I pick up today’s paper. There’s a ring of light—bright and blurry—against a black backdrop. Headlines call it the first ever photo of a black hole.
I know he’d like it. He always had a thing for space, aliens, planets—all that documentary nonsense on Netflix.
When I see him, I hand him the paper—wait for him to react.
They tell me he doesn’t remember who I am. His eyes say otherwise.
They tell me he’s somewhere else—in the clouds, with the stars.
He brings his index and middle fingers to his lips, inserting and removing an invisible cigarette bud from his mouth.
And I wouldn’t mind offering him one—what difference does it make?
But they tell me I can’t do that. I can talk to him, they say. Sing to him, show him family photos.
In the article, they say the black hole is so dense it sucks everything in, but they don’t know how light escapes.
And I tell him, “It’s a mystery.”
I tell him, “It’s like the sparkle in your eyes.”
He smiles, and the way he does it, you’d wanna believe he’s smiling with you.
Then, the article suggests that the light is all the things being sucked in. Never to be seen again.
And here it comes again—that dull gaze.
So, I hold his hand. Grip tightly. Wait for that black hole to swallow us into the black pit of our next life.
Fajer Alexander Khansa was born and raised in Lattakia, Syria and Tokyo, Japan. He moved to the United States in 2005, where he completed his studies at USC. His writing has appeared in publications such as Tin House and The Normal School. He is a fiction reader for New England Review and a 2019 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow.
You don’t notice them because they look just like you, or a ticket inspector. They clutch their lost life as though it was a briefcase full of important documents. Their faces flicker dead-white against the recycled pages of free newspapers.
You don’t notice them. They are just passing annoyance; you start for a free seat just to find that somebody is already sitting there although you would have sworn that the chair was empty. They read into your Evening Standard over your shoulder. They are everywhere.
There is one of them you might remember though. She is different, not one of the usual suit-skinned lot. She is a fleeting bright colour, so strong you can only look at her from the corner of your eye. If it is a day when you are proud and feel like the king of life, she makes you pensive with the smell of chrysanthemum and ashes. When you are desperate and broken, shredded by the weight of every days, she giggles like a child and blows daffodil flakes in your face. She has pearls in her eyes; they look like tears but you can never see quite well in the half-blind neon light.
She is cruel but kind. Those who deliberately ignore her or frown at her flamboyance, get punished by the small spikes of life: the bus shuts its door in their face; somebody stomps on their feet or a remarkably bony elbow makes its way into their ribs. But those who are kind and have a second to spare for the girl with the tear-stained eyes, they will find a tenner on the street or an almost forgotten Cadbury bar in their pocket.
Fanni Sütő is a writer, poet, translator and the proud owner of a growing number of novels-in-progress. She publishes in English and Hungarian and finds inspiration in reading, paintings and music. She writes about everything which comes in her way or goes bump in the night. She tries to find the magical in the everyday and likes to spy on the secret life of cities and their inhabitants.
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