Sunday Service: Laurie Stone

Posted by @ 10:00 am on December 22nd, 2013

Panopticon

In the panopticon we lived in tunnels, and the smell of petrol was pervasive. Food consisted of small hard rolls flavored with onions and potatoes. There were beets that smelled of tragedy and scraps of fatty meat that was hard to identify. We had not known seasons for years. All the papers were forged. All the fingers were blackened by ink and smelled of something pungent that may once have been alive. Alcohol was plentiful mixed with slices of lemon and lime. Everything was delayed. Cells were alienated and wouldn’t knit. We didn’t know the rules for touching.

In a room we could not see into, a woman looked down at us. She had trained the world to regard her with importance, and the world had changed. People pushed back at her after a point, but the point kept shifting. She resembled a cat with thin lips and a nose flattened to a button. Her hair twitched nervously as she hopped from foot to foot, her dead eyes waiting for a moment to pounce. It was surprising how compliant we were. In the dim light, we heard dripping.

I remembered a man on a train who was standing against a pole with his large suitcase and a smaller bag stacked on top. His hair waved off his forehead, framing intense eyes that were also kind and lost in thought. The seat beside me became vacant, and he sat, and I had a chance to study his long fingers with their wide nails. His skin was a little rough from long-ago acne. It heightened his beauty, allowing a space to enter. My life was like Chernobyl in that I could see but not touch the ordinary objects left behind. Flowers were growing up around abandoned things. Nature was coming back. It was coming back different.

In the house that traveled you woke up each day in a familiar place. In the house that traveled you could not be exact about appointments and the truth was harder to turn into a weapon. In the house that traveled your old life looked like girls getting dressed to go out. In order to be heard, you went deaf. In order to study at a university, your body ceased to produce insulin. There were people on the train and people who let the train pass. A woman wrote that people, naturally, consider suicide, finding the world too cruel. It was never going to stop, so why not step away? You heard something. You heard scraping.

As we approached the origin of our fears, we lived in several time periods at once. People of the future could watch their earlier selves in movies, and the various selves could communicate through a scrim that felt like foreboding or déjà vu. When we didn’t have language for something, the feeling was a shudder or a smell. It was what we did, bringing back the dead.

Bio: Laurie Stone is author of several fiction and nonfiction books. Her shorter work has appeared in such publications as Open City, Anderbo, Joyland, Nanofiction, Creative Nonfiction, St Petersburg Review, and Four Way Review. In 2005, she participated in “Novel: An Installation,” writing a book and living in a house designed by architects Salazar/Davis in Flux Factory’s gallery space. She is currently at work on The Love of Strangers, Micro, Flash, and Short Fiction by Laurie Stone.