Thursday, September 5, 2013

Sharkskin


I’m on the train on my way to my psychotherapy appointment. Most of the people entering and leaving the carriage glide past each other soundlessly like fish; ghostly shapes in the glass box of the train window. One woman catches my eye because she stumbles on five-inch heels. She has giant silver earrings and jangles like a Christmas tree. She must enjoy attention.

She retrieves a fancy cloth-covered notebook and a pen from her handbag and starts to write. I can't see what she is writing, even after I crane my neck conspicuously in every direction possible.

I’m jealous. I haven’t been able to write anything for months. I'm starting to feel like one of those childless women who obsess about babies. Every time I see someone writing, I seethe like a bucket of snakes.

I blame the therapy for my writer’s block. It’s making me too happy. Last night I dreamt that I was a marine biologist, swimming with serene, jewel-coloured fish.

The woman is probably just writing a shopping list or something equally mundane, I tell myself. Then her phone rings, one of those jarring tones that teenagers have, and she starts talking about passports. It's a very boring conversation. 

She lets her notebook fall onto the red velveteen of the seat next to her and I can see that the pages are densely covered with tiny cursive script.

I get up to get off the train, but it’s too soon. It jolts and halts in a tunnel. With the jolt I stumble back a step and catch sight of a line in the woman's notebook: 

"Sometimes my world crumbles, and everything falls into place."

In that second I make a decision: I'm not going to therapy anymore. I don't care how much they say I need it.

When the train finally lets me out, I go to a payphone. The floor of the phone box is covered, practically stuffed, with Islamist propaganda leaflets. The words that catch my eye are: 

"The Muslim loves death and strives for martyrdom."

I stare at the jumbled pile of black and white fliers and let my eyes sag until they blur into an amorphous grey shape. It looks like a shark in a Rorschach blot kind of way. What caused the extremist to lose his inspiration and dump them all here? Maybe he was weighed down by a world that didn't match him.

I have another moment of clarity; I have to find this disillusioned man. He’s perfect for me - I can't write, and he evidently can’t complete his mission either. I imagine that we’re kindred spirits.

The black text on one of the leaflets swims into focus, a web address for the Islamist organization; that’s a good place to start. But first I pick up the phone to cancel my appointment.


by Liz Barnes

3 comments:

  1. @Liz Barnes - you are a genius - I love it and want to hear more. It's very intriguing and I feel like saying - ''don't go there, don't find this disillusioned man''...you have managed to spark my interest and created pathos tinged with expectation.

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  2. Good one Liz, kinda dark, still loved it, keep writing

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  3. I really like this, the character feels so real

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