THESE ARE the SOUNDS WE HATE

Longer than usual, but it’s mostly dialogue.  It may do well with two readings.

“I don’t know, I think my ribs are changing shape.”

“Changing?” (on the phone)

“Yeah.  They’re constantly on my mind.”

“What?”

“I’m too conscious of them. I think something’s wrong. It’s not normal, thinking about my ribs all day.”

“Do they hurt?”

“No, they feel fine. But tender — not hurt tender, just very delicate. I might just be losing weight.”

“Have you?”

“Lost weight?”

“Yeah.”

“I don’t know. Probably.”

“Have you been eating?”

“Not really.  I feel nervous.”

“About what?”

“I’m not sure. I just feel weak and nervous. And my ribs–”

“You just need to eat.”

“I don’t want to.” he said.

“What sounds good?”

“Nothing. A bath. I want some water, but I don’t want to have to drink it.”

“You’re dehydrated and malnourished.”

“But I feel good.”

“You do?”

“Yeah, I feel fine. A little shaky, but I feel fine. I feel . . . clean, inside.”

“Becuase there’s nothing in you. You’re not seeing things, are you?”

“What? No.”

“I’ll come over and make you some eggs, okay?”

“No, not eggs.”

“I’m coming over.”

“Don’t do that –”

“I’ll see you in ten minutes.”

In ten minutes she banged on the door, and in fifteen he had a plate of eggs, and in twenty the plate of eggs got to watch her feel his ribs.

“They feel like ribs.” she said. “That doesn’t hurt?”

His arms out, he shook his head.

“They’re just very soft.” he said.

He sat back against the couch and her eyes flicked to the tv.

“He’s not the father.”

“Probably not.” he said.

“Lie detectors –” she scoffed.

“Exactly.”

“Eat your eggs.”

“I hate eggs.  I told you I didn’t want any.”

“You need to eat something.”

“They have to cool off first.”

“Whatever it takes to get you to eat them.”

“I can’t eat them hot.”

“All right.”  she sunk back into the couch next to him and put her bare feet on the coffee table. “Are you thinking about your ribs?”

“No.  I don’t think about them. I’m just conscious of them. Constantly.”

“And you’re conscious of them now?”

“Well yeah.”

He lit a cigarette and put one foot up on the coffee table.

“He is the father.” she said.

“Sucks for him.”

“Why? I like it when he’s the father.”

“But they hate each other.”

“I would’ve thought you’d like that,”

“What?” he asked.

“Because, you know, you don’t have parents.”

“I wouldn’t want them to be like that.”

“Hm.  Me neither.” she said. “You grew up in California, didn’t you?”

“Yeah.”

“Is it true,” she asked. “that everyone thinks they’re a movie star?”

“What?”

“That’s what I heard — well, in one way.  That everyone has these big stories, that at cocktail parties you tell sad stories about how fucked up you are to impress other people.”

“Yeah, that’s about right.”

“Really?”

“Yeah.”

“What are your stories?”

“Uhm,” he scratched his chin, leaned forward to tap off ash. “being an orphan.”

“And?”

“Going to rehab at seventeen.”

“For what?”

He shrugged.

“That can’t be it.  You have to have more than two stories.”

“This isn’t a cocktail party.”

“I’ll take your eggs away.”

“I don’t want your fucking eggs anyway.” he said. “What about your stories?”

“I’m not Californian, I don’t have to do that.”

“Yes you do.  Everyone wants to be a movie star.”

“Not me.”

“Bullshit.”

“They’re none of your business anyway.”

“See, you want to be a movie star. Everyone wants to be in the movies.”

“I think you’re soul sick.” she said.

He was in the bathtub. She was leaning outside the bathroom door.

“I think I am,” he said.

“How long has it been?”

“Sixty . . . eight days. Sixty-nine? Sixty-eight.”

“Very soul sick.”

“I didn’t know you believed in souls.” he said. “I thought you hated that stuff.”

“Well, if we’re questioning that’s evidence enough–”

“I see.” he said. “That’s all you believe?”

“Mostly.”

“What happens when we die, Rachel?”

Silence.

“Open the door.” she said.

He sat on the rim of the tub and unlocked it.  She came in and seated herself against the wall, on the floor next to him.

“Everyone’s seen you naked.” she said. “I don’t care.”

“Okay.”

He put his elbows on the rim of the tub and watched her.

“We die,” she said.

“An–”

“I’m not done.  We die, and . . . and . . . fuck, we’re in the ground.  I can’t go beyond that. I can’t wrap my head around anything other than that.”

“You can’t fathom with this mind what you can’t experience with this body.”

“Something like that.” she said and looked over at him. “Is that what you believe?”

“I don’t know.  I haven’t figured it out.”

He shifted and the water rippled in eddies.

“I . . .” he said. “committed suicide three times.”

“You mean you attempted suicide?”

“Yeah, sorry, yeah.” he said. “No, five times.”

“How do you forget two of them?”

“You just do.” he said.

“Why did you do it?”

