My husband climbs the stairs, slow and defeated. His eyes brim with tears threatening to spill onto the kitchen floor. “What is it?” I ask, even though I know. This is not the weight of work or the isolation of this pandemic. This is about our first baby girl. He breathes into my embrace, and I feel warm salty droplets seep into my sweater.
His exhaustion has compounded these past six months. Tentative and still holding him, I articulate what we both know, “I think this is depression, Ryan.” He nods. His shoulders tremble. “I have been where you are.” Once there, the mind fogs over as if having been injected with a paralyzing venom. “You are not in this alone,” I whisper, like he has whispered to me so many times before.
This is his season. We have exchanged places. I now carry faith and hope through our desert. “We have three good and beautiful children,” I tell him. Our thirteen-year-old will make it through to el otro lado. One day this barbed wire fence between him and her will be dismantled and tossed onto a heap of remembrance.
Julie Sonnek is a writer and language teacher living in Minneapolis, Minnesota with her husband and three children. She writes creative non-fiction and poetry about family, place, and faith. She writes primarily in English, with sprinklings of Spanish. Her writing has appeared in Literary Mama. She has self-published a book of poetry and photography available through Blurb.com titled: Una Vista Brillante: Reflections of Colombia.
The café’s lights hung from black cords, so bright they smeared my retinas, magnifying my shadow whose distorted magnitude I hoped represented my future.
Maybe I blinded myself more than the lights did?
Their reflections in the café’s glass frontage created false impressions of dotting glass on the other side of the road. As I was writing a story about perceptual delusions, I placed the lighting distortions into the story.
Caffeine, therapeutic like writing, enhanced such associations. Well-constructed literature reveals architectural clarity, the timber pillars supporting the café’s ceiling symbolising the sturdy bones of fine writing. The pillars’ rectangularity suggested solidity, their dark grains, galaxies in light-brown space, symbolising images that writers use to deepen reality.
Seeing those images indicated I was in good form, as I visualised what I had to describe, appropriate sounds heard, adequate smells conceived, creation comforting.
A nearby woman’s laugh resembled a violinist stroking where a violin’s strings rise at the bridge. Struck by my “originality” that laugh entered the story.
The spiral-galaxy grains sat in pronged flares of wood darker than the engulfing light brown, cosmic images enriching the sturdy structure as symbols should.
The waiter’s hair resembled silver felt against his subcontinent skin. He picked up my coffee cup. A coffee stain on the cup’s interior resembled a flying vampire, a good logo, I thought, for a sports club. (He played for The Vampires).
The waiter smiled and said: “Another struggling writer, I see.”
His self-satisfied glee clanged my ego. I imagined a bronzed, muscular figure smashing a hanging iron plate with a mallet.
“No,” I snapped. “I’m famous in my country.”
His smug smile melted.
“Do you mind telling me your name?” he asked.
“Zdenek Troska,” I replied.
I didn’t want him looking up my real name. I was once told I looked like Zdenek Troska, whoever Zdenek Troska was.
“Oh,” the waiter said, “sorry. You speak English with an English accent.”
“Like Tom Stoppard. And Madeleine Albright has got an American accent,” I said, creating Czech confusion, alliteration suiting my ego’s bitter purposes.
He returned to the bar embarrassed; but he had been right. I was a nobody. But he couldn’t have known that objectively.
His comments, used as a “distorted perception,” strengthened my story.
When he was in the kitchen, I fled, leaving a tip, my shadow much smaller outside.
I never returned to that café. My ego would not allow that. But the lie it caused made the story about distortions publishable, discomfort producing creation, a tribute to pleasure from unconscious masochism.
Kim has worked for NGO’s in Greece, Kosovo, Iraq, Palestine and Macedonia. He likes to take risks to get the experience required for writing. He likes painting, art, bull-fighting, photography and architecture, which might explain why this Australian lives in Madrid. Although he wouldn’t say no to living in a Swiss ski resort or a French chateau. 181 of his stories have been accepted by 106 different magazines.
She hoped the couple beside them in the park wasn’t listening to their fight. They, the other couple, were so obviously into each other and so obviously on a first date. They were speaking English, so there was a decent chance they didn’t understand German—so many people don’t in Berlin. They used to be like them—a couple with nothing on the record but hope. This is what they were adding to their record today: A fight, filled with disproportionate rage given the subject matter—surfing.
“Have you ever noticed how many couples you see arguing in the park on sunny days?” She is directing this question towards the man she is on a second date with on her second day in Berlin. Really, it’s a first-and-a-half date. They’d met the previous evening, not even twenty-four hours ago. She’d forgotten what it was like to feel this kind of hope. It surprised her. She no longer went into dates expecting to find a spark—the kind that left you falling asleep imagining what it’d be like to have someone around again. Someone really around, not just as an occasional guest appearance in your life. She’d spent that morning, her first morning in the city, walking around aimlessly, wondering what he’d say about everything she was seeing. He was the only person she knew in Berlin.
When she asked him about the couple’s argument, he used it as an excuse to lean closer to her and translate. “It’s about surfing and whether the best waves are more dependent on the phase of the moon or the time of year.” Then he kissed her.
Laney Lenox is a PhD candidate at Ulster University’s School of Applied Policy and Social Sciences. Her research examines the role of archives documenting incarceration in societies affected by conflict. She conducted fieldwork in Berlin, Germany, working with memorial and archival spaces as well as interviewing former political prisoners incarcerated in the GDR. Her work falls broadly into critical theory with an anthropological approach to fieldwork. She’s particularly interested in viewing linear time as a social construct and in understanding how this relates to power structures when discussing ‘dealing with the past’ and democratization processes in conflict-affected sites.