Thursday, February 16

Keep Calm and Kiss Me

At first the competition drew my attention and I began to have all sorts of thoughts about what I could write about. It was the new year and I had tumbled into it with a certain degree of optimism, of bravado, of—‘I’m going to do this.’ During the day I could often be found trying to think up a story that would meet the word count; this would be one of the longest pieces I had ever written. The problem is, I have no imagination. I have absolutely no imagination to speak of. I soon gave up the idea of entering the competition.
Then an idea came to me and I thought I would take it. There was nothing better to do. So I wrote. It took it out of me. I misread the deadline – because I have no imagination – and ended up on the last day like a maniac, tapping away, hoping to get something out of it.
The submission brought very little in the way of relief or accomplishment. On the walk to work I thought—‘Ah yes, but you submitted to a competition yesterday… but the title was terrible! No one will read that!’ The novelty soon wore off, but the exhaustion remained. Why was I so tired? Perhaps I have been drinking too much, burning the candle and so forth, but I am made of harder stuff. Aren’t I? I paused… I was not. Still, I had submitted the story and it was out there now, no longer worth worrying about.
The deadline: Valentine’s day.
What beast calls for Valentine’s Day to be the deadline of a love story competition? The day impresses on me so little. My mother almost talked me into doing something silly. But what if I did? No, I could not! I told her I could not! As a child I would go for her wild Valentine’s Day ideas and found all of them landed on stony ground; I soon lost that romantic enthusiasm. So, no, I did not listen to her idea and told her—‘No, I’m not doing it.’ And she was satisfied and left me to things. On the street opposite my office a pop-up flower shop was arranged. Businessmen hovered around the flower stalls, gradually robbing them of red. The shops ran out of cards until just a few were left, like teeth remaining in a broken jaw. A man on the train held a solitary card, it read—KEEP CALM AND KISS ME. He did not sign it at first. In fact, it remained on his knee for the entire journey as he read the paper and responded to various messages on his phone. A couple of minutes before his station, he scribbled something down. So brief was the note inside that I did not notice; I had been desperate to read whatever was jotted into such a card. I saw him sign the envelope and then lick it shut. He went back to his phone. I imagined his relationship for the rest of the journey.
In a taxi on the way home, I should be inclined to look into the window of an expensive Japanese restaurant. The lights are dim and, because it is late, the place is empty. There is one couple remaining. They are beautiful people; their skulls such perfect shapes, the hair shiny and their clothes proper. Neither is talking to the other, both of them are looking at their phones. I notice that the man – whose phone is the only one I can see – is simply holding his phone with nothing on the screen. He does not do anything besides stare at his dead phone. Their heads remain down as they await the bill. They are so beautiful. The lights change and my cab pulls away.

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