“Because . . . I had to.  I had to do it.  I couldn’t keep on.  It didn’t mean anything.”

He looked at her, and she looked at the tile.

“You don’t understand that.”

“Sometimes I do.” she said.

“Don’t say her name–” he buried his face in a pillow.

“Sorry.”

“It makes me feel ill.”

“Sorry.” she said.

He said nothing and she watched the shape of his shoulder blades under his skin.  They were sticking out, the way he was on his stomach.

“Don’t you want to hear what I have to say?”

“Not about her.”

“It’s good.  She looked miserable.”

“Do I look miserable?”

He lifted his head, his hair sticking out in odd angles.  His eyes were hazel and tired, puffy underneath, with lines.  But the lines were always there, even when he looked good.

“Yes.”

“I don’t feel miserable.” he said. “Not right now.”

“She was smiling the whole time,”

“Hm?”

“Your ex-girlfriend.”

“Oh, don’t–”

“Smiling so much.  She looked terrible.  She’s gained weight.”

“I used to be in love with her.”

“She’s a bitch.”

“For, like, five years.”

“And this is why I feel sorry for you. You’re so stupid.”

“Don’t say that.”

“Eric had his hands all over her.”

“Please don’t–”

He buried his face again and sighed into the pillow.

“I think you need to eat your eggs.”

“I don’t.”

“Paulie,”

“Hm.”

“Do you–”

“Hm?”

“Nevermind.”

Her eyes found a piece of lint on her jeans.  She let it stay there.

“Do I what?”

He looked up at her, eyes very green in this light.  He had lost weight, his torso sitting like a settled bow.

“Do you want to hear one of mine?”

“Okay.”

“I don’t love my boyfriend.” she said.

“That’s not a good story.”

“No.”

“You have to fuck it up by poisoning him.  Framing him for murder so he gets put away and you never have to tell him you don’t love him,”

“Or cheating on him.  I could do that.” she said, then glanced away.

She picked up a book butter-flied on the bedside table.

“What’s this? Is it good?”

“I don’t know.”

“It looks new.  I thought you didn’t like modern fiction.”

“I don’t.”

“So you don’t like this?”

“I don’t know.”

“But you’re almost done.” she said and spied the other book. “Ah, Flaubert. That makes sense.  You like that one?”

“Yes. That one makes me feel.”

“This one doesn’t?” she held up the modern fiction.

“It’s so masculine,”

“You mean like war and politics?”

“No, no — masculine style.  It’s all facts, all showing — there’s no ing.  You know, the ing? There’s none of that mindset. That connects to the reader, but the masculine writer doesn’t care to connect, he just wants to convey.”

“So he’s just telling you things,”

“Without any feeling. Dialogue like — like machine gun fire.  And the sex –”

“Here we go,”

“– it’s supposed to be there, there’s a lot of it going on, but he just tells you about it.  He never once shows it.  He just says it happens and moves along.”

“That’s why you don’t like it.”

“I never said I didn’t like it.”

“But if you got the sex?”

“I’d probably like it.”

“But classics don’t have sex in them.”

“They don’t need it.”

“They don’t?”

“They knew how to feel outside of sex. These days, we can’t feel unless it’s sexual.  I can’t tell anyone I love them without everyone thinking I mean sex.”

“I don’t think that’s true.”

“Well, I love you?”

“Hm.”

“I love you,”

“That is weird.”

“Can you say it to me, without sex?”

“I don’t think so.” she said. “Then again, it’d be a lie.”

“You can’t love platonically?”

“I –” she shook her head. “you’re right.  I can’t.  I can’t call it love.”

“And everything else is dead.”

“I don’t think so.”

“There’s more than love?” he asked. “Or more than sex?”

“More than — oh fuck it.”

They went back out into the light of the living room, now that they did not love each other.

“How is this show still on?”

“Maybe it’s a marathon.  No one’s supposed to be watching tv on Sundays, anyway.” he said.

“What are we supposed to be doing?”

“I don’t know.”

He put his feet up on the coffee table.

“And they’re all paternity tests.  How many people need paternity tests these days?”

“I don’t know. When you, you know, sleep with a lot of . . .”

“But to do it on tv–”

“Californian movie stars –”

“Oh, right.” she said. “How are your ribs?”

“Okay.”

“Tender?”

“Tender.” he pushed on them. “Tender.  No, now they hurt.”

“Really?”

“Because I pressed on them.”

“It didn’t hurt when I did it.”

“No, but you’re not me. It’s different.”

“Why would it be different?”

“Because you’re a girl.”

“Softer.”

“Something like that.”

He looked at the tv.  There was an antidepressant commercial on.

“Aw, that’s bullshit.” he said. “Being depressed looks nothing like that.”

“What does it look like?”

“Well, not everything is in low light and low saturation.”

“It is a commercial–”

“That makes you think you’re not depressed unless you’re wearing grey sweats in a dark, lowly saturated room.”

