Reconciling the Irreconcilable

Submitted into Contest #202 in response to: Write about two people striking up an unlikely friendship.... view prompt

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Contemporary Horror Sad

This story contains themes or mentions of mental health issues.

Cognitive dissonance was not something with which they were familiar. Nothing, never, had ever challenged their reality; nothing, never, had ever fused them thus; and nothing, never, had ever made them friends. Blanche and Noir sat across from one another, in this pink room, this pink space, with two wine glasses filled with red. Drunk, brain fog, throbbing heads. What was real, what wasn’t? What a mess, cognitive dissonance.

“He didn’t love her,” said Noir, sipping at his wine.

“He must have,” said Blanche, twirling a strand of blonde hair around her index finger.

“You can never trust a man,” said Noir, “unless it’s me, of course.” He ran a hand through his glossy, black fringe, and it glistened like ink beneath the pink lights.

He leaned back in his chair and sunk into its pink, cushioned body.

“You know we’ll never agree,” said Blanche. “We’ll never agree on anything, really.”

“We can both agree that you’re divine in that dress.”

“That we can agree on, yes,” and her white fingertips turned grey, silver, sparkling like fish scales. She fiddled with her spaghetti straps, exposing a glimpse of her shy cleavage, her red fingernails like the wine, like that sensual syrup that negated everything, that negated the pain, the suffering. She drummed her nails against a red pot of nail polish which sat on the table beside her glass and a small bottle of nail polish remover.

“Have you ever thought about drinking acetone?” said Noir, his black hair suddenly greying. He downed his glass, then stared into the red aftermath, the red stain, the bloody dregs.

“Is that even a question?” said Blanche, and the silver extended up her fingers and kissed her wrists, as though she were wearing gloves. “Wait, aren’t I supposed to be the optimist?”

“He didn’t love her,” repeated Noir, smoothing out the pink tablecloth.

The table began to tremble, the chairs began to shake, the cutlery smacked against itself, followed by the clatter of plates.

“Be careful what you say,” said Blanche. “You might upset the human.”

“Here comes another wave,” said Noir, and the room filled with liquid.

“She’s secreting that thing again,” said Blanche, hiking up her dress.

“Don’t you remember all the times he screamed at her?”

“But don’t you remember when he held her?”

“Don’t you remember when he fucked her while she was half asleep and came on her stomach?”

The dining table rattled, the glasses bounced in their place, wine was spilled.

“I do,” said Blanche, and the silver climbed up her forearms like fairy dust, tears rolled down her cheeks like pearls.

“She’s pissed off, hey?”

“She will forgive, whether or not he deserves it. She will forgive because she knows it’s not his fault.”

Noir poured Blanche some more wine and sighed, before leaning back in his chair. “A narcissist feels no empathy,” he said. “Did you not see how he distanced himself when she set boundaries? Did you not see his indifference when she was struggling? It was all about control.”

The liquid rose and submerged their shins, their knees, their thighs. The room shook, the glasses chimed, the wine sloshed over the lips of their glasses and stained the pink tablecloth red.

“The poor thing’s stressed,” said Noir. “Her period’s a fortnight late, and she has been living in fight or flight for half a year; he devastated her entire nervous system.”

“And her rash is finally clearing up now that he’s gone; she’s glowing again.”

“Exactly,” said Noir, “so why must you defend the source of all her suffering?”

“It’s not his fault he’s so insecure.”

“No, it isn’t,” said Noir. “But psychological abuse is physical abuse; it causes physiological changes. I’d never before seen our human in so much psychological pain. Sadness is one thing, but cognitive dissonance dismantles one’s sanity. It’s torture.”

“But he held her with so much love.”

“In the easiest of times he held her.”

“And the hardest?” said Blanche.

“No, never. He devalued and discarded her, as they do.”

“Or maybe he was attempting to reverse hoover her, to regain control because he was afraid?”

Noir sighed and slumped back in his chair, twiddling the wet tablecloth between his calloused fingertips. “Don’t you recall how he raised his voice, how he yelled, how he conditioned her to be quiet?”

