The Higgs Boson Anthology: Solid by Dan Holloway

We watch Magnolia in rolled-up T-shirts, and our shoulders don’t touch, not even when Aimee Mann starts to sing and we’re sweating. Not a single drop of my sweat touches a single drop of hers. Our feet don’t touch under the table at the diner, and we’re on the bus and our arms don’t touch and she says come in, cool down, and I do and our fingers don’t touch when she passes me a beer, and our hair doesn’t touch as it strings down over our faces while we do lines off her bathroom tiles, and we stand on her steps and our hands don’t touch and she says My God this fucking heat, and I say Fuck yeah, and our words pass straight through each other like even they don’t touch and hers smell of beer and mint.

I answer the phone. It’s Sean and he’s crying and making noises like he’s blowing bubbles and he’s trying to say stuff that just sounds like vowels, so I say where are you, man? and he’s gasping and wailing and gasping again but I think I hear him say square. Richardson Square used to be grass and trees and swings that had some of their original paint but now it’s just grey shit of one kind or another piled on other grey shit, and Sean’s there, just sitting, and it’s impossible to miss him in his red sneakers and yellow top. His head’s bowed and he doesn’t move when I approach and at first I think he might be dead but I figure if he’s dead in Richardson someone would’ve taken his sneakers by now so I guess he’s just in his own bit of time that’s going more slow than everything around him.

I say whassup, man, and he doesn’t look up, but his body shakes, once, and there’s a sound from somewhere, S’Bobbi. I say, Bobbi? and then there’s nothing and we sit so long if anyone saw us they’d just see a film of that grey shit by now.

Mo’fucker’s dead, he says at last. I say, Bobbi’s dead?

He says I’m so fucking scared, don’t leave me man, and I say, it’s OK man we’re solid, and we sit for so fucking long and still the sun won’t fucking come up and my eyes are sticky and my throat’s dry and I think maybe we’re gonna spend our lives in Richardson wrapped in some fucking grey shit cocoon.

It’s not raining. In films it’s always raining, like the director thinks making the air wet and thick makes lovers light and slick and so they’re pressed into one another and become one writhing thing almost by accident. But they don’t become one thing, and the rain is a lie, and no matter the sweat and the water and the oil and the melting lipstick they aren’t one creature and they never will be. The rain’s a lie, and the kissing’s a lie, and the skin sliding on skin’s a lie and the way the cloth disappears in the torrent’s a lie and the fucking’s a lie and coming together like some piece of harmony’s a lie.

It isn’t raining, and we stand awkwardly on her doorstep until she says come in, and inside it’s dry and we have drinks but it’s still dry and even when our clothes are gone our skins keep getting in the way and by then our mouths are dry and when I come it tears the back of my throat and when she comes she’s so dry she just sobs and sobs and nothing comes out.

Sean’s in the same clothes he wore two nights ago, and now they’re not so bright and there are tears in the seams, and he’s got stubble only I can barely see where the stubble stops and the dirt begins.

You been sleeping in the square, I ask.

Man, he says, no way. They’d see me there. I found some steps off Montaigne with railings and boxes and stuff so you can’t see shit from the street.

They? The guys who killed Bobbi?

He looks up from the coffee I sprung him and his eyes are stary like he’s looking through me, and the dirt on his face makes his cheeks look way more hollow than they can have gotten in two days, but the way he looks scares the shit out of me so I order waffles and eggs.

Yeah, the guys who killed Bobbi, he says when his plate’s empty.

You know who did that?

Yeah, I know who did that, and this time his eyes are looking at me and there’s a question, a desperate one, and I wonder if we’re being watched from somewhere, and if whoever’s watching, if anyone is, can see that he hasn’t told me their name, and I quit wondering and look back at him and the question’s still there, thick between us, and I shout the waitress and before I go I slip her a twenty and make sure she knows to see Sean’s had whatever he wants before she lets him out.

We’re round at mine and it’s nearly three in the morning already. The night is so still and hot we have the window wide open but we can’t see any stars past the neon that gives everything in the room a strange halo, so when we’ve already been fucking for two hours and she looks at me like there’s some kind of beast inside her punching to get out of her eyes, and reaches down calm as anything and takes the knife out of her bag, it shines, kind of dull, and gives off this glowing metal fuzz like it’s a backlit Christmas-tree angel.

She screws up her forehead and slaps her temple with the hand that isn’t holding the knife, and slaps it again hard, with her open palm, and in one motion she lowers her hand, slices straight across the front, takes mine before I can move, does the same, drops the knife like it’s burning, and presses our palms together. The screams come together, and a dog starts barking, and her blood and mine start running together, looking crazy in the neon light.

Why won’t it work, she mutters. Again and again, Why won’t it work? And a line of heat runs across the wound, and pulses hot, hot, and the pain has only just arrived and I know our blood has run together and our screams have run together and our pain is running together and it’s all because the wound will never be deep enough, and I begin to shake my head and sob and cry, It’ll never work, and the salt and blood and scream wear a halo of neon like they’re molten hell.

The clock on the screen says it’s night so it must be dark out but I haven’t seen a window for days, or maybe hours, or since who knows when. I put the phone to my ear and listen but it’s not really words, or a voice, just a series of broken sounds punctuated occasionally with scared and help and square.

I listen and I think. I think, it must be dark out, but not as dark as it is in here in this room with walls and boards, and a ceiling and switches and fabric made from pain cut in strips so thick and woven so tight that nothing could ever escape. The sounds coming from the speaker are so much quieter than the sounds in my head and eventually they fade to a level hiss, and I throw the phone across the room.

