He has a brogue and I am mesmerized, accustomed to seduction by a Gallic tongue, and one in which I understand the nouns and verbs and nuance of a change in tone. In this, his particular cadence, I am deaf to the meaning of every third word, but in our new music lies something other than seduction and other than friendship.
I confine myself to treading lightly in unfamiliar notes.
After all, I have taken up the virtual pen one last time in the pernicious pool of dating dramas, in this vulnerable moment, in the wake of too many nights of silence, susceptible to the selection of The Latest Great Deal which sends me spiraling into the black hole of the same old scene: here, where we become our transactions and they exact their toll at the door; here, where upon re-entry we look for the nearest exit; here, where the price is higher than we remember and still we persist, wanting to believe.
We anticipate measurable value for our currency. We settle for a share of fun house distraction.
So I pin on my newest name and my shiniest smile, resolving to give it another go: I swing on the metaphorical porch and wait; I press my nose to the thin glass and wait; I dip an index and then a thumb and all the other digits as needed into the flash, the wink, the flirt, the two sentence hello but never the whole heart, never the girlish fourth finger, never the room to roam and I remain outside, and I wait.
One evening he writes and then calls and I don’t know why I agree to provide my number except that I am intrigued when he speaks and I hear the sound of Brigadoon and imagine castles rising from the moors. We begin a pattern of nightly conversation that seems to soothe us both, as our relationship such as it is consists of simple consolations: He reads to me in his luxuriant voice – a sonnet, a story, a paragraph of nothing much at all – and it is enough.
My mother was particularly fond of the globe thistle which flourished in her garden despite the cold, which radiated pride in its perfect sphere of cornflower blue, which reappeared year after year in her rocky bed in that toughened Yankee soil that suited her solitude.
I choose a different soil, though I am seduced by the thistle.
He calls for weeks and reads to me from a distant place as I recognize that distance appeals as much as the brogue, or rather – distance accommodates my complications, my thorny schedule, this tail end of single parenting in which the tail wags the body; whatever salve I try never quite arrives at the petals of the wound nor its perpetual ache. So I confine myself to the role of a face on a page and a welcoming ear, while he is the stalwart set of a jaw in a jpeg and the melody of a temporary fix.
Yet there is talk of literature and language, of love and romance, of thriving children and dead marriages. I know it is only a matter of weeks or months before a woman in the flesh will catch his fancy, a woman whose hand he may take in his own will press with the warmth of her skin and the tenderness of her fingertips, a woman whose lips will part when he greets her and whose tongue like his will sweeten their silence; she is a woman who will become more than her words and less than her words and she will not remain outside in the cold.
A month passes and I squander minutes in the middle of the darkness as I gaze at faces that I scanned years ago. This is the new dating world in all its falsity: images I recognize, knowing time has surely aged them. I revolt at the audacity of a 10-year old likeness even in the online ocean that carries us so callously, but my options are limited: I persevere in trying to kindle interest; I paid for this ritual in which there is neither pleasure nor pain; I float in weary acceptance that this is all that is left: swinging on the porch alone and waiting, my nose pressed to thin glass and waiting, the petals of the wound.
Of course there is Scotland, whose poetry dwindles as I expect until it disappears altogether, who has met a woman to read to at his side, her breath warm and steady against his chest, his brogue nothing romantic in and of itself, though for me it seems to linger, and with it, the thistle’s sharp and self-indulgent hue.
Flash fiction is a very short story of anywhere from 100 to 1,000 words. This is a quick writing exercise from life, from dream, from imagination.