A Momentary Disturbance of Air

By David H Weinberger

he lives deep in a year-round arctic-like valley. Towering evergreens surround her decrepit house, blocking the sun’s ability to melt the ever-present snow. Frigid temperatures and glacial winds are constant companions. Deer, raccoon, moose, and rodents of various size forage in her yard, burrowing through the snow in search of elusive morsels to eat.

These seemingly inhospitable conditions cannot stop her from leaving her house and returning. She works full-time in a nearby city. A short drive through the valley, followed by a shorter drive down the busy freeway, and she transitions to sunshine and greenery. She is a sales representative at an herbal supplement company. She has an innate knowledge of herbs and their medicinal and restorative powers, perhaps magical powers too, and hence is constantly awarded for her domineering sales volume.

After work, before returning to her snowbound oasis, she heads to the local bars to mingle with friends, drink to abandonment, and perhaps catch a lucky man to spend the evening or more with. Her standby drink is vodka: shots, vodka tonic, Cape Cods, Russians, in whatever way you can mix vodka. Top shelf of course. She drinks and dances. And talks. To friends or to potential partners. She slurs her words of affection through mists of vodka. And while she wins awards at work for her sales acumen, at the bars she wins virtual awards for her acquisition of men. With a little vodka on her side, she has no problem attracting men. Quite often, she takes them back to her home and shows them the passion they have been talking about over drinks and dancing. Most of the men desire to stay afterwards, but she always sends them away. Almost always.

It is not uncommon to have a man get caught up in her world. So caught up that he cannot leave and she allows him to stay. Such was the situation Mitchell found himself in not long ago.

They met at Gravitational Pull in the city. She was drinking vodka and he was drinking red wine, the only drink he cared for. The usual took place. She approached him, spoke to him, bought him a drink, and invited him to dance. Mitchell barely comprehended her words, the touch of her hands on his enough to understand her desire. They spent the evening alternating drinks and dance and soon no one else existed around them. It all unfurled as she planned, and they ended up in the valley drinking vodka shots and fucking into the morning.

This time, for reasons only she is privy to, she did not send him away. They stayed in her bedroom for the weekend and when Monday night came she invited him for dinner. Mitchell didn’t know of her past, nothing about her identity, where she came from, other men she may have been involved with. He liked her and thought dinner would be a good way to get to know her better. They ate steaks and ended the evening playing Scrabble and drinking vodka sodas. He stayed the night and it was in the air that he would do so more often. Mitchell did not quite know how it happened but he found himself in an ongoing relationship with her.

One month on. He is living at the house in the snow-covered valley. The sex started changing from unbridled passion to simply ambiguous. He senses a growing disconnect between them. As if her words of affection fail to match her acts of affection. And she has become cruel. Taunting him, finding fault. She has again been visiting the bars after work. She comes home very late. He thinks nothing of it though. Instead, he thinks she is overworked, needs to relax, unwind.

Two months on. The Scrabble board sits between them. Random words adding up to nothing. Mitchell views their lives as a Scrabble game. They build word upon word yet the connection, the meanings, between the words remain a mystery. The vodka he now exclusively drinks, helps make a few tentative connections. Helps to make the meaninglessness less obtrusive. Yet with each play, she speaks affectionately, playfully. As if each word were just another blank slate laid upon a barren board. No points, no scores. But she always scores. She is continually racking up points.

She plays as if she is winning the game. In spite of the real score. She plays as if she determines who wins, who loses. She knows the real score can change in an instant. And it can be manipulated. A fake play. A set up, someone falls for the deception, and points are earned. At least, secreted away for a later date, a later self-serving purpose. Mitchell is leery of playing Scrabble with her.

She tries to comfort Mitchell. Perhaps I can be of service. Perhaps I can assuage your fear. It’s just me. I’m here to help along the way. Her salvo. Her constant refrain. Words of affection. Mists of vodka.

No, Mitchell thinks. Fear is all I have. Don’t relieve me of it. It is the only remaining contact I have with reality. With the truth that seems so distant and elusive.

Three months on. Mitchell can no longer tell when the words have meaning or are just a disturbance of air. She is saying things for the sake of saying them. Mitchell is carried along. He listens and believes the words he hears, though the subtle smell of vodka tickles his senses and puts him on alert. The small intrigue in the mystery of her words. To go along or follow his intellect. He goes along and she gently continues to speak. Enough to keep Mitchell listening to what follows. She speaks of the future. Buying a new house. Raising kids together. But her words betray her feelings. She sees no future. Sees no together. Mitchell does. Mitchell acts as if they both do.

Four months on. She speaks as if her words were ordained. She speaks as if everyone, including Mitchell, can believe the sincerity of what she says. And she says plenty. Mitchell is confused by her pronouncements. With her endless smile, she claims that she is devoted to him and they need to hold on to what they have. But it is unclear to Mitchell what they have. He cannot hold what they have, cannot touch what they have. What do they have? Just her word that they are one. Her word that they are together. Yet she is distant and unreachable.

Five months on. She now speaks openly to Mitchell about men she has met at work or at the bars. She assures him they are just friends but there is a hint of untruth to what she says. Not quite a brick hitting him, perhaps a small pebble. Such is the distance he is willing to travel to believe her. She begins to spend more time away from home. He is alone in the house surrounded by snow. One night, when she comes home at three in the morning he confronts her about her behavior, her late-night outings. She assures him of her love and devotion. She assures him that she is simply unwinding after stressful days. The air moves around her lips but Mitchell fails to understand the words being spoken. And he begins to question her honesty.

In the morning, there is one more rodent foraging in the snow-covered yard.

 

 

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David H Weinberger is an American author writing in Bremen, Germany. His stories have appeared in Thrice Fiction, Fredericksburg Literary and Art Review, The Ravens Perch, Gravel, and elsewhere, and can be read at his website davidhweinberger.com. He holds a Master’s Degree in Early Childhood Education and taught kindergarten for eight years in Salt Lake City, Utah.


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