“He craved only a sense of security, but lacked the empathy to realise she was walking on eggshells. He lacked the empathy to understand the damage it did to her mental and physical health. He can’t have known. He’s a victim of his own biology; he thinks his reactions are warranted because his emotions are valid. He fails to distinguish between the two; he fails to realise that though he has a right to those emotions, he hasn’t a right to that kind of reaction; and on a conscious or unconscious level he knows it’s disproportionate, and that’s why he edits his version of events. His feelings, he believes, are more valid than the truth. It’s sad, really, because it suggests that he was constantly invalidated growing up, and now has a distorted sense of entitlement to compensate; he thinks he’s entitled to lie, for example. Why? Because in his mind objectivity doesn’t exist; we need only convince the other that our feelings are justified. There’s nothing wrong with that, not in his mind.”

“Wow, hold your horses,” said Noir.

“I calmed the human, didn’t I?”

The pink floor and pink cushioned walls reabsorbed the liquid.

“This was my good pair of pants,” said Noir, squeezing at his trouser cuffs. “Blanche?”

“Yeah?”

“You’re too kind, you know? People will walk all over you, us, her.”

“That’s why you’re here,” said Blanche. “And two things can be true at once.”

“But why must you justify everything? He dismissed all her feelings, invalidated all her thoughts, until she no longer trusted her own perception of the world, nor of herself.”

“It isn’t justified,” said Blanche. “But I’d just like to resolve the dissonance.”

“I’d also like to resolve the dissonance. He was a monster, full stop.”

“He was defensive and interpreted her feelings as accusations. A narcissist’s walls are so high, their skin so thin, and their hearts distrusting.”

“Heart?”

“Don’t dehumanise him; that’s part of the problem. He’s just a scared child, really.”

“But also an abusive adult, irrespective of his stunted emotional growth,” said Noir.

“I don’t deny it.”

The room began to vibrate, to shrink, and Blanche and Noir connected like links, links of a chain, before separating once more.

“The human tried to reconcile us again,” said Blanche. “It’s dizzying.”

“Tell me about it, I don’t know up from down.”

“Nor does she after all that gaslighting.”

Noir’s black hair shone silver in agreement while both Blanche’s arms glittered like sequins.

“He must have loved her just a little bit.”

“He was trying to fill a void, Blanche. His sense of inadequacy is crippling, and he feels empty.”

“Empty?”

“Empty like a jar, and he traps others inside like fireflies. He doesn’t realise their glow will fade when the air runs out. He plucks them as though from a stem and then wonders why they dry up and crumple in his hands.”

The pink room quivered, the floors and walls began to leak once more.

“I think that’s fear this time,” said Noir, “fear that he isn’t finished with her.” He shook his head and slumped back in the chair, defeated.

“That scares me, too,” said Blanche, staring into her empty glass. “But take evil as water. Some of us are ankle-deep in it, others knee-deep, while some are up to their neck in it, and there’s the constant threat of submersion. Sometimes they yield to those dark waters because it takes everything for them not to.”

The liquid ebbed and flowed about their ankles, the pink light dancing on its surface.

“Imagine being so miserable,” said Noir, “that you had to manipulate others to fill the void, being so insecure that your sense of security was contingent on control.”

“Exactly.”

“I suppose his existence is punishment enough,” said Noir, and his hair suddenly shifted grey like a wheat field beneath a breeze.

“It must be agonising,” said Blanche, and the silver climbed up her toes, up her calves, sparkling like jewels. “I can only hope he gets better and doesn’t hurt anyone else.”

The liquid sloshed around their ankles like the wine in the wobbling bottle.

“Shall we just agree to let it go, then?” said Noir. “I don’t think I’m capable of your altruism.”

“It might resolve the dissonance,” said Blanche, outreaching a silver hand.

Her grey fingers met those of Noir, the room contracted, and they were pulled towards one another, absorbed in a silent and shaky collision. They merged into a glistening grey blot like a tinfoil star and floated there—small, silver and united—above shattered glass and debris, above the spilled wine and wet tablecloth.

The trembling ceased, the liquid receded, the human calmed. Nothing, never, had ever challenged their reality; nothing, never, had ever fused them thus; and nothing, never, had ever made them friends until this mess we call cognitive dissonance.

June 17, 2023 02:09

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