‘Hi Amy. I hope this finds you well. I haven’t seen you in twelve years. Do you still have my underwear? Those white briefs? I think that you do. I wonder if you wear them. Can picture you next to the window, spending all your life thinking about me. Twelve years that are all about me. I’ve consulted the internet to see if this is true – if there’s some record of you in my underwear. Next to that window. Thinking about me.’
I go home, and then up. Stairs, and a door. I jingle the keys.
“You’re home!” says Amy, running at me.
I put out a hand to stop her, because I’ve a laptop to stow away, a jacket to remove, a phone to turn off. Then she runs into me, and suddenly I’m pressed against the door. I am a door, I think, as she clutches me so hard that I think her fingers are going to rip out pieces of my flesh.
“Do you want to go out?” I ask her. “Food?”
She whirrs and moans a response. I stare through threads of her hair at the studio – the pile of books on the island, her sweater on a chair. The dust against the far wall that she’s collected and just left there, as though it’s a permanent fixture now, that or just unworthy of being scooped up and put away. This is something I have to deal with now. Something that is mine.
‘You’re 38 now, Amy. It’s getting late in your life to start a family. Maybe you shouldn’t bother. Maybe an entire life can be spent thinking about someone you knew years ago, and that left. People spend their lives devoted to all kinds of things – why can’t I be one of those? I can be that for you, Amy. A particle on planet earth, on an adjacent continent, working through my life without a thought for you other than these occasional letters. But for you, I’m everything.’
Amy walks with a candle in her hand. It’s something she does. It’s not a real candle, just one of those electronic ones. But she holds it out in front of her, as though the streetlight brightness is somehow wrong. Somehow not enough. This is Amy’s response to March evenings. People look at her as she walks by, and once I swore I saw – down the road, just turning a corner – another person holding out a candle. Walking in a bubble of light, because the streetlights aren’t enough.
“I learned today that human beings are now influencing the mass of the planet,” she says. “No, really, it’s true. We live and die, make things and throw them out, but that’s a circle. The mass rises and then goes to rest until it’s resurrected, with no gain or loss. But now we’re on with this climate change business, and what that does is trap more heat in the atmosphere – a measurable amount of additional mass, all because of us. We’re making the planet heavier.”
“Amy, how about Thai?” I ask her. Across the street is a knot of people. They look familiar.
“Tomorrow I’m going to calculate how much heavier,” she says. “I want to know.”
The candle is out in front of her. The people across the street separate, until I can see their faces. One belongs to George Howard Reese. I’ve always enjoyed the company of people who insist on using their middle names – but George I can’t stand. I don’t understand his trenchcoat or his beard or the tartan cap on his bald head. His head swings our way, and I move off to the side, just out of the candlelight. A little further from Amy.
He’s watching her. His eyes follow her as she walks down the street, the candle out in front. I swear he’s smiling. But he doesn’t see me at all. George Howard Reese. I hate that guy. I really do.
‘I might as well tell you something, Amy. I’m writing these letters to you in the present. By that, I mean that I’m writing them while I’m still with you. I just figure that twelve years from now, we won’t be together, and that I’ll have the idea of writing you something. I might as well get started now. You’re in the bed, by the way. Sleeping in a t-shirt, and my briefs. You never snore. Never make a sound. You never get up in the middle of the night, so you won’t wake up to wonder what I’m writing. Well, this is still twelve years later. And you’re long gone. And I’m long gone too.’
Amy’s flirting with the waiter. Not really flirting, but a kind of intimacy – she always talks to people like she’s known them forever, that people on the whole are really one person, and that any conversation she has is a continuation of something already started. That never really ends.
“You’re beautiful, you know that?” Amy asks the waiter. He’s short, old and Chinese. And blushing. Fumbles with the order card and makes to leave, but then just stands there to see if she’s going to say anything more. So she does.
I get up and go to the bulletin board by the front door, because there might be something important there. Someone’s selling kittens – putting a price tag on living things. A handyman’s looking for work. I stick a note to the board, stealing a pin from the generous amount that’ve already been given to that matter of cats. In my jacket, there’s a pen.
