20 minutes: A very short short story

Meg took out the six-pack of Maggi noodles from her basket, placing it on the shiny counter as the cashier looked at her impatiently. She had to place it just so, facing upward and facing the cashier. She had this peculiarity about the arrangement of her groceries since she was old enough to go with her mom to the store.

She paid her bill and left. Unfailing politeness meant she had to smile at everyone who made eye contact. She went home to her one-year-old rabbit. It was dark, she drove slowly trying to avoid the shadow of the street lamps falling on her car, it made her think of lightning and thunder. Her home was silent, a mercy.

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Voices

I speak, but you don’t hear. I yell and you are shocked. I whisper and you ignore me.

What can I do to make you hear me, must I go back in time to make my voice as loud as yours? What do I have to do for you to stop drowning out my voice with the sound of your own? Will you ever stop trying to enjoy the sound of your own voice, and just listen, instead of asking me to speak louder? Yes, I did eat breakfast, that does not affect my ability to speak, no matter what your illiterate teachers taught you to think about anatomy.

Being louder does not make you more intelligent. It does not give you any right to drown my opinions out. If I speak softly, maybe you should listen more, instead of assuming that I have nothing worthwhile to say.

The loudness is not in my control, the content of what I say is. I cannot speak louder any more than you can stop being a nincompoop whom I abhor listening to.

Just remember, the next time you don’t hear me, you might not be meant to.

You

The picture of you two is striking, the word is perfect to describe what I see, far before my lifetime.

Neither of you are smiling. I feel happy looking at it. You are beautiful, he is dapper. You are not as I see you today, carrying the marks of the last five decades with you– adorable, smiling figures who welcome me with love every vacation.

I see you today, content or angry, and I wonder about my future. The ego-centricism is showing, I know. Will I be like you one day, or will my life follow a different path entirely? You look at me, facing the camera head-on from the past.

I found another photograph, cake in one of your hands as you feed the other, the family looking on.

From the stern to the smiling, the transition is strange but natural. You retain your beauty and he his whiskers and neatly parted hair. The short hair I played with as a child, combing into white tufts that stood up from your scalp.

Today everything has changed, the joy I found being with you is marred by worry. You were often anxious about me then. The roles are reversed, I worry about you: one of you has forgotten me, the other constantly fretting about everything. The foundation of my childhood is gone, the stability I saw from your hand-made birthday cards, lemon juice in the sweltering summers, stories and phone calls has left me; bereft of your comfort.

For eighteen years you defined summer for me, your home my second. The white walls, the carpets, the ceilings, the brick mural, I have memorised all of them, just as I know your faces. They have not changed as much as we have.

I dream of those summers.