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Contemporary Sad

This story contains sensitive content

POSSIBLE SENSATIVE CONTENT: Mental Health, implied purposeful consumption of toxic substances, NO DEATH.

‘You're like a silica packet,’ she’d said, her eyes scrutinizing the nutritional information of a bulk pack of instant noodles, ‘Not made for human consumption.’

It was one of those comments that hurt more for the fact that she had said it in such an offhanded manner, her attention split between me and the dried goods she held, as if by association I was of equal or even less value than her choice between chicken or beef flavouring.

It had been the early hours of the morning, just after 3 A.M. She’d been out the night before in the next town over and had called me from my bed to pick her up, the stopover at the 24hr convenience store less of a convenience for me than it was for her. I had long given up pretending to enjoy her late-night escapades by then.

Her copper skin had glowed, even in the dimness of the aisle, she had doused herself in glitter and gold. She had painted stars across her skin that had progressively begun to flake away. Her dark, dark hair was a wild and glorious beast, fretted into knots by a night of dancing and drinking. She had dressed for my destruction. And she was beautiful for it.

I hadn’t said anything back. There hadn’t been a point. She hadn’t been wrong, and I hadn’t the energy at the time to argue with her. I had lost that many years ago, somewhere between my third visit to our small town’s poor excuse for a mental health ward and the fifteenth or twentieth time we had attempted to end things before that.

I just watched, complacent, as she selected Mie goreng and made her way to the register, completely oblivious to just how quickly she had just confirmed everything I had always believed about myself to be true.

I sat now, many months later, in the intoxicating, cramped universe of my kitchen’s over-bright fridge fluorescence, body contorted into the space where hinge meets door meets the comforting relief of its icy interior. This summer had been a hellish one, hotter than any we had spent together, hotter than any I had experienced before. Each night was a mission of tossing and turning, of frozen peas pressed between thighs, under armpits. I’d long since thrown away the pedestal fan that she insisted she couldn’t sleep without, even in winter. I’d forgotten to get the A/C serviced, mostly because I hadn’t realised that was a thing that needed to be done. Those were always her jobs, the practical ones. An over-medicated depression had robbed me of the RAM capacity to organise even the bare basics of daily life years ago, and I had become too reliant on her, only now to be left flailing.

This was evident in my heavy summer sleeplessness, body too suffocated by warmth to find the comfort to rest, likely in fear of an internal, nocturnal meltdown.

I’d been here for hours now, picking my way through a pack of processed cancer cheese and my mind; thinking thinking thinking, hating everything I found.

It shouldn’t have been so surprising. She’d never been one for niceties, and until her, I had never been one to expect them. I’d grown complacent in my burgeoning sense of self-esteem. I had come to expect a level of understanding and acceptance from others that I hadn’t assumed was possible before she had found me and made it so.

I grow bored of my not-cheese and quickly retreat from my refrigerated sanctuary, trying my best not to consider the state of my power bill or the remaining freshness of my perishables.

Even the floor is warm beneath my feet, timeworn linoleum sticky with humidity—a sensory nightmare that would drive me near insane if I gave myself the time to truly acknowledge it.

Instead, I make a game of opening and shutting the cupboards, considering their contents as if they were any surprise to me. Open, shut. Open, shut. Cups, shut. Cutlery, shut. Under-utilised kitchen appliances, shut. Pantry—I consider the pantry a little longer. I shut it. I open it again. I stare, squinting (I can feel my eyesight worsening by the week, but medical appointments are another skill I have yet to hone independently), I begin to pull the contents from within.

I’ve disposed of all the Mie goreng (I’d lost my taste for it), but surprisingly the shelves are still rather well-stocked. I grab and drop each item upon the floor with an almost ravenous quality. Cans clang, packages ruffle, boxes buckle on their corners where they hit the sticky lino. When I’m done, I hit the deck amongst my destruction, left knee bursting a packet of chips, crushing them to dust against the floor. I begin the swift and almost manic task of ripping open any item I believe could be a contender for my search, their innards spilling in a chaos of confectionary.

