The bombs came in pill form. We all had to take one if we wanted to pass the class. It was a big class. At least 100 people. I tried to opt-out, but the professor wouldn’t allow it.
I had felt this once.
Where I could not scream you into caring about me, but I hoped the blast would. Then you would see that I didn’t get here on my own. Then I would feel the warmth you had reserved for another woman, at another time.
I tried to find you so I could be near you when it happened. You were assigned a different pill than me, and we were about to find out what that meant exactly.
Would we be born again?
I tried to get us farther away so we wouldn’t become deaf from the blast. But the professor had already started counting down.
We digested the pill and waited a few seconds. Then the bombs went off within us. I felt it viscerally but abstractly.
Removed but present.
A paradox of common sense.
I needed to find you. Make sure you were ok. When I did, I knew that you wouldn’t remember. You were a transplant. We all were, but not in a way that I wished I could be. You read stories of soldiers that were written on plaques hanging on wooden saloon walls. And through their stories you connected with others who had swallowed the same pill. You took a bus and instead of sitting quietly during the debate, you stood up and recited poetry so elegant that there was no need for a future.
You invoked passion.
Your howl was sharp. And strident. You discredited those around you and risked making enemies.
I had never seen you overflowing before.
We were together the rest of the afternoon, but still I was alone, watching you absorb a dimension I could not penetrate. I didn’t know yet if the pain was worth it.
There had been so many moments when you thought that I thought I needed you. But I didn’t actually.
Not like now.
I needed you so I could live through you. But, just as before, you were inclined to wander – to explore a spontaneous intimacy with those who were the same as you. I was so jealous of your conversations that I sank into the soil and watered the roots with my grief. It was too much to hold.
I lost you again, until I heard you had gotten a ride back home before the curfew.
You knew I had brought a car.
Soon after, I stopped being able to express myself in anything other than sentimental clichés, as if shutting down the parts of me that are in pain was the rational, evolved thing to do.
I am my burden as much as yours. Or maybe I’m not. Maybe I just know you better than anyone else.
— Karys Rhea writes absurdist short stories. They are exceedingly short. They are exceedingly absurd. If you happen to have read one and didn’t get it, then you did.