‘Amy, fuck. I used to sit next to you, at the same table, and feel off. You give off something that I can’t regulate. Either I’m cold or hot, but I’m never comfortable. Back then, you always said that you wanted to travel with me, and wanted to make plans to do it. But you never did. It wouldn’t have made a difference, though. Remember that time we went to a restaurant and you flirted with a little Chinese guy? After twelve years, do you remember that? I want you to think back on it, and remember what I was doing at the time. Where I was. What I looked like and what I might have been thinking. Try to do that. See what happens.’
The food comes, and Amy talks about human bar-coding. “I want to be cloned,” she says, and my appetite evaporates as I think of many Amy’s walking about, candles held out front, or riding on orange bicycles with music blaring from the handle bars. An army of Amy’s. And then she catches me: “What’s wrong? Is it a bad idea?”
“You had a strange look. Don’t you like the idea?” she asks. And then Amy’s suddenly present, right here next to me, not in some cloudburst or other cosmos. She’s here, and I remember her. Staring at me, like I owe her something. “It’s just a fantasy,” she explains. “A way of looking at the things people can do, and what it could mean. It’s not real. What’s real is right here, me and you. What we’re going to do.”
“We should go home,” I tell her, and so we do. The food’s half-eaten, but the little Chinese waiter is well-tipped. On the way, Amy gives out bundles of cloth to homeless people – they’re stacks of quarters wrapped in little notes with hopeful messages. I’ve never read one, but I know what they say. Amy wants to hold my hand, but I say no. The rest of the way home, she’s very quiet, and for a moment I’m happy.
“I’m going to bed,” I tell her in the studio, but first I want to clean up that pile of dirt. Amy stands there, staring at the door. I am a door, I think. “Tomorrow why don’t we go for a hike? Can make sandwiches and eat on the trail. Okay?” In all my years of knowing Amy, I’ve never seen her cross her arms. I’ve never seen her cross her legs. I’ve never seen any part of her body tangled up with another, looking awkward or strained. At the moment, she’s standing straight, loose. I feel hot, then cold. “Amy, I’m tired. Really tired.”
The bedroom’s shaped like a piece of pie, the point aimed at a window. The bed’s warm, and I try to read a book by some guy who’s the next great writer, only he writes like a kid and that’s the genius of him. I guess that is genius. Eventually, I hear the door open and close. I am like a door, too. Exactly like a door, I think. The book is tedious, so I pick up a piece of paper.
‘People will tell you to get on with your life, Amy. That twelve years is too long to wait for someone. But they’ll be wrong, so don’t listen. Why would you want to begin a life that you don’t want? That would go ahead without who you want in it? Doesn’t it make sense to hold back and wait? Isn’t that what we’re all after anyway? Twelve years. I picture you on a bus, in a black coat. Hands on your legs, looking up at a map. Somewhere out there, I’m around. I’m married now, with kids. I know I told you that I never wanted that, and that was true at the time, but this is where I am now. A lot changes in twelve years, Amy. But don’t you change. Don’t shift for anyone. Keep waiting, and we’ll see what happens.’
And here we are, whirring through space. People like to think that they are faster than others, but in reality we all move at the same approximate speed. It’s a rotational activity, a spin. Some would argue that at its core, it’s also an outwards expansion, at a very high rate of acceleration, but that some day – beyond the time when days even exist anymore – the speed will reverse, and we will be heading in the opposite direction. But even if that does happen, we will still be together. And we will be moving at the same speed, no one person really much faster than the other, at least compared to all that other movement out there – the motion we don’t see, and never feel, but that is the fastest and most pronounced aggregate of our place in things. Wherever that may be. And a piece of paper floats out there with this: ‘Hi Ryan. I don’t know what to say. Scrap it. Sorry.’ And then it’s crumpled, a ball. And onwards we whirr.
More salient communications exist, as follow.
‘Hi Ryan. It’s Amy. I haven’t seen you in three years. I’m sorry about leaving like that, I don’t know what happened. I remember standing there as you went to bed, and I couldn’t stop looking at the door. And then I was through it, and outside. On the street, with my candle, and these two kids came up to me and asked if they could walk with me. I asked them why they’d want to, and they didn’t really know. But we walked down the street, and into the park, and sat on a bench. And we talked in the candlelight, while you slept. I made two friends that night. But I never went back to you, and I’m sorry for that.’