Our bodies are slick and in the darkness it is impossible to tell how much of the liquid drowning us is sweat, and how much oil, and how much blood.

No matter how we bite and fuck and fist we still sit apart in the blackness, separated by skin, and as long as we sit and we fist and bite and fuck we will always be separated, and she says, I can feel every part of you beneath your skin and I can see your soul behind your eyes and I can press up against what’s there and the gap between us is infinitesimally small but it will never go away; and I say, What kind of torture is this? and she says, It’s just what it is to be human, to be part of this world, and I say then we must sit apart in the darkness forever and never see into each other’s soul, and never feel each other’s blood or hear each other’s breath, we must sit each one of us in our separate cells and keen into the night in our loneliness, and she says, No, that’s not the answer, and I say, What is?

and I hear the sound of metal and feel nothing but warmth and she takes my hand in hers and presses it against hers, and the warmth becomes heat, and the heat becomes cold, and from somewhere I hear sounds,

we find a different world with different rules

~ by yearzerowriters on April 23, 2010.

20 Responses to “The Higgs Boson Anthology: Solid by Dan Holloway”

  1. Oh, Dan. This is sterling writing. I’ve never read anything quite like this before. I remember you reading it. I don’t know where, but I remember this. The beat and rhythm are perfect. I love it.
    The only downside is that I find it hard to picture where I am at any given moment. The scenes switch smoothly from one to the next, but with the lack of something there to tell me where I am, I’m getting lost somehow. Not lost with the whos or whys, lost with the whens and wheres.
    I still love it. Maybe this is what makes it special. Am I supposed to get where I am?
    Anne L-G

  2. […] Solid by Dan Holloway […]

  3. Thank you, Anne. That’s very encouraging on the subject of my “voice” because I’ve never read this piece out (I only finished it about a week agao).

    Setting – yes, I know that’s an issue – I wanted to move from the very concrete to the very abstract – the start, I had in mind somewhere like Baltimore or Philadelphia, but it deliberately gets more and more vague as the characters lose touch with reality until in the end what I had in mind was the claustrophobic finale of Nagia Oshima’s Ai No Corrida. It was very tricky doing all that in such a short story, and so the clarity has almost certainly suffered – it was going to be longer but somehow – unlike time – it just wouldn’t stretch and I didn’t want to pad.

  4. This is reality. This is but one reality. This is real.


  5. As usual all you you fucking astound me . . . I hadn’t read any of the higgs-bosun pieces because, frankly, science just isn’t my thing usually. I should have known better. Daisy’s made me cry . . . and yours is the best distillation of the way life really is I’ve seen in a long time. Now the challenge is to wrench my head back to the POS I’m working on and muster the where with all to finish. (I must not read the work of my betters, it only confuses me)

    • Sessha, I go into a massive downer every time I read a new piece by some people. I took my books down from Authonomy after reading Oli’s last piece because I felt ill looking at them and knowing what he’d done. I’m flattered and embarrassed but I’ll be the last person ever to believe anyone who says stuff like that about my work – not that it isn’t hugely appreciated. #it is. Thank you 🙂

  6. Gah…dammit Dan, you must quit depressing me in such a wonderful fashion. Almost makes me long for those isolation tank days. I do wonder what you would do with a story that is more celebratory. (not that it matters for this piece…) I can feel the LHC particle smear from scene to scene. Very nice.

    • I know exactly what I’d do with a more celebratory story Bradley – I’d pop it right along to the circular filing cabinet in the corner of the room 🙂 Seriously, I do celebratory – I got a poem on my blog now I’m putting here next week that’s just a celebration – a celebration of misfits & screw-ups basking in an eternal warmth created by burning all the suits admittedly, but a celebration nonetheless.

      • heheh. Oh you tortured soul who abandons the positive side. Keep on doing what you do so I can continue to enjoy it.

  7. Wow! you didn’t read this? I must be tripping. Seriously. And that’s WITHOUT taking anything. I could’ve bet money that I’ve heard you read this. Are you sure you’re not breaking into my house in the middle of the night and reading your stuff to me? 🙂

  8. I fucking loved this. You really have talent. I love the rawness. I love grit. Some beautiful lines. I love the opening with the repetition of touching…it made it seem so absent, you know?

  9. ‘What kind of torture is this? and she says, It’s just what it is to be human, to be part of this world, and I say then we must sit apart in the darkness forever’ – this line really got to me in a huge way. Like a cold front. Perfect words. Shit world.

  10. Thanks, Pen. At least there are pools of loveliness liek you guys

  11. Oh Dan, listen to us all. I say the same as the others, when I read this, I said ‘Oh my god, whatever I have done before and had any faith in, now I must go back to the start and try to climb similar heights.’ I’ve got a few things done on a similar theme but not as beautiful as this. When we write we know the ‘thing’ that was in our own heads and how far away, how approximate our eventual creation is. So we will rarely, if ever be in awe of ourselves but if others say (as we are saying to you) ‘this is bloody amazing, how the hell did you do that, it’s extraordinary’ then you have to accept their reality/opinion is absolutely/relatively (?!) TRUE TRUE TRUE.

    • Gosh 🙂

      The answer regarding the head is that 70% of the time we appear across teh web with Anne’s photo, and whether we do or whether we don’t seems to have to do with the direction of the wind or something equally inexplicable. The only one of us organised enough to have an avvie on a regular basis is Daisy 🙂

  12. Oh and by the way, why am I the only one with a face here, should I try to be more enigmatic, will that improve my writing?

  13. […] Solid by Dan Holloway […]

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