SHORT STORY – Viv Mah

Photo by William Montout on Unsplash

Viv Mah is a Melbourne-based writer, editor and occasional theatre-maker. Her work has been published by Pidgeonholes, the April Reader, the Literary Review, and performed on stage at the Melbourne Fringe Festival. When she’s not shopping for zines, you can catch her studying a masters of writing and publishing or interning at Going Down SwingingShe shouts into the void on Twitter at @mahginalatbest. 

once more with feeling

In the worst of Anna’s dreams, Eric is always at his best: more alert, more alive, and more charming than she can remember. 

Eric, blue-eyed and bristle-jawed, Eric laughing like his whole chest is full of pennies he wants to donate; Eric actually saying what’s on his mind. Eric, the way she used to want him; like a freshly-shelled yolk spotted with blood.

Eric like a gunshot.

Eric like a bag around the head.

Either way, always, Eric.

It’s the heat’s fault, she tells herself as she makes coffee. This terrible, infernal heat that has her rolling and unrolling in her blankets like a small child.

But last night she dreamt of him again, except this time with her there. They’d been in some great white apartment — arguing, probably —  where she’d found her way to the bathroom, only to note he’d relocated his condom packet from her drawer to the side of his tub.

You’re seeing someone? she’d said when she’d returned, and in the dream, Eric had only partially hunched his shoulders to avoid letting her see him smile. Yeah, he’d said, I didn’t think I was going to after you, but my boyfriend, Heeban —

Heeban?

— Jason Heeban. (The mind, correcting something. That dream smile thickening, elusive.)  From high school. We fell out of touch ages ago, and then ran into each other at our reunion, and it just kind of happened. It’s — been nice. We’ve been — good to each other, happy. I’ve —- been happy. I didn’t expect to be.

***

can a dream you had about someone you used to love that you want to stop dreaming about be a projection or the truth or rophetic??, Anna asks Google.

Google asks, did you mean ‘can a dream […….………] be […] prophetic?’

Anna tries again, gut still roiling.

how do you know if your dreams are real or not and why

how can you tell which parts

***

hey eric i heard u moved interstate, she writes instead. Four hours later, he responds: Yeah, I didn’t really like being around anymore.

good for u! Anna says, almost immediately. She debates using emojis. what do u mean, u ‘didn’t really like being around’, anyway? She sends a little sticker of a dancing penguin, question marks exploding out of its head in time to its steps. He sees it.

Haha, he begins, and Anna’s heart sinks. I think you’re kind of worrying about this too much. Honestly, I just wanted a change of scenery!  I worded that first response poorly. Sorry.

ok cool, she writes, so which state is it?, and he sees it.  did u move with someone else?

He sees it.

why can’t u just tell me where it is u’ve gone?

***

There’s this song on the radio, that always makes Anna’s teeth hurt. It’s a little like a love song and a little like a plea although truth be told, it’s getting harder to tell the two apart. 

Below her, the car groans and sighs. Bathwater heat floods crushed polyester seats. It’s a quarter to five.

When Eric opens the door, she knows exactly what she will say. 

She knows exactly what she will do.

Hi, she will say first, for the sake of appearances. Behind her, the sun’s rays will tumble down across the buildings in his street and colour them Crayola red and orange. It will be seven or close to. Hey, Eric, she will say, did I ever tell you the kinds of things you brought out in me?

This is what you brought out in me, she will say, and she will swing her arms wide and leave them there, laughing because it’s easier.

It will be good to see his face and everything that’s finally on it. Her chest will feel just like it does after all those dreams: swollen, and sore, and waiting.

 Didn’t I bring something like this out in you, too?

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