Excerpts

Angela didn’t really think very much about Elizabeth or even notice her much. Until she did. One day at work, Angela realized she was feeling unusually off balance, almost anxious. She felt flushed and hot. There was a scent on the air that reminded her of … something. It got stronger right then. Angela noticed that Liz had just walked by, and now she was even more flushed.

As the weeks passed, Angela began to notice this would happen even when Elizabeth was just alluded to in conversation. She also noticed that she had a running catalog of all of Liz’s outfits and would make mental notes when she repeated something especially attractive or noteworthy. She sometimes went over and over her mental images of Elizabeth in these outfits when she was feeling particularly daydreamy. New words popped up in Angela’s vocabulary, and she realized it was due to overhearing Liz using them or reading them in one of Elizabeth’s work-related messages. Then Angela noticed that Elizabeth had apparently noticed her a great deal too.

***

There was the deafening silence of night as well, it was always worse at night. Knowing that her condition was self-imposed did not ease its unbearableness. Angela thought that her brain was actually devoid of sound, that there was just a murmur of wind in a tunnel. She could not even hear the noise her blood usually made when she covered her ears hard, as if her veins and arteries had stopped working, stopped pumping her various fluids where they needed to go. She began to suspect that she was no longer alive, that what she experienced each day was an incredibly vivid dream and she was just waiting for someone or something to tell her that she was actually dead, just wandering the earth aimlessly until whatever came next.

***

She felt compelled to drive and ruminate. She tucked Elizabeth into Dustin’s bed, kissed her on the cheek, and left at about 3:30 in the morning. Once in a great while, this would happen: Angela would get into her car, check the gas gauge and her cigarette supply, point the car westward, and just go. On these drives she often thought the most clearly about her life, her reality, her feelings. Angela could vividly imagine that her mind and the road beneath her wheels were one entity, that as she traveled and transversed, she was heading toward some kind of conclusion or solution. For or to what, she did not know. She would pull over to the side of the road and watch the sun slowly rise over the fields, or mountains, depending on how far she’d gotten. Often, she would spend this time seriously considering becoming one of those people that one would hear about on the news, or an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, someone that simply vanished. She thought to just keep driving, across the country, across state lines, across the border to Mexico. She thought of developing a new identity and bartending in a little taberna, making just enough money to rent a room and have groceries and spend endless hours on the beach and in the ocean. She had never told anyone, not even Elizabeth, about these excursions. Invariably, Angela did not have the courage, and she would eventually stop for a strong cup of gas-station coffee and head back to her life.

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