Amongst the war zone of wrappers, I find what I have been looking for. It’d flown from an ancient packet of beef jerky, landing near camouflaged amongst the fray.

I grab it and return to the fridge, needing its light.

And here it is, the tantalising white rectangle that keeps parents in emergency rooms and poison hotline operators in jobs. They were pretty inconspicuous once, until their manufacturers realised the destructive power they held. Now they are confident in their identity, boldly proclaiming it to the world as to not cause any confusion. This is where we differ, them and I, the one thing that makes her almost wrong.




I stare at it, hyper-fixating on its bold and indisputable text, a person obsessed. I run my thumb along the words, defining the lines of each letter. My throat feels dry, as if I have performed the forbidden act of swallowing, as if all the moisture within me is draining, draining, draining away.


 The paper splits, spilling its contents into my palm, beads of death settling quietly amongst the folds. They are tiny and translucent, like the silver crystals she had used to bedazzle the corners of her eyes that night, the creases lined in perpetual tears. Fake, of course, because crying hadn’t been a language shared between us in a very long time. Her eyes had long dried, at least when it came to me. Possibly it was me that had taken the tears from her, moisture drawn and stored inside like the silica packet she had called my kin.

Perhaps she had been right after all. Perhaps I am toxic, unpalatable. I had always been odd, since I was young. An affliction my mother had called shyness and a doctor had called Asperger’s. They don’t call it that anymore, but it hardly matters to me, my personal struggle no more lessened by a change in medical terminology than it is by my awareness of its existence.

I have never been great at hiding it. She’d liked that about me once, that I was different, that my passions and energies lay with things others would find strange. She was the first to make me feel as if possibly, after all, I was not made for the solitude I had always assumed would be my destined path, that maybe we really are all made for someone, and that someone had been her.

This hadn’t been true, though. It had been proved time and time again. As I watched her slowly grow a distaste for me. They say the cells within our body cycle every seven years, and so like clockwork, our palette will change as well. What once was our favourite food could eventually become revolting to us, something we had once despised could grow to change entirely. This had been our destruction, the natural order of growth. Time is the only weapon I still have no defence against. 

I peer up at the microwave, the digital display reads: 03:00

That morning hadn’t been the end of us. It hadn’t even been the beginning of the end. We had been an endangered species for so long by then that we (like so many others) had become desensitized to our condition. She wouldn’t officially call things off until a few days later. We were in the bathroom when she did it, sink spilling sorrow and soap bubbles, bathtub filled with my fully clothed self and all my pathetic, unspoken desperation.

‘I hope you find happiness,’ she’d said with an air of finality that stung, ‘I need you to be able to love yourself.’

She said need as if it was vital, as if loving myself was analogous with other necessities such a water and shelter and air. She said need as if she had a stake in it, though we both knew she wouldn’t be around long enough to find out either way. She said need like she loved me, like even though I was very obviously not made for consumption by the general public, I was still worthwhile to her, even if her tastes had changed.

‘I’ll try.’ I had promised, holding back the tears she no longer knew.

I hold them back now; with all the little power my sleep deprived state will allow. I have always been a crier and I have always wished I wasn’t, but have never found the capacity in me to find a solution, until now. 

I stare at my hand, blurry through the sadness, little drops like tears littering my palm. I feel tiny and translucent as well. We are so, so alike, them and I, except I have no warning labels to protect myself from mistaken consumption, though I do know what it feels like to be wrongfully desired.

I put them to their task now, I no longer have the energy for tragedy. It has been too long to still hold onto things that I cannot change. I bring my hand to my lips, take the beads within my mouth and swallow—the ultimate act of forbidden consumption.

‘You're like a silica packet,’ I think to myself, as I told them inside, letting them dry me from within. Because maybe I am, and maybe that’s just fine. 

December 09, 2023 06:22

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1 comment

14:01 Dec 21, 2023

Wow, Lukah. Wow. This was hauntingly beautiful and achingly sad. Excellent writing; it cut like a knife.


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