly how it had affected him, in part because it was founded on a relationship he once thought two-way and direct.
   With the awareness that Seonaidh and him were actually not at all on the same page, it began a process of re-evaluating their entire friendship. Every scene is subject to revision, every personal moment devolves into tangents that try to lend context to her movement, yet they still come up incomplete in gaining a full understanding. Having given up on understanding the full breadth of their relationship, Ty instead spent the following year polishing vignettes, endlessly replaying their friendship's formative moments like a rapidly degrading film projection, especially in moments where his relationship with other friends became strained.
   This is where the deconstruction problem and the theories about living in the moment (introduced earlier) come together-
   The phone rang. Ty was jolted up, scrambled half out of bed and grabbed his phone from the bedside table, landing with his calves high up on the mattress as he relieved the pressure from his arm and lowered his torso onto the floor.
   “Yes... mmhello?”
   It was Rían. “Oh hey Ty. Have you checked your messages?”
   “What?” Ty asked, though he assumed Rían was asking where Ty was, and was he coming to Sarah's at all.
   “I'm at Sarah's now, where are you? Are you coming at all?”
   “Oh, yeah, sorry. I don't know if-”
   Ty heard Rían sigh.
   “-I don't know if I'll make it, sorry.”
   There was a pause. After the sharp trill of the phone buzzing had jolted and alerted him, the adrenaline was already gone and Ty could feel the dread and fatigue overtake him. He already had trouble keeping up with friends, and depression wasn't helping. He settled with his head and back resting on the floor while his legs slung on top of the bed, and each new sentence from Rían that dragged him back into speech made him lurch.
   “Next time just say you're not interested. I'm sick of inviting you to things and trying to keep up with you and getting nothing back.”
   “Yeah, sorry.”
   “If you're sorry you'll do something about it. Every time it's like, how much longer is this gonna be going on? And it's not like this is your fault, but it's been this way for months, maybe you should be talking to someone.”
   “What, like you?” Ty bit his tongue.
   “Yes, like me! Fucking asshole, I'm trying to help. Dunno why I bother.”
   “...see you.”
   Rían sighed again. “Yeah, see you soon hopefully.” He hung up.   
   Ty uhm'd and ah'd about going, then mulled on his relationship with Rían for a while before returning to the train of thought which previously had him occupied.
   These two theories, firstly of life being lived not in the present but in a constant evaluation and re-evaluation of the past and assumed future, and secondly the deconstruction problem in which all communication is an imperfect work of simultaneous translation which leaves us always uncertain of what each other mean when we communicate| – in confluence, Ty found an interesting mindset which described his past few months' thought processes in relation to Seonaidh very well. Ty did not 'live in the moment', in fact he was often sidetracked by irrelevant curiosity. In the wake of Seonaidh's ghosting, this had accelerated. Again, he adorned over the memories of their friendship, or disastrously considered the potential future of what he would say if reunited with her by circumstance (these were often pure fancy, as we'll be seeing later). But, because of the current state of their non-friendship, the emotional clarity and certainty we often assign to such memories had been replaced with a constant shifting palette of new meanings and contextual code. Happy memories sometimes came tinged with loss, not on their own merits but in consideration of how things ended. Features of Seonaidh's personality gained new attention and were sometimes lent an ironic tinge in retrospect. Many of these re-evaluations were done almost unconsciously, many based on however Ty felt that day.
   However, despite how often Ty's mood would change, they seemed to gain a certain sharpness in melancholy, when even a mundane sketch of his life story became proof of an anti-Ty conspiracy concocted by the universe. He would lace into their otherwise normal friendship the threads of some great tragedy, finding clues everywhere in their story that pointed towards its downfall, but he knew this wasn't really true either. Or rather, he corrected, it seemed incredibly unlikely, since he had developed a suspicion of certainty and absolute truth/untruth ever since she disappeared. It did not feel like Ty was living through the aftermath of some strange past event. Rather, it was like that simultaneous translation process - this time with the second person having made themselves absent, leaving Ty to reassemble their initial imperfect translation from an even more fallible memory. After a month it exhausted even him.
   The future did not exist. Occasionally he would build some imagined reconciliation with parts assembled from misremembered films, and it usually goes like this:

Michael_Surname

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Re: Time (6,008 words)
« Reply #3 on: December 19, 2020, 04:13:26 PM »
[4/4]
Ty steps into a sunless café on the cold block of riverside shops, under the shadow of Dunnes. He sees Seonaidh sitting in a booth at the back, a few minutes before they had planned to meet. It is always dim inside, even during the day the lights are turned on, and still Seonaidh seems masked in dusky blues even with a light overhead. He walks down and joins her, shivering, forgetting to order in the process. Their seating is job-interview style, directly across from one another in stiff, defensive postures. The icy hesitation is palpable, Ty imagines.
   Then Ty opens his mouth, but cancels his first thought, and starts again. This plays out several different ways, sometimes where he is cold and dismissive, sometimes their conversation is completely flat and mentions not a word of what has happened between them, and some rare times he is defensive and unapologetic. But most often, and this is what Ty imagines now, he adopts a sympathetic, outreaching tone. In this, he opens his mouth and always finds the words, this current revision being no exception:
   “___________.”
   Seonaidh stops, and looks him directly in the eye. Already the ice is thawing, as she asks “_______________________________?”
   Ty repeats.
   “____________________,” Seonaidh says, in an accusatory tone Ty reads to be unintentional.
   “____,” Ty apologises, unsure what for. A loud silence of things unsaid passes by, when Seonaidh asks,
   “________________?”
   Ty, taken off-guard, stumbles through an answer. “___,_________-___________. _______________,____________,________,___,__________,_____,__..._____.______-____-____...___,_______...____-” and so on.
   He asks a question back, when it seems she's about to tune out. It's the question he's spent a month mulling over, one that essentially simplifies to 'why did you cut us off?'
   And Seonaidh, finally, answers.
   “_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________-”
   but it's all a fantasy. This 'Blue Riding Hood' Seonaidh-as-spectral-figure doesn't really exist. Now that the real Seonaidh is gone, what's left is a character Ty has made for himself to ease the problems of having missed the mark so hard on understanding someone. No amount of psychoanalysing, or abstract philosophy, or looking back through the mess in some mock-academic tone of distant neutrality will fix a mystery that needs solving to reconcile his emotional distress. As Ty lay on the floor, his chest grew heavy but no tears emerge. That answer will never come of his own volition, and any answer he could get wouldn't suffice, wouldn't turn back time and undo the shock. This was not the first time Ty came down on himself, but it was an admission for which he needed regular reminders.
   And with that, Ty clambered off the floor, slowly showered, and eventually talked himself up enough to tell Rían he'd be on the way, with apologies for the delay. Rían accepted the apology instantly, the grievances melting away and the warmth their friendship had always known returned in full force, something Ty hoped would happen with Seonaidh someday. But for now, Ty hurried out the door in wary anticipation, reassured that that warmth was still with him and could never be lost.