Diane Mayr and Rachel Brown

Diane Mayr
“That Dirt”


Rachel Brown

Inspiration piece

His forehead pressed against the window, and he breathed hard against the glass pane. The train swayed slightly as it curved around a bend. His hands cupped around the edges of his lips and his breath collected, the wetness of each exhale pooling together to form a layer of mist on the window. He breathed until the layer was thick enough, then lifted his left index finger. “s” he wrote. “o.” The letters faded as the air snatched his breath back off the window, reclaiming it and leaving the space clear so that he could see the trees pass by. He inhaled again, heavily, sucking in as much air as he could. He heard the hissing noise the air made as it left his lips. In and out until his canvas was re-created. “i.” “don’t.” And gone again.

He heard the passengers around him, talking gaily. A woman’s bubbling laugh rang out, and blurred together with deep mumbles of a man’s baritone. From across the car he heard the sharp gossip of a woman who clearly didn’t realize that the shrillness of her voice made it like a needle: piercing through the fabric of white noise and making it’s pattern easily known. By the time they reached the next stop everyone knew what Dylan had done. And what Betty had to say about it: she was horrified and shocked, taken utterly by surprise. Everyone thought Dylan was the kind of guy you could depend on. Donna on the other hand had said it didn’t surprise her one bit – the last two words delivered in a biting tone, the hard “b” spat out like a strong slap. Donna was clearly someone who couldn’t be fooled, and if Donna had seen it coming, Betty must surely be naive. “I mean, an affair would have been far less shocking. But,” the shrill voice, wondered endlessly, “what could be more shocking than to arrive home to find a bunch of armed officers carrying your furniture, your heirlooms, even your family photos out the front door!”

Inhale, exhale. He tuned them out, the mantra turning over and over in his head – “I. Don’t. Care.” – as he struggled to create a canvas that would stay long enough for him to finish the words. Anger ate at his stomach, but his breathing contained it. “how. could. you.” He found himself wondering what Susie had said to Dylan when she came home. “how. could. you.” He wondered if he might know just a little bit how Susie felt. That feeling of the rug being pulled out from under you, the slowly creeping knowledge of betrayal. The sudden uncertainty of the past as you dug through it, replaying it over and over for clues. What had you missed? What moment had you misread? What was not as it seemed?

Betty and Donna were clearly in a competition to show who was really in the know about the Fairfield household – was the carpet pulled out from under poor Susie, or should she have seen it coming? They were making the absolute most of their new insider status. “Did you see Donna holding court at McKinney’s? I mean, if you ask me, it’s no sign of class to take advantage of tragedy like that. She’s all show and no substance.”

He’d been to McKinney’s before, and imagined Donna. In his mind she was caked with make-up, her eyes twinkling with the excitement of gossip. She was sitting at the bar, drink in her right hand, leaning forward onto her left elbow and scooping her left hand in an exaggerated motion around her mouth so that she could loudly stage whisper to a woman whose jaw would drop in equally exaggerated shock.

He hated the thought of people talking about him. The idea that they could take his story and make it part of their own – or worse, that they could somehow know more than him. That they had somehow found those clues he searched for as he went through the past like a thief overturning a room: carefully, not rushed, knowing he had all the time in the world as he searched for some particular treasure. Under the bed he’d look – not just peeking, but crawling underneath it; feeling the wood of the floor with his hands, searching for cracks and unconcerned with splinters. And he’d twist and look upward. (This thief would be thin and agile, able to twist and turn under the bed, unlike him. If it was him, he’d have to push himself back out and re-enter from another angle to squeeze awkwardly back underneath). And then he’d look at the underside of the bed – checking inside and underneath each spring. When he found nothing, he’d continue onwards. And he’d know that it was in there somewhere – that treasure, that sign he’d missed that would have shown him the truth. And on he’d go, looking and looking in this small cluttered room. And meanwhile, outside, everyone else already had that treasure. Everyone else had already seen the signs; was discussing them loudly, laughing even.

“But Betty was never the smartest you know…I mean I never said that, but you know what I mean don’t you…it wouldn’t really be a shock if she was completely oblivious. Susie on the other hand – I have to say, I can’t quite get my head around the idea of her not noticing anything at all, I mean…” Her voice trailed off as she exited the train.

The white noise filled the vacuum of her voice, reclaiming the train car, blanketing it like newly fallen snow. He leaned more deeply into the window. The glass had warmed around his forehead, and the coldness against his nose came as a surprise. Still, he let his weight hang there, enjoying the sensation of coldness and the smoothness of the glass. He cupped his hands again, breathing in and out. This time, he kept his hands there, the edges of his pinkies hugging the glass, his thumbs resting on his jawline and his index fingers circling the area around his mouth resting on the sides of his nose. The window fogged, and cleared, and fogged, and cleared. The trees raced by.


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