‘Hi Ryan. It’s been seven years. I wonder where you are, or what you’re doing. What you’re thinking, or if you understand. Do you know that I think about you? Is there some connection I still have with you through people, some way that what I feel transmits through them until it finds you? You’ll laugh, I know you will, when you hear – I’ve been cloned! That’s right, I did it. My daughter’s name is Jane, and she has red hair like her father. And soon I’m going to be cloned again! There’ll be lots of Amy’s that way. A little legion of me’s, plodding down the street. I fell of my bike the other day, and everyone was worried that the baby was hurt. I was in the hospital, and I swore that I saw someone who looks just like you in a waiting room, staring up at the TV. But when I went back to check, there was no one there. And anyway, the baby’s fine. It’s fine, this little Amy inside of me.’
‘Ryan. It’s been twelve years. I got a bundle of letters from you yesterday. I wonder why you waited so long to contact me, and at that, by letter. It seems like a lot of letters, actually. I have three kids now, and I’m working again – bioclimate science, mostly research. After we get the kids to bed, I’m going to sit down and read the letters. I’m looking forward to it. Maybe I should try harder to actually send these e-mails to you, so that you know I’m thinking about you. That I haven’t forgotten you. Maybe I will do just that, after I read your letters. Isn’t it funny, Ryan, the connection we have? That we always had? I always thought there was something that would keep us together, and now here it is. In a bundle of paper, and in this transmission. I’ll turn these words to the ether eventually, and you’ll find them. I know you will. And then we’ll go from there, okay? And then, Ryan, we will go from there.’
81 thoughts on “Twelve Years Time”
Oh, this was sooooo good.
Thanks Victo – any particular part that spoke to you?
What? You want me to get specific? Well. Ok, then. The cloning was an unexpected turn. The unsent letters back and forth, the assumption that the other still cared. How often does THAT happen? All the dang time. How flaky she was, with the candles and the just up and leaving. Women. But back to the cloning. How narcissistic is that? Just perfect.
Interesting. I can’t see those takes in this story, but that’s just me. An author doesn’t get to dictate anything after the thing is out of his hands – right, Victo?
True. It is sometimes frustrating and sometimes humbling to see what people take away from my stories.
Thank you, V. Please tell him. Sometimes I also wonder where to start from.
On a side though, it’s pardonable he wants to see what others see in his writing.
Well Doc, it any writer wants to know what people see in their writing. I am unpopular, it is true, but still, a writer wants to dream…. and the first step towards any dream is building a ladder made of the fancies of your friends. There are enough people frivolously playing in this space, looking for reciprocity. I commend them, honour them even – but confess to not being one of them.
*bows very solemnly *
Doc, you are perhaps the single most real person I’ve met in blogland. By real, I mean not here for the numbers or the ostensible fame that (questionably) comes with them. Here’s to reality! And fancy, too.
That’s a hard compliment to swallow.
I hope to remain so.
Very interesting … what I just posted deals, I think, with the same thing but in a very different way.
I’ll have to have a look at your post, Mark. Now I’m curious.
Oh my goodness! I felt like I was on “pins and needles!” Waiting, hoping. . . . . While no happy ending at least explanation plus a stack of love letters to read.
Hoping for what, if I may ask. I don’t know if I’d call them love letters, though… maybe the opposite?
Reads like a core sample taken from a possible future or alternate present/future. Very dense with meaning and teasing the reader to relate it to their own lives. It never quite matches the reader’s world and yet it seems very real – just 1/2 a quantum out of phase -internally consistent and perfectly believable and yet not of here. Leaves the reader with a haunting feeling of an echo in their life – a sense of that which either is now elsewhere/when or will be. Personal and still removed simultaneously – a brilliant piece of writing.
Your writing is growing from its starting point of excellent to well beyond excellent Trent. Superbly written my friend.
That is a heck of a comment, Paul (not that I would expect anything less from you). Personal and removed is about right, and kind of characterizes the two characters as well.
I’m always interested in things just a bit out of reality – maybe that’s what stories really are, alternate takes on new existence. And thank you Paul – your regard means a lot.
I think your assessment about hits the sky. Of the many qualities of the piece, this was about its peak.
Reblogged this on Kate McClelland.
