By A.M. Hemingway.
Once you see the absurd, it cannot be unseen. I saw something last night unable to be unseen. What I saw was absurd, whatever the fuck “absurd” means, and it has haunted me since. Not a monster; just a man. Within my dream, stood a nightmare.
“What brings you to the north side?” Adaku asked me. She was young. Her voice carried notes of wisdom I could not know. Her eyes flickered between the road and the mirrors.
“There was a murder,” I answered, “The local police department is…struggling.”
“Struggling?” She said, half in disbelief. She made a noise. The noise she made explained a made-up concept in a made-up language. The concept was one of disbelief, “ACPD in the north district don’t know real police work.” I considered how the north precinct was little more than a band of old war veterans. No to mention their drinking buddies. Even my precinct suffered from alcoholism. We avoided the affliction of being patriots. My attention returned to the night before. My eyes blind to the long stretches of earth in front of me. Vibrant blues saturated with green. It all seemed to mask a poisonous secret. I was skeptical of everything at this point. Nothing seemed easy to understand. I likened the feeling to being a creature not of this planet. Stripped of a base meaning, I grew weary of humanity and its barking.
“You seem distracted” Adaku barked. My attention returned to her.
“I said you seem distracted,” she repeated. I left my thoughts and came back to her. Adaku was a hired driver. She was sent to my home in the city by Leon Bloom, a war veteran who owned the hotel where the victim’s body had been found. Adaku had been the love interest of Bloom’s son Randy, though she never returned his advances. I gazed at her reflection in the mirror. She was dark, a little more than myself, complimented with darker, curled hair. Her eyes were dark, though more in just color. I wondered where she had been before she made the trip to where I lived. There were six or so hours separating northeast and central Arcadia. I wondered if she had a husband or a wife, or was seeing someone. Wondered if she had children, if she had a lifeform in captivity. If she had hobbies or pastimes. If she had dreams. Or even fears. I wondered if Adaku dreamt at night, and if so, what she dreamt about. I wondered where she was from, why she was a private driver, and where she was going with all this. I responded to her frequent gazes.
“Just thinking of another case, is all,” I lied. Adaku smiled.
“I don’t know if it’s allowed, but can I hear about one of your cases?” She started, “I’ve always enjoyed detective fiction.” I thought about the night before.
“I’ll share with you my most recent mystery,” I began to explain the events of the night before.
“Jakob,” my attention returned to my wife Stella. We were at Waiters and Writers, where she worked as both a bartender and a jazz singer. She handed me my usual, a mixture of rum and what dubbed “citricello.” She sipped her drink and took a seat across from me, “you seem distracted” I clenched my teeth for a second.
“Allison called,” I started, “Asked me to check on a lead before I head up north.”
“What time are you leaving for the Hemingway case?”
“Around eleven. I should be there by dawn,” Stella’s eyes averted a moment.
“What’s the lead?”
“Something has the mob spooked. What convinced Allison is the recent death of their money launderer. It might have been a warning, maybe from a rival cartel or something,” Stella’s eyes were back on me now. Her mind was somewhere else. I eyed Allison’s contact just over Stella’s shoulder, across the room. He was with someone; a young woman.
“What do you think?” Stella asked. I took a sip of my drink.
“I don’t know, but Allison has her own problems,” I realized Stella had never met Allison. I wondered if Stella had ever questioned Allison’s existence. Allison, too, was chasing her ghosts. Stella took a long sip of her drink and gazed into it as she set it down. I would not describe our relationship as bad. Nor would I describe it as good. She and I released notions of a good or bad relationship a long time ago. We saw ourselves as two people stuck on the same notion of nothingness. A friend of mine described it as “an obsession with nothing.” We saw ourselves as worthless, meaningless bits of matter, occupying an unknowable space. Ask Stella where we lived, she would say “here.” Ask me what I did for a living, I would say “breathe.” We were in this marriage just because. We did the relationship for the distraction. Sometimes it worked for one or even both of us. Sometimes, like tonight, it did not work at all. I felt Stella take my hand.
“I see you,” she said. It was a phrase which here meant ‘get out of your head.’ She had been saying it since we met, almost a decade ago, at twenty-three. But back in 2014 we were young, and old. Now we were just old.
“We should get going. The sooner I get back, the sooner I can get started on this lead.”
“And the sooner you’ll be home,” she smiled. I smiled.
“Right,” she finished her drink and led the way. I followed, glancing for a moment again at Allison’s contact and his date, maybe. She smiled for the first time since she arrived. Then, as though it never existed at all, it was gone. Stella and I climbed into the car and started for home. We lit cigarettes. We stared into the void ahead of us. Once distracted and once home, we made love. I remember it well, I have thought about it; about our night, many times. I later learned this was normal. I thought about my grandfather before Stella, and my parents before them. I often replay the last minutes I spent with a person, someone I would never see again. A final whiff of Japanese cherry blossoms. The final moment I have to remember.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A.M. Hemingway broods and writes. His work has appeared here, elsewhere, and in his mind. His short story collection, A Ghost Hovers Where Time Shadows, both does and does not exist.