It played through his mind, sections repeating, sections skipping, as if some halfwit projectionist had been left in charge of his thoughts, and had snuck off for a crafty cigarette midway through the performance. As a result he’d covered the same event from seventeen different angles, both acute and obtuse, and he was still no nearer to figuring it out. His eyes were held shut by a force not entirely of his own making - not quite the gravity of sleep although it felt just as deliciously compelling - and provided the screen onto which he viewed and re-viewed the past five minutes. He sat with his fists bunched beneath his thighs, almost motionless, but for a slight tremble. All the while his lips danced to his words of his commentary, words that he spoke without making a noise.

There had been the phone. And the phone ringing. Then his sweaty hand gripping the receiver and the nervous energy of his greeting. He’d never been great with phones: they allowed people to pry apart their thoughts and the emotion that went into them, and deliver one apart from the other. He still couldn’t tell whether, when she spoke, she was happy, upset, angry, tearful, surprised, astonished or maybe even bored. When she stood in front of him, or sat across a table from him, or lay next to him, stroking his hair, only then was the full force of her delivery obvious. He needed those signs - her eyes wandering across his face, her hands tightening in her lap, her lips curved into a playful smile, or twisted into a painful grimace - because otherwise he was left wandering through a darkened house chock full of emotional totems with only his hands to guide him. And she knew that, surely? Couldn’t she hear him blundering into every damn precious thing in every room in search of the lights?

She said things. At first her voice had lapped against him, slowly unwinding the tension that chain-reaction inside him had created. When she spoke, he was always always reminded of their times past; it was never what she said, but more that the cadence and rhythm of her words had an almost hallucinatory effect upon him. He never understood it, and was even more surprised by how little she cared for this “gift” of hers: instead she became convinced that her words must have seemed a heavy treacle of torpor to him, and resented the implication that this entailed.

He had wrestled with himself to focus on her words. Two sentences more and then she had asked him whether he understood what she was saying. He hadn’t been listening, but made a noncommittal noise so as not to get her angry. She asked if he was sure. He nodded, all meaning lost on the phone, but she didn’t seem to be waiting for a reply.

“Well,” she said - said? sighed? smiled? shit - “I should probably go, then.”

“Okay. I guess I’ll see you later.”

“Yeah, perhaps. Later.”

He returned the phone to the cradle. Slowly, imperceptibly, a sensation crept over him: a feeling that somehow all was not right with his universe. He gazed down at his hands; they had begun a trembling waltz around each other. Her last three words rolled around his head, mocking him for not divining their true meaning. He strained against the boundaries of his thoughts seeking the origin of the knot of sickness in his stomach. All he knew was that it had something to do with the phone conversation with her.

He closed his eyes, and tried to concentrate.