You’ve written what I consider to be one of the great mysteries of life. Miscommunication between men & women. Maybe miscommunication is the wrong word. If only we really did know what each other is thinking relationships would be so simple. I think both men and women build up in their heads fantasy relationships before they are together and when that doesn’t become the reality they rewrite their history into a completely alternate reality when they are apart. Our thoughts are never what people think they are no matter how well they think they know us.
Trent, your writing gets better every time you publish a piece. You have a way of getting into your readers head and planting your story there so that it takes root and the branches grow intertwined with our imagination. It is such an honour to read you.
Michelle! Men and women, men and men, women and women, all of it seems like a confusing morass. I agree about building fantasies, they are so dangerous but in that construction period, so sweet.
Thanks for the compliments Michelle – glad it appears better, because I very much want to be better. And possibly weirder.
No worries, Trent, you have the weird down solid. 😉
Connections are interesting things. How they happen and how long they last. And then, of course, our perception of what we mean to others. It is something we can only guess at and, I suspect, often get wrong.
I think I’m an expert in getting it wrong, and so the characters I churn up seem endlessly frail and incompetent at this life thing. But shiny happy characters are kind of overrated, right?
Some connections are one-way, I suppose, but in reality they might have been on the other way all along. I think I may have been on the receiving end of that confusion before.
well… ummmm… I loved it… but I am not a huge fan of sharing undergarments…
I would share my underwear with you. Just saying. Not really offering. But saying like I’m offering. Hmmm….
If my life ever reaches the point where that is even a remote possibility, I will become a Cananandadian citizen first, and borrow your snowshoes, moose, Mountie costume, maple syrup, moose head beer, and the word ‘eh’ first.
Anytime, my friend.
Uh… You’re welcome?
intrarelational intelligence…… a perspicacious piece 🙂
Poet, only you would say something like that… only you. I’ve missed you, what can I say???
haha that’s just because i am a sucker for that thing that causes cellular hysterics… it causes me to want to explain/understand but I can’t so I make up weird sentences that feel right instead!
That is such a cool concept Poet – intra relational intelligence – I’ve not seen it before and you are exactly right, it is that and that is a concept we can see in all our relationships (sometimes defining, often not). One of my areas of study (when I was a young whipper snapper) was Physical Chemistry – and crystal structure. The spaces between the crystals are called interstices and the pattern of the interstices often contains more information and meaning than the pattern of crystals. These interstices are critical in (to name a few) electrical conduction, High Temperature Superconductors, and even (in some cases) chelating agents. That humans possess an “intra” relationship intelligence is critical (in my mind) to relationship development and even team work. In a way this concept is perfect for Trent’s piece as the organization of the interstices could be viewed as an alternate world view compared to the organization of the individuals. Negative space is a fascinating area of study – be it the space between individuals in relationship or the interstices of a crystal structure. And it seems so important in collaboration and co-operation. Trump is a perfect example of what you get when there is no intra relational intelligence – just narcissism.
Oh Yes Paul, you have sent goosebumps all throughout my body, reading what you say is the same feeling to me when a poem or artwork hits the spot just right. Truth. I will re read what you have written and do some of my own research. I have just made an artwork that speaks exactly of this and will now need to write something …maybe the two will come together as a post soon!
Oh, by the way Trent, The first half of my story about going missing is up over at Cordelia’s Mom http://cordeliasmomstill.com/2016/02/22/dont-pay-the-ransom-i-escaped-guest-post-by-paul-curran/comment-page-1/#comment-16183 The second half is coming tomorrow. If you have time to drop by for a read, I would be honored. Thank You
I will have a read, of course.
There’s so much going on here… the effect of time combined with this couple’s relationship and how you reveal individual traits about them both… I would much rather be Amy than Ryan, the “door,” whose perceptions seem to be so fixed, and who seems to be unable to accept the fact that Amy is not conforming to them…
I think you illustrated the fact that winners and losers exist in every experience in life, and that being on the losing end is oftentimes directly associated with how one chooses to live… and I don’t see Amy being on that end much at all, because of her more positive outlook. Good thing she’s cloned herself by having babies because the world needs them!
Very thought-provoking piece, Trent. The construction is the only thing that tripped me up… but that’s just me 🙂
I went for something totally different on this one. I hate the conceit of writers in that they feel they can write obscurely and tough nuggets if people don’t get it… but sometimes you have to write because it’s what you feel.
