fiction short story Wish

retrograde

Time is moving backwards in a world made up of empty spaces, in Benedicta J. Foo's fiction.

by Benedicta J. Foo

tonight’s the last night we will set foot in this motel. we will enter when it’s well past its birthing light. in its neon lobby, we will move in orbit, one against the other, locked in tidal waves void of water. the room assigned to us will be insignificant. there will barely be enough for the two of us, let alone our oceans, swaying.

the world now moves in retrograde, except the apparent reverse motion is no longer apparent and is now reality. it is dark and bloody – the sky waits for rain, redolent of loneliness i do not know how to stomach and never thought i would have to stomach. today my body moves in preparation for the end.

here’s what happens: time suspends for us but not for anybody else. we are the glitch in a world where voyeuristic images take seconds to reach everyone.

my world, previously made of grids not unlike that of virtual reality games, is suddenly empty. i had a small room, which then made more space for you. the sofa took 3×1 squares. the stove took something like 4×4, the bookshelf 4×1. you, the smallest of all: 1×1, but also taking up my globe. you bled – you bled out of these shapes and squares and coordinates. you bled like nothing else – intimacy practices a lack of respect for lines and rules. 

then someone above right-clicks and keeps all furniture, but what remains is not clean, like in the games. i’m not left with a room 7×9.

i’m left with a room, 7×9, and the shadows of all that there used to be. the couch leaves an ethereal outline. ephemeral, like the most benign of stains, but it’ll last longer than we’d ever think. eventually someone above picks you up too, and now i’m left with outlines of furniture and that of the only other figure in this room.

a hollow, clean, 1×1.

these hollow lines repeat throughout my world.

retrograde quote.jpg

here, the chair in chinatown you sat in that one time we went for dim sum. we made promises to come back, only we never did. here, the different continental breakfasts in hotels we had planned to stay in, only we never did. here, the cutleries on the table in a cheap restaurant.

here, my favourite 24/7 department store. here the pails and mops i thought we would have bought if we ever got to save our game forever. plastic pails occupying 1×1 squares. here, fantasies of a future we could never have had – equally as ghostly as all the things that’s left me when you left.

and here, the bench, 2×1 in a park. where for two solid hours every weekend we’d sit and the world would transform into lego bricks: a game within a game, and in these hours i am a giant in a lilliputian town – i can stand, i can stomp, i can destroy what fails to destroy me. everything suddenly becomes manageable. the fake icons of the city are nothing but child’s play.

here, the dish of chicken we were supposed to share.
here, 2×1, the dog bed we would have had if we could have lived together and kept a dog, or 20 like we’d jokingly plan to, only we never could have.

here.

here, all the things we could have been.

my world now runs in retrograde. i am the red dust of mars against the fading teal that is earth.

tonight in this motel, where the beginning is also now the ending. i prepare for the end. we watch the silent episode of my favourite show. i dust the table we’d leave, undo the sheets, turn off the lights as you move.

tonight’s another night we dip our feet in sandpaper.


Benedicta J. Foo

Benedicta J. Foo writes about lonely places and lonely people. Her work has been featured in a number of Southeast Asian journals, and has won in the National Poetry Competition in Singapore.

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