6 comments

Fiction Contemporary

Splendid oak trees, porcupines, chocolate chip cookies, and sting rays. Maybe there’s something to life that I haven’t yet figured out. Maybe it’s less about thumbtacks and climate change and more about the Pyramids of Giza and the process of turning cherries into coffee.

Post-it notes filled to the brim with words but lacking any real information line the bottom of my monitor, but really what in life can be summed up in a way to fit on a post-It note? Or is it just the opposite? That everything in life is meant to fit on a single note and that we often make life too complicated? Maybe everything can be summed up into something even smaller, say a word, or a single letter, or a single thought that never makes its way into the chasm of reality.

Sunsets, movie stars, disposable cutlery, and quantum physics. There can’t be that much difference in them if they’re all part of the same universe, the same realm. Maybe there isn’t more than one universe, that this is all we have. That dinosaurs and Facebook live on the same plane with the same timeline and that there isn’t anything more or less to it than that.

I rip off one of the notes, an old one with a bunch of information on it that doesn’t mean anything to me now but was important enough to write down at one point. I crumble it up and throw it in the trash. I do the same with the one next to it, then the other, then the other, until they’re all in the trash and my monitor is once again clear. Bits of my memory thrown into the trash to be forgotten. Or will they be? Will some part of me remember everything that was written on them? Stored away in an area of the brain that I won’t have access to later? What if we remember everything that we have ever seen or done, and in the vastness of our minds we just can’t access it. Thinking about the universe and how big it is, surely something got lost out there that will never be found again, but that doesn’t mean that it’s gone. As if a tree falling in the woods doesn’t make a sound if nobody is around to hear it. The tree itself is there to hear itself fall.

I step out of my office, look down the hall both ways, as if crossing a busy road of traffic, and stroll toward reception at a leisurely pace. Names label plaques down the hall with a bunch of other lawyers that dedicated more time to school and fulfilling the wishes of professors than they did satisfying their own desires. Nobody desires to be in school, they desire money and a life of luxury. But in order to get to that part we have to satisfy everybody else first. Even people who work for themselves, the ones that never went to college and have never had a boss in their life still answer to everybody else before themselves. If their product doesn’t fit the design of society or their target market, then they’d be flat broke. Even those that inherited money and have never worked a day in their lives are still at the mercy of everybody around them. If there wasn’t nothing for them to buy or to have dinners with, then they’d surely go mad of richness.

I tell the receptionist, Jen, I tell her, “I’m heading out for the day. If Davis asks, tell him I wasn’t feeling good. But don’t tell anybody else I’m out. Say I’m in a conference or something, okay?” She nods, and I lean with my forearms onto the counter, and I say, “Thanks. Hey, I’ll see you all tomorrow. Have a good evening, okay?” They say they will and smile and wave goodbye and I wave back at them as I walk through the door.

Business cards, Microsoft Excel, the Mona Lisa, and Virgos. There’s something that I missed, something that nobody can tell me that I missed because nobody knows that it’s missing. At least that I’m missing it. Maybe they found it and didn’t know that they found it to tell me what it is that I should be looking for. If I drive a toy Tonka truck into a Barnes and Noble and ask for a double cheeseburger from Dunkin’ Donuts, would they give me one? Why wouldn’t they?

I sit in my car and call my mom. “Hey,” I answer.

“Is everything okay?” she asks.

“Can we talk about what happened yet?”

She hangs up, but doesn’t hang up because she never answered the phone because she died ten years ago. And to this day I can still hear her voice when I pick up my phone and dial her number and get nothing in return. That’s how I know that I’m missing something. I can often hear her voice, as if she’s right next to me, and she can still tell me things and I call her back and she says, “Is everything okay?” And I say, “Has anybody in our family ever had schizophrenia?” And she says, “Of course not. Don’t be silly like that, our family isn’t crazy.” I hang up.

Super Nintendo Entertainment Systems, chickens, the Ohio River, and Erwin Schrodinger’s cat have as much in common with each other as I have in common with my own skeleton. It isn’t about the stock markets and girl scout cookies, because if it were then I would have some type of answer. As I’m walking down Main Street I loosen my tie and unbutton the top button of my shirt so that my neck can breathe and I feel as though there’s another part of me, a part that knows something that I don’t, and I can hear that part of me calling out for my current self. He’s beautiful, my voice calling out to me. I can tell in the pitch, the melody, the soft way that I can hear it but it allows me to ignore it. I’m not beautiful, not in that way, and neither is anything else.