I love non-conformists. Which explains why I’m on a blog, conforming to basically everything that would be expected of me. But friends make it all okay, right?
That’s a new one, Trent! “Tough nuggets, eh?!” Your word styling at times is so entertaining!
Such a gentle, sensitive soul you are, and I’m glad you have the blog to write out what you feel, although with much of what you write, I hope it has nothing to do with you!
And yes, friends help to make it all okay… and we need the rain in order to grow, right? Hope you’re having a good weekend. 🙂
I get asked now and then if my writing reflects who I am, but honestly it’s like slipping into someone else’s skin when I’m writing – and it feels pretty comfortable. A good fit when it goes right.
You have a style, sir. In the same way I can hear a guitar solo and say ah, that’s Slash…or Jimi, or Stevie, or Kirk Hammett… I think I could be shown a paragraph and say, ah…that’s Trent Lewin.
Some constructive criticism: The paragraph beginning “Amy walks with a candle in her hand. It’s something she does…” confused me. I lost my footing at that point, because I had not yet figured out the structure — the difference between the bold text and the regular font — and last we left Ryan and Amy they were inside the studio. There was no transition to outside the studio, which would have been fine if I hadn’t been trying to figure out bigger things. I needed more hand-holding, right there. Either that, or save the jump-cut until after I’ve figured out what’s going on, big-picture-wise (round about bold paragraph number three).
A great idea, and powerful, and sad, and poignant. And sad. It made me feel, and that’s what I want. Good stuff.
Got it on the transition, that’s great feedback Walt.
Sad is what I had, but for the guy. Also, he’s a fool (but aren’t guys just that most of the time?).
I hope I have a style – almost as much as I hope I don’t have a style. I figure you know what I mean by that.
Oh boy. This one struck a nerve for me. I have an Amy…Er, Ryan. It’s just that I don’t go 12 years without contact. Maybe I should.
Let me know if you do… I don’t think I could.
I haven’t managed yet either.
my favorite moment– “beyond the time when days even exist anymore – the speed will reverse, and we will be heading in the opposite direction. But even if that does happen, we will still be together. And we will be moving at the same speed..” if we are truly lucky enough– we travel moving at the same speed- together. And, I do believe I am.
I think there are people you want to move together with, Audra. Perhaps we can split a coffee on a cloud headed for deep space sometime.
I’d like that very much. Very. Hope all is well on your fluffy cloud right now 🙂
It is indeed a nice spot on this exceptional cloud, Audra. Hope you’re enjoying your seat, too.
I was right. I love your narcissists, your solipsists. I love your self-obsessed narrators. I love their viewpoints and their voices. I could listen to them all day, all night. I think you ought to do a nice long narcissist monologue — craft the fuck out of it, and then do an audio version. Please?
Audio version, Jones? Well, maybe. I hear the words in my head when I write, so why not?
Why not, indeed! You do one, and… I’ll do one?
Your idea Jones – you first!
Wow, really clever concept and so well executed. You really are an incredible writer, I wish you would try to do more with your writing, in terms of getting published I mean.
Thank you Vanessa – I think your praise is well beyond my actual abilities, but I do appreciate it.
I don’t think it is. There are many who think they are much better than they are, and a few who don’t realise how good they are – you’re one of those.
Nice of you to say, really. I just love the writing, feeling the words. It’s a wonderful sensation.
As an aside Trent, I just did a guest post over at Mark Bialczak’s http://markbialczak.com/2016/03/13/a-short-drive/ If you have time to drop by for a read, I would be honored.
I got goosebumps, bud… right when she started writing him… such a sweeeet twist…. and both being so self-centered they plan to leave the other… writing absolutely nothing with feeling in it… to each other…. in the future… like they KNOW the other won’t give a damn if they walk away….. DAMN, THAT WAS AWESOME!!!!
Oh but you give me ideas…. I would never have if you didn’t write so DAMN well!!!!!
Thanks Deb. I think this piece is a little hopelessly complicated but I like her a lot, and him – not so much. He got what was coming to him.
I love this one… And, while you’re at it, my panties turn up…just chuck them, my ass has grown. 🙂
Ass-growth is a big thing up here as well, but we tell ourselves it happens so that we can stay warm in the winter.
