can’t and needn’t and don’t ask
Q: How long have you been gone for?
I’ve been traveling for about 289 days now, and I’ve only just begun.
Eh, she’s been away from home for... eh, more than half a year now. Yuh, I don’t remember exactly. But it’s been a heck of a long time. I’m sitting here all alone, ya see, and she’s just gone off to ‘find herself’ or some shit like that. Annoys the heck out of me, and I tell her that all the time, and she just rolls her eyes. I can’t see it over the phone and she never admits it when I ask but I know she does, I know it. Stupid girl. “Finding herself…” Pfft.
Q: Do you ever plan on going back home?
I am home right now. I go home every day. Or, I’m only going home at the end of it all. I haven’t really decided yet.
She said she would come back after two weeks. Hah! Big fat of expired baloney, that is. I’ve long since given up on her. She doesn’t matter to me anymore. I give her the money to go visit some place other than her backyard and she promises to come back and she tricks me, extending it another day, another week… oh, yet another delay, another unexpected opportunity, and then what do you know, it’s been six months now! She’s fucking stealing from me.
Q: Are you happy where you are now?
Almost. I’m definitely very close to being it.
Of course not, you bloody buffoon. Do I fucking look happy? Am I fucking smiling to you? Am I fucking going around knocking on people’s doors and vomiting rainbows and farting cartoon characters out of my ass? No, you know what, just don’t fucking ever date a girl who travels, and you’ll bloody thank me for it, ‘cause that’s damn good advice. I’m breaking up with my girlfriend tonight.
Most people complain about the cobblestone streets but she dances on them like they’re a masseuse’s hands on her toes. In the harsh slant of the sun’s rays, everyone’s face is set in a grim frown, all except the strange girl’s face which seems like a shattered mirror hastily glued back together. The light that bounces off her blinds you even with your eyes turned away. It makes you want to stare at her straight.
She nuzzles her head into the musky, fine skin of the leatherbound book, breathing in the scent of many centuries of timeless writers and prolific poets. Dizzy to be traversing time in a city as etched eternal as Prague. Heady to be hearing Kafka’s voice in the city he pried himself out of his mother’s womb to get to, pen already grasped in his hand, hair already perfectly coiffed, ever the daring soldier. She wanted/s to be like him.
High on an energy created from a gathered restlessness in great stillness, she flounces past the pillar of books in which, shamelessly, a vagina sits and tumbles down the front steps of the library, shoving “Dobry Den”s and “Jak se máš”s down passers-by’s windpipes, flying away on the light evening wind towards Petrin Hill where Kundera set poor Tereza’s horrible, horrifying nightmare. Oh, dear Tereza and Tomas, Tomas and Tereza. They have a supermarket named after them back in good ol’ Vancouver.
Even though it kills her, she runs full speed up the hill. It’s a very steep slope and the trees have been sticking their legs out in her way all summer, but she’s learned to remember every varicose vein of the earthen sprawl. It takes her ten minutes to get to the top, and she’s huffing and puffing and sputtering and short-circuiting by the end of it, the big bad wolf’s got nothing on her, a drowned cat is what she looks like, and the other runners just sort of awkwardly look anywhere but her. The sun is a giant orange ball swallowing up the Vltava river; if she squints hard enough, the Charles Bridge looks like a shortcut to the burning floating volcano. If only she had run instead towards the edge.
It’s an hour till midnight when she gets home. She checks her phone. Twelve missed calls from Douchebag Dylan. Sometimes she wishes the fairy godmother would come earlier; she feels like she’s been stuck at eleven ‘o’ clock her whole life.
She’s about to toss it on to her bed but it explodes in her hand, making her jump about a thousand miles high. She figures she might as well get it over with.
Hey baby, how have you been?
“Don’t “how have you been” me. Fucking been ignoring me, that’s what you’ve been doing, right?”
Baby, you know how busy I can be. I’m ---
“Traveling, I know that! You ever think about how I feel, sitting at home all alone without you? Huh? Selfish bitch.”
Don’t call me that.
“What, bitch? What are you going to do about it, bitch? Bitch, bitch, bitchbitchbitch…”
She snaps the phone shut and checks where her dot on the map is. Time to move on again. Switches on the tap, splashes cold water on her face, goodnight world, the room is enveloped in salt-and-pepper stars.
He still hasn’t figured out that baby isn’t a term of endearment for her, and that fight means two completely different things to each of them.
swimming in neverland’s grey astronaut pixiedust originally really exhausting
“Do you see what she’s always doing to me?”
Sandra sighs, forgetting the household chores for a moment, and turns to her son. “All I see is what you’re doing to yourself.”
“Goddamn it mom, not you too.”
“Get your lazy bum off the sofa and go do something with your life! Heaven knows Zander is.”
He’s off the couch and in her face in a second. Red lights in the periphery. “I am doing something with my life! You think what Zander is doing is ‘doing something with her life’? You’re fucking nuts!”
“Don’t you dare swear at me, young man.” Sandra knocks his head with the handle of the broom and he lets out a roar, swatting it roughly away.
“What Zander is doing is living off other people’s hard-earned money, avoiding my calls and feeling no obligation whatsoever to return home and get a stable, secure job like the rest of the world’s doing. She’s being irresponsible!”
“Zander has found her passion in life. She knows exactly what she wants to do -” But Dylan runs over her. Last breath sawed in half, carcass not quite cold on the ground.
“-while I, on the other hand, am successfully running a company that’s earning over 60% profit per annum. I’d be Vancouver’s most eligible bachelor if I wasn’t already attached to this ungrateful wretch” - here, Sandra lets out an indignant gasp on Zander’s behalf; a deer, wide-eyed, scampers off into the snow-covered forest - “I’ve got a degree, an MA, a million-dollar condo in the heart of downtown. I’ve ticked off all the right boxes! I’ve done it right.”
“Look, I’m very proud of you, son, but-”
“There you go again with the buts! And always taking Zander’s side! You’re my mom, not hers!” Sirens.
“You’re getting mad over nothing. You need to calm down. Zander told me last night -”
Tires screeching in the dark. “Hold up - you talked to Zander last night?”
Sandra blinks, wearily taking a step back as Dylan advances, fists clenched. “Yes, Zander did call me last night. You were out. She calls me every week. I’ve told you that before.” A hundred honks melt into a single blaring alarm.
“Fucking hell!” He hurls his footsteps behind him, and they melt into the ground, sizzling in time to his rage. In the distance, the slam of the door. The gun of an engine. A hand goes up to her face, rubs her temples. Can you hear me?
On the other side of the world, Zander laughingly takes the proffered skateboard and jumps into an ollie, the movement of her traversing the world indistinguishable from the leap and flip of the wheels beneath her. A second in the air is pulled and stretched into a mini-infinity; the feeling of pure freedom balloons within her chest and rushes out her throat, a giddy mess of sounds; she feels absolutely and irrevocably invincible. Singapore humidity presses down into her skin, rendering many tourists claustrophobic and annoyed, but she is a traveler. She feels amazing.
The ambulance finally arrives and is, of course, useless.