One morning he noticed, on his breakfast table, centered in the blue disc of the Lazy Susan, a set of salt and pepper shakers that he could not remember ever having seen before. Truly, he could not have missed them; they were shaped like two squat ugly clowns, grinning and winking and painted garish reds and pinks and oranges and, here and there, slashed with blue and green. He frowned and stood over them.
He could not for the life of him decide where they could have come from. And yet, there they existed, without any past. Pink nodes bubbling out of the air like condensation on a glass
They must have been hers. He picked one up and it was full. The smooth little lines and knobs felt familiar on his fingers, but if the non-memory of these little things was suspicious, this hazy poking on his fingertips made him even more suspicious. He touched it to his lips. It was warm. He put it back down next to its mate.
They taunted him with their salacious grins, their knowing winks. Their presence was so startlingly alien to him that suddenly the rest of his home seemed alien too. Suddenly, he did not remember buying this grapefruit he found before himself, nor did he remember cutting it or putting it on this strange blue plate he could have sworn he had never seen. And where in God’s name did these drapes come from? He remembered vaguely gesturing in a magazine years ago, but were these really them? He didn’t remember the blue grains, or perhaps the grains seemed bigger now, more reptilian. It was all much tackier than the quiet little breakfast nook he had worn to a comfortable state of use.
Tacky. That was the word for these. They were something bought at a flea market. Some tchotchke a crazy person covets. She had not been crazy. He was not crazy. But their little grins reeked of hard porcelain psychosis. The longer he looked at them, the more they refused to take any shape, their slick glazed sides warping and waxing the light.
He stood but the paths he had worn in the linoleum, from the hall to the sink, from the sink to the refrigerator, from the refrigerator to the table where he now sat, instead of comforting him, like game trails through a dense copse, now disgusted him. They reminded him of giant slug trails. It was hot and he was sweating and he was aware of his smell and that reminded him of slugs too. He spilled a bit of salt from the shaker, perhaps defensively.
The elaborateness of this reality laid out before him confounded him. Everything seemed braided together but he could not follow the pattern or remember if there was a pattern at all. He looked at the darkness of the windowless hallway and could not remember what the rest of the house looked like. He remembered her, he knew her face, there it was framed on the shelf over there. But he realized (slowly, very slowly, clawing for purchase along a smooth surface, for this realization had been climbing through him for the last few years) that he was not sure whether it was her he remembered or this photograph he remembered. He went through every memory of her and found he could attach each of them to some photograph they had taken. Indeed, in all of these memories he found himself looking in on them, a third person observing two happy married people.
He felt extraneous, an imposition into those people’s typical, happyish, vacation tableaus. A creeper peeping into windows at night. He felt as though those people’s lives did not need his, that their accumulated bric-a-brac, their flotsam dredged up onto mantles and shelves and Lazy Susans, was in fact more deserving, more feasible, of this existence than him.
He sat back down and, to calm himself, tried to remove everything from everything else, have it all stand like flat shapes laid over each other. Each motion changed each thing into something totally new. He looked out the window. Hedges, waxy-leaved and dense of branch. Beyond them black slick of the road. It would rain later, but he didn’t know that, and the sunlight was just another shape. He felt the weight of all things press against him.
A man and a child played catch in the front lawn across the street in the shade of a birch tree. The ball glowed blueish and hung weightless in the air. Then it did not.
Ivan Davenny is a student living in Brooklyn.