This short short story was inspired by a photo I took on a parking lot near my home. I saw something broken on the ground and wondered: how did that get there?
It Breaks More Than a Heart
By the time she unclenched her fist, things had become clearer. The phone call had entered her brain like a burglar: uncalled-for, violent and cruel. By the time it left, it had transformed into a capable surgeon with really bad bedside manners—you’d never want to see the them again, but at least the tumor was gone.
The call couldn’t have lasted more than ten minutes. As it slowly crystallized, she had felt part of herself detach from the exchange, becoming a spectator. One part of her mind was doing the talking, while the other simply registered the scattered bits and pieces of one end of the conversation. Her own, as if it were a stranger who was shouting, crying, stomping, pleading, clenching.
“What the fuck, Brian!”
“We’re not doing this. Not like this. We’re gonna hang up now. I’ll see you when you get—”
“I know it’s been like that.”
“No, you don’t. You don’t get to say that!”
“I don’t give a flying rat’s ass what my mother said.”
“Look, I just came out of a three-hour—”
“What the hell. Where did that come from?”
“Of course you wouldn’t if you never talk to me.”
“Is there someone else?”
“Are you insane?! Of course I haven’t!”
“We have to talk, just talk.”
“I know. I did. But—”
“Jesus, I thought you were different.”
“Well if you do have feelings, you’re certainly not letting on.”
“Just forget about it. Just…”
In a daze, she had unplugged the earphones’ connector and tossed her phone onto the passenger seat. For another minute or so, she had simply stared at the white cord dangling from her left hand. This is what it looks like when things come undone.
She had slowly gathered up the cord in her hand. What was there left to make sense of? Her day, her life, her future, her dreams—they were all amorphous now, a jellylike blob of cocooned ex-caterpillar that had not yet figured out how to become a butterfly. It was all noise.
But there was a signal too. The white tangle in her hand was still there. A force had made its way from brain to mouth to air to microphone to transmitter to satellite to receiver to decoder to electrons that flowed through the copper in those white strands, becoming sound waves in her ear. This is how the universe had broken her heart and those earphones had been its last port of call.
As she slowly loosened her grip, she found her resolve. She didn’t notice the soft clatter as the earphones fell on the brick pavement. She got in and started her car, turned the radio way up—Status Quo, of course, just because—and never heard the crunch as she drove over the white plastic pods on her way home.
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