Here is the last (at least until I write more…) of my 20-minute stories.
I talk too much. It always happens. At first people hear me, and then I’m a sound. The refrigerator, air conditioner, and a thousand household machines speak daily, but people stop noticing them. The brain turns their volume to silence.
Everyone tells stories about having odd uncles with grubby secrets, about the car breaking down somewhere unlucky, about being mistaken for a more important person. I am a collection of these narratives, a library book with old due dates stamped inside the back cover, phrases and words underlined in faint pencil. If you knew me better, you’d remember I’ve used this metaphor before, in just this context, with just this timing and emphasis.
People who do know me tell me to stop, stop now. They’ve heard it, they say, and then I leave off rifling through my memory looking for relevant remarks that might pass as new. None of it is new. Life echoes infinitely, I’ve learned this.
I’m not sure when my catalog of anecdotes filled. Maybe around the time my wife left. She said I should get a dog that would have to listen, but instead I talk to her chair. Though nothing really helps me imagine her interested, after I drink enough, I try. The stories roll like boulders beneath a glacier, and I dream of them deposited in a field, incongruous and dramatic. I like to think of my wife’s smile before those last grim stages, before her face formed a rictus of pain whenever I opened my mouth.
Since she left, I’m alone. My car drives itself to and from work, and I’m a passenger. Colleagues are pulsing clock parts, whirring, rocking, or inching forward as demanded. Meals and sleep are processes. Time is territory so familiar as to be invisible. I blink and discover another day, season, or year.
And, sometimes, when evenings grow long, I bear down with this pen, hoping to force something new from my mind but only come up with this same account of my trouble, the only trouble I know, my most recent—that is to say, my last—discovery.