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The woman’s crushing a phone against her cheek shrieking her anguish. The entire street is listening. We pretend to be deeply engrossed in our casual pastimes until she passes, until the screaming fades. It feels like the passing of an ambulance.

Walking home, I’m imprisoned in my thoughts which have led nowhere. Home isn’t feeling homey at the moment. I can’t remember how the hostilities began, what small grievance swelled into something larger. Now it’s engulfing us. I fled this morning before anything was resolved. When we’re in that place, flight is a good option. Talk deconstructs us, drags us deeper into bitterness, despair. We’re failing, badly. Not a reality I’d want to trumpet to the world. But if you’d phoned, caught me in the middle of the street, yes, I might have stumbled, it might have happened.

When I arrive, it’s like walking into a war zone. But everything has been frozen, the battle suspended. The bullets wait tensely in their guns, they haven’t penetrated flesh, torn organs. Nothing’s happened that’s irreparable. But a word from either of us could send those bullets flying to their targets.

If we don’t speak, if we move past one another like ghosts or strangers, perhaps the entire war can be called off.

But fury builds. Fury pounds against the levees of my silence, wild to destroy yet desperate for kindness.

“The War Zone” was published in Reflex Fiction


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