Did you see that study that women with larger asses were smarter? I’m a fucking genius.
Thank you for reminding me how much I have missed your writing.
But one thing I should say: you have somewhat left where I used to find you. This piece was a bit too organized for you. It was easier to follow. Your pieces are always disorganized. That’s a given! But, this could be put together and I enjoyed it more deeply. Are you perchance improving? Are you becoming a better writer yet?
Too organized, Doc? Really??? I think most people would find it the opposite. But to me, this is eminently cohesive and logical.
Am I improving? I might be getting more convoluted, but am uncertain if that’s a good thing or not.
How are you? I miss your words, Doc.
We are kindred primates, remember?
It is quite cohesive.
Well, maybe you are. I’ll just stick around to observe.
I have been suffering technologically. Barely struggling. Things should begin to look north hence. Thank you.
I hope they do look north. I really do, Doc. I myself am in limbo from blogland, because, well, why not?
I should suppose the art of writing in itself keeps one sane, though.
This was an amazing piece, that said, all your works are extremely enjoyable to read. Look forward to more! On a side note, I was wondering how old you are? Occupation? I wouldn’t be surprised if you worked as a writer!
Well I’m a writer and would hesitate to say I’m anything but, but in reality that’s not how I make my money. How old am I? My friend – I am very very young, and feel it.
Dear Trent, this did find me well! Ha! You know you used both my names in this story, right? I can’t help but feel honored. I don’t know if you realized it or not. I found the whole idea about him writing letters about their future kind of cool. Who would think to do this really? Or, do we sometimes do this without even knowing. Relationships have these built-in expectations maybe and when they do not satisfy you, I think your mind can provide some future sense of what you will become together or not. I like what you do with time in this as if it’s all one continuum. It reminded of this book, “A Tale for the Time Being.” Maybe you would like it. Anyway, some fine writing, my friend! Superb! I loved the part about the spinning earth. Crazy good.
That’s funny, Kelly noted that I’d used both your first and last name in this and asked if that was intentional… must have had you on the mind in some way, but it wasn’t done on purpose. Just really like your name, I guess!
I don’t know that book. But I do navigate to stories and novels that have atypical structures. I read “All the Light We Cannot See” a little while ago, and was completely blown away. Took a while for me to get into it, but once I did, it staggered me how creative that book is, and how well-written. Transportative.
Glad you liked the story, this one was written pretty quickly but I really like the female character. And quite dislike the male character. I think he got what was coming to him.
Awww, you like my name. Thanks, Trent! I’ve heard only good things about the “All the Light We Cannot See” book. I must pick up a copy! I like Amy, too. 🙂 Maybe we’re related. My sister-in-law is Amy Reese, too. Yeah, I’m used to this.
Great short! I keep thinking about the alternative wright up of this story – both married to someone else but still thinking abouth each other and writing years back and forth. I wonder why they couldn’t make this work? As this happens way too often we tend to remove ourselves from what we like most and yeld our preferences to someone ‘less absorbing’ rather more comforting.. It almost seems to me like a displacement of our need for deeper connection for someone or something more acceptable.. a less threatening outlet.. Just sharing this philosophical momentum your story evoked.:)
Hey thanks for the comment! I think I would like to try a continuation of this some day, the characters firmly lodged in their own lives but thinking back to the moment they went their separate ways.
A displacement of our need for deeper connection… I think that’s a marvelous way to phrase that.
Thanks so much for the thoughtful comment!
No problem! I really am only staring my blog but wright for a bit. I’m not sure if this happens to you but I begun writing a novel and start getting this overflow of ideas almost and I’m like there is no way I could wright only one. So I started seven different short stories instead which is a bit of a problem to someone who is still learning stylistics.:) One of the stories I started actually is very similar to yours, when I read yours I got this – aha! and all the thoughts followed.:) I also like the way you use physics to parallel relationships.. Look forward to read more of your work and thanks again for sharing this!
Yes I get bogged down on trying to write too much all the time. I would recommend that you focus on one story, complete it, figure out how that feels, that way you can establish your voice and your style. It takes practice. But practice takes finishing things, so that you practice how to start and how to end, that’s really important.