I left my car in the garage. I leave the busy streets and opt for a side street around a few blocks. I’m completely lost, but at the same time not lost at all because I’m in the same place that I’ve always been. I’ve never been anywhere else. I walk, and eventually my shoes cause blisters on my feet. A pair of black leather shoes that cost an infinite amount of money. I keep walking, feeling my heels bleeding. I walk as far as I can until I there is no more pavement, only dirt and grass. There’s a mountain in the distance, though I’m not sure of which peak it is or which range it’s a part of. It’s only a mountain, nothing more and nothing less. I walk toward it.

Giraffes, Alaska, airplanes, and pontoon boats aren’t what worry me by any means. It’s this walk and the way it’s making me feel. The way I can hear myself breathing, the way I feel my heart pumping and pounding through my chest so much that I can almost see my shirt move. The way my heels are raw and my thighs are chaffing. The walk terrifies me, but it isn’t because of the distance or the fear that I might die, it’s because of what I might discover when I reach the top. It’s getting darker but my path is clear, continue straight. Slopes and hills and trees aren’t obstacles, neither are the bits of streams and cliffs. It’s the AM radio stations, carpet, and HB #2 pencils.

It could have been hours, it could have been days, it could have been thirty-eight seconds, it could have been no time at all, but I reach a point that I know is not the top of the mountain but is no different than the top, nor is it any different than a public bathroom in Burlington, Vermont. There’s a river, not one that is an obstacle, nor one that I cannot pass, but it is a river, the same as if it were a pigeon. I take off my shoes, then my socks, then my tie, then my button-up shirt, then my undershirt, then my pants, then my underwear, until I am left standing on the side of the flowing river as naked as the day I was born. In a pile of mess, I leave it all there and walk into the water. It’s cold and painful.

Igneous rocks, car keys, tweezers, and aglets know the same amount of information as I do, they know the exact things that I know. If they didn’t then they wouldn’t exist, and neither would I. The water is coming up to my knees and I can feel the smooth and jagged rocks beneath my feet. The moon is almost full and there isn’t any type of noise except the flow of water and the chirping critters on the sides of the river. I sit down, my feet stretched out in front of me, the water running into my back. I am no obstacle to the river nor am I an obstacle to radio towers, Ray-Ban sunglasses, or sundials. I call my mom and I say, “Hey.” She says, “Is everything okay?” I tell her it is, and she hangs up and I lay down in the river on my back and feel the cold water rushing over me. I feel the entirety of the universe swirling around me, through me, into me, out of me.

Back in my office, I scroll through my emails. There’s traffic outside, so much that I can hear it. It’s a hot day with a cool wind. I am taking the post-It notes out of the trash can, uncurling them, flattening them, and placing them back on my monitor. I want to think it was the cleaners that threw them away, but I know it wasn’t. I’ve learned to live with myself the way that I am, even if the way that I am is somebody that I don’t yet know. 

August 10, 2023 19:41

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

6 comments

14:05 Aug 12, 2023

This is quite deep A.R. It was carrying me away with it. I now want to walk into a forest , find a lake, undress and sit in the water. Because why not. I love the idea that you cant ever be lost because you are always wherever you are.

Reply

A.R. Eakle
21:31 Aug 13, 2023

Wow, thank you! Really means a lot. Glad it was able to move something in you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
06:29 Aug 12, 2023

A really clever title that caught my eye. The sentimentality of the story really kicks in when we learn his wife is gone, and then the reality that life goes on when he takes the post it notes out of the trash. I like how a lot of the big things go unsaid and you paint the picture through small details.

Reply

A.R. Eakle
21:32 Aug 13, 2023

Titles are possibly my favorite pet of writing short stories! Glad this one caught your eye. I also liked the symbolism of the post its. Thanks for reading, man, really appreciate you!

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
Mary Bendickson
02:09 Aug 11, 2023

Hard to understand yourself.🤯 Thanks for liking my 'Any body down There' story.

Reply

A.R. Eakle
15:27 Aug 11, 2023

Absolutely! Thanks for reading! :)

Reply

Show 0 replies
Show 1 reply
RBE | Illustrated Short Stories | 2024-06

Bring your short stories to life

Fuse character, story, and conflict with tools in the Reedsy Book Editor. 100% free.