“So depressed people can wear something other than sweats? Your enlightenment, oh wise one–”

“Shut up.” he said. “It’s ridiculous, though.  There are plenty of days in Day-Glo orange with the sun out and the birds singing and children — children giving you cookies and hugs.  Plenty.  And that’s what makes it so bad. If you really were locked up in a dark, lowly saturated room, it would be okay.  But you’re not.  You’re out in the world, you’re out in spring days where everyone else is normal and happy, except you’re not.  Somehow you’re the fuck up who can’t manage to be happy when everything’s so saturated.”

“Hm.”

“Yes. Hm.”

“That’s feeling outside sex. Depression.”

“It’s not a good feeling, though.”

“You never said feelings had to be good.”

“It was implied.”

“Not really. Your classics are terribly depressing.”

“That’s different — it’s a good feeling.”

“You like being depressed?”

“Only in books.”

“And bored to death?”

“They’re quiet, not boring.”

“Tiresome. I like machine-gun firing.” she said. “You like sex in everything but sex.”

“Maybe.”

“You really do want to be a movie star.”

“I can’t help it.”

“It’s annoying, you know?”

“Sorry.”

“What happened, those two times you forgot? What did you do?”

He looked at his toes on the edge of the coffee table.

“I don’t remember.”

“Hm.”

“I don’t.”

“There’s your real story, Pauls.” she said. “There’s your real movie.  You remember. Don’t ever tell anyone.”

“If you say so. You’re the boss.”

“I have to get home.”

“Okay.”

Her keys jangled when she slung her purse on her shoulder.

“Bye, Paulie.” she leaned over and kissed him on the forehead. “I love you.  Eat your eggs.”

“Yeah, okay.”

“They’re all cold now.”

“They look good.”

“I’m serious,” she was near the door. “I don’t want to have to take you to the hospital.”

“You won’t.”

“Eat them.”

“Okay.”

“Stop thinking about your ribs.”

“Okay.”

“Bye.”

“Bye.”

She went out the door.  He looked at the eggs on the table, the matte layer of skin that had formed on the ketchup.  He picked up the plate and shovelled them down the disposal.

He sat back down on the couch and lit a cigarette.

“You are not the father!” the television said.

He shook his head.

“She was lying the whole time.”

And the crowd just went wild.

~ by yearzerowriters on June 19, 2010.

13 Responses to “THESE ARE the SOUNDS WE HATE”

  1. I really enjoyed this – I felt like I was a fly on the wall listening to this conversation – you have a serious ear for dialog – it really doesn’t need anything else. This might be an excellent example of ‘showing’ not ‘telling’ in an almost pure dialog form, like a screenplay or stage play.

    You also manage to convey a great weight – there’s an almost Woody Alleneque humor about Paulie’s ribs, which gives way to a deeper concern that isn’t quite voiced.

    Break it down – it’s ‘real’ and the last line:

    And the crows just went wild

    truly fits.

    DJ

  2. Whoops – that should have been CROWD – though I’m sure the crows were excited, too. 🙂

  3. Thank you — that’s a lovely lot of compliments. I did write it with a screenplay mentality, and I do see the Woody Allenesque humour in it, now that you mention it. I’m glad the weight of it is retained, though, and not buried too much in the tangents.
    Lovely! Thank you so much for commenting!
    -Sarah

  4. You know, this reminds me of what Larry said about how he goes about he writing process.

    The title has all sorts of resonances from music of course, but the one I can’t get out of my head is “this is the noise that keeps me awake” from Garbage’s Hush – I probably risk being shot or never spoken to again, but your writing often makes me think of them – it’s like it’s masquerading as something indie but there’s something else there as well that’s much darker.
    Dan

    • Do you mean he turns conversations he has with himself about his ribs into fiction? Becuase that’s what I did.

      Ha, okay, okay, but how do you mean? I always feel I DON’T go about writing, it just sort of happens (as in, no plan. And no plan means no constant style — at least, between pieces).

      You make another reference, sir, that I haven’t a clue about. I do agree with masqerading as indie, but being darker than that (or “darker” as “more real”, as I see it. And “more real” turning into “beautiful” because it’s the truth). This is why I’m not always comfortable being called indie in everyone else’s standards. To me it means nothing more than “independent”.

      I stole the title from one of my favourite songs. I had no idea what to name the piece, but I flip flopped between this and “knife dreams”. Still not sure if either is any good. I don’t feel like you can really pin this one down anyway. It’s really just about eggs. Not eating eggs.

      -S

  5. Truly troublesome in a masterly way.
    Pen

  6. Love this dialog. Seriously good stuff.

  7. i feel a little voyeuristic as if i shouldn’t be listening to these conversations. some of the interactions are intimate and heavy, and others are mundane. so i keep reading hoping i am not invading, and i feel ok reading the mundane stuff. but then something heavier happens and i feel like i’m snooping.

    so what i’m saying is that it is very effective!

    lovelenox.

  8. Fab, feels real, just stuff really, things being one way AND another.

  9. You were right Sarah, I do love this. A very effective piece of writing.

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