Westwind

Bodies and Space

Thomas Tidwell

But bodily of course she’s right there in the living room, TV tuned to one of those spaces between legitimate channels that show only static and snippets of dialogue from Spanish-language programming. She slouches on her sofa into a position from which she can see both down the hall to her parents’ bedroom and the timer on her microwave in the kitchen. She watches the light under her parent’s door go out and lets her eyes adjust to the half-light that surrounds her. She allows her mind to fill for a moment but empties it again and focuses. The timer is counting down from 1 minute 40 seconds. It’s a school night, but she tries not to think about this, tries instead to focus on the timer and count with it backwards from 100. This was how she did it the first time, though the correspondence of her reaching the terminal Zero in her head and the beep of the timer was completely coincidental, of course: the counting backwards, shrinking inside of herself mentally before leaping outward and leaving herself behind, so to speak.

The house is silent except for the television’s persistent fizzle and the occasional Spanish syllable. She only started taking Spanish this year, and understands little, and thus would not know that what she is hearing is the Spanish-language show “Más Allá del Sistema Solar,” a children’s educational program.

The timer now reads 1 minute 9 seconds. Despite her attempts not to she ends up glancing at the clock on the living room wall and remarks mentally on how the first movement of the second hand always seems to take slightly longer than each subsequent tick, the way the first of a series always seems longer than the rest. She closes her eyes. She is counting backwards now; 59, 58, 57, 56…

The television asks “¿Cuántos hay?” The perfect correspondence between the beep of the microwave’s timer and her counting off zero that first time seemed completely random but now seems almost predetermined to her, somehow, as though the dovetailing of the two events was a sort of signal to her soul that it would be alright to just go ahead and sit this one out.

47, 46, 45, 44, 43…

In fact she has long ago forgotten that the reason she was using the microwave in the first place was to heat a plate of cookies and milk that her mother
had found the next morning, assuming her daughter had simply fallen asleep before remembering to place on the coffee table in the living room.

35, 34, 33, 32, 31…

The television says “cuerpos fríos en el espacio infinito.” The static crescendos and then cuts out entirely. The room is almost silent.

28, 27, 26…

The act of counting down from one hundred before drifting non-corporeally upwards toward the ceiling (which always seems to stop her from drifting further—something in the molecular make-up of stucco, perhaps) has, to a large extent, become the most important part of her week; the event which in some way kind of centers her and–

21, 20, 19…

–so important has the weekly ritual become that the lingering unpleasantness of the original event has begun to fade in her memory somewhat, she thinks. An unfortunate encounter with a drunken uncle a couple Christmases ago, nothing more.

14, 13, 12…

The television mutters inaudibly. She once again empties her head except for the numbers and watches them decrease on their own. There’s no need to intervene; they will do what they will do, regardless of her actions.

8, 7, 6…

She opens her eyes, takes a breath of air and closes them once more. The television is silent.

3, 2—

She ticks off the last two digits in her mind, the timer beeps, and her only meaningful sense of self floats to the ceiling and looks down at her parents’ daughter on her parents’ couch, nothing any longer her own.

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