fragments of CONTEMPT – Anthony Dragonetti
May 27, 2021
It squats to look through the hole. The hole faces a silent dark the way it always has. The observer stands to take its moment of relief before bending to look back into the darkness. When it returns to its post it sees what it has been waiting to see. The observer watches what shouldn’t be, but there from nothing they came.
Shapes of men move slowly. The suggestion of bulging muscles, the sinewy shadows, they gracefully move in tandem. Hammer meets nail in silence.
Body to body the materials pass and are set in place. A structure is getting its base.
The observer backs away from the hole. It waits for the distress it is transmitting to be received. There is no guarantee of a response. Perhaps the observer was abandoned long ago. It waits. Were it capable of doing so, it would weep.
What are they building out there? Why aren’t you answering me?
Out into the low gray brightness the way winter does.
She spins around a few times, not knowing which direction she wants to run in. Maybe figure out where the nearest precinct is first. To her right is a pile of boxes and plastic bins. She realizes her neighbor is watching her as he carries over another box haphazardly filled with all the odd shaped kitchen utensils that didn’t fit elsewhere.
She couldn’t recall what apartment he lived in. They passed each other every now and again without exchanging words. He drops the box and moves close enough to her that she steps back as a reflex. He speaks.
There will come a time when the wind stops. You know this intuitively. It’s why, even today, you lean your head out the window and take big, greedy gulps. You think I don’t know? That I don’t see you? Your ugly, swollen, purple face like a colicky newborn swallowing all that air. My air. I am filled with heat. My head is encased in aluminum. Not literally. You can see I’m exposed. If someone wants to read my thoughts, let them. God already can. Sometimes it gets so hot here inside me that I think I’ll go up and take a couple city blocks with me. You can touch me if you want. That would be okay. Sometimes, when I see you using up the air, I imagine wrapping my body around yours and reducing the both of us to ash. I don’t intend to send mixed signals. Don’t mistake my desires or permissions as affection. I hate all influence. Don’t make me feel anything. You can touch me if you want. I’m not the only one. Not now and certainly not in the future. They might not have made their presence known to you yet, but they will. I’ll be long gone by then. Bye bye baby bye bye. The wind will stop, and I’ll burn. I’m buying the last ticket out of town. I suppose this is a roundabout way of saying goodbye, though I’ve never even said hello to you. So, hello. I wanted you to know you’re being watched. The air is running out. The ones that will come after me will be far worse.
He nods and goes back into the building.
Threats in the corner of her vision everywhere she turns. Her head can’t move fast enough to catch them. She knows for sure now that she’s being observed. Paranoid he calls her. It’s all in your head. Right, sure. They gave up the game. They’ve made themselves known.
More of them are coming. It could be anyone on the street. Every glance she met with her own was a sign.
She’s working through all this as the detective waits for her to say something. He’s wearing an expressionless face meant to conceal an already diminished patience with the woman at his desk.
My husband is going to die, she says. I know it. I woke up today knowing it. There it was in my head. A certainty. As plain as me saying that wall over there is white. I don’t know how he’s going to die, I just know he will. I need help.
Okay, he replies. Are we talking about a medical emergency? Has someone threatened him? What’s convinced you that your husband is going to die.
I always felt like I could see things, she said. See the future.
Yes. You don’t believe me. I don’t care. I know what I know.
I didn’t say that.
I can tell.
Maybe I could understand better if you told me what you’ve seen.
So, now you haven’t seen things.
No, I have. I’m answering your question. I’ve seen nothing.
You have to help me here. You said you can see the future. Then you tell me you saw something, but it was nothing.
She steps away from the desk and scans the room. No one she sees makes her feel any particular way. Maybe none of them are here now. She leans in closer to speak to the detective.
I don’t know how else to explain what it is. It’s nothing. It’s dark. An absence. But maybe for not much longer. Something is on its way there and it wants me there, too. And it has something to do with my husband.
She can no longer articulate what she has seen. Every word she can think of doesn’t convey what she wants it to. Her husband’s bloodied corpse being twisted up in the embrace of something she has no reference to compare it to. His mouth agape in shock.
Ma’am, I think we should get you someone else to talk to. Please, take a seat.
Her hands tremble on the edge of his desk.
Detective, have you ever been so sad you were afraid to lie down?
No. Well. I don’t think I understand what you mean maybe.
You’re afraid you’ll never get up again. A small surrender that kicks off an irreversible decline. You end up waiting there to die.
I wasn’t far enough ahead of them when I got here. You won’t help me. I have to leave now.