John Estes

That Singular Sensation

short fiction

It would (of course) surprise us to know what people really thought, much like, to state another obvious truism, if we knew how unbalanced the two halves of our faces were we would not so boldly leave the house each morning. Mona worked hard, as many do, to influence what people thought of her and to induce their cooperation-dressed well, did yoga and calisthenics every morning, chatted people up with substance, did her job with professional-level resolve, remembered the small things that matter-but still would prefer not to know, with any certainty or specificity, the contents of others' actual thoughts. If theirs were anything like hers, she imagined (when she allowed herself) that other people were, contrary to appearances, as petty, mean, and vulgar as she was. Maybe she was wrong? She spent too much energy dwelling on regrets, she knew that. And too much time living in fantastic realms of too many preferred futures. She was rarely, as they say at the zendo, in the moment, but didn't feel a crushing loss about that, didn't feel like somehow she wasn't enjoying or appreciating the subtle beauties of existence, etc., being so wrapped up in her past and future-well, that's the most of it, right? Mindfulness, the present, the now: that's a bridge, and she hated the triteness of it, the way in which it got spoken about so softly, so reverently, as if to still oneself in the immediacy of every act constituted the sine qua non, the endpoint of all striving (well, the cessation of all striving, technically).

This made no intuitive sense to her, as much as she liked yoga and even lusted after Anand, the yoga instructor, and angled for his attention. She made sure to situate her mat always in his line of sight. She would concentrate sometimes on the sanskrit tattoo on his neck (it meant Supreme Sincerity Evokes Resonance, he said once) as a fixed point of focus. She was pretty sure he was married, with one kid at least, but this didn't bother her, even as she would imagine a hookup with him, or even (often in the same digression) an entire life. This was not idle or preposterous thinking, not necessarily. He looked at her in ways sometimes that suggested admiration, would express pleasure at her progress, and the way he touched her when correcting her poses couldn't help, she felt, but communicate an erotic openness to her. She had done some reading about kundalini energy, and she figured that's what is getting exchanged there, as she could feel her own aura oscillating, would sometimes feel the weight of his presence come into her space even before he would touch her, always gently, always respectfully, inching her hip into alignment, or pressing with the flat of his hand on the small of her back telling her to anchor her feet, to picture dropping roots into the floor.

She imagined him as this kind of lover, although mostly she imagined making pasta and eggplant for him (for some reason) or him grilling her a steak on the patio grill, although probably grilling some tempeh or fish for himself, because (she thought she recalled) he was mostly vegetarian. She had a dream sometimes where she walks into a bedroom, carrying a typewriter, and in the bed is an older woman with curlers in her hair and two younger women, sisters and daughters by the looks of it. They're wearing quilted robes and watching television. She seems to have come to them in some form of supplication, but it is unclear just what she wants, or what she intends to do with that typewriter except (possibly) type something, but as soon as she enters the room the younger women with their cigarettes in hand start insulting her, start hurling invectives at her, while the mother sits in silence, absorbed in her show, and she stands there and takes it, stares down at the letter G. ❦

John Estes directs the Creative Writing Program at Malone University in Canton, Ohio and is a visiting faculty member of Ashland University's Low-Residency MFA. He is author of three volumes of poetry - Kingdom Come (C&R Press, 2011), Stop Motion Still Life (Wordfarm, forthcoming) and Sure Extinction, which won the 2015 Antivenom Prize from Elixir Press-and two chapbooks: Breakfast with Blake at the Laocoön (Finishing Line Press, 2007) and Swerve, which won a National Chapbook Fellowship from the Poetry Society of America.

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