He Said, She Said

My Flash Fiction Piece “He Said, She Said” which was WritersType.com’s Monthly Winner for April 2012, and was published in the third issue of Corvus Magazine.

He Said, She Said

By Logan Rees

 

            “What did you say?” she said.

He said, “I said nothing.”

I said nothing.

She said, “I said, ‘what did you say?’”

“I said, ‘I said nothing,’” he said.

I said nothing.

“I heard what you said,” she said.

“You heard me say I said nothing?” he said. “Or you heard what I said before you asked me what I said?”

I tried to say something. “What’s with all the ‘he said, she said?’”  I shouldn’t have said that.

“Fuck you!” they said, pretty much in unison.

He, she, and I all said nothing for a while.  The guy on the T.V. was saying that someone was saying that someone famous was saying something about someone else, who is also famous, I think.  I wasn’t really paying attention to the T.V.

This was all happening at my apartment, unfortunately.  If it were happening anywhere besides my apartment I would have left wherever it was happening and gone somewhere else, like my apartment.  This happens everywhere though.  If they’re together anywhere, they’ll find something to argue about.

“I’m sorry,” he said

She said, “For what?

“For what I said,” he said.

She said it was okay, in so many words.  I think she apologized too, but I can never tell what she means when she talks.  There’s always, what do you call it, subtext.

Obviously I said nothing.  But I was thinking something.  Something I can’t even remember right now, but I remember thinking at the time that it was something really significant.  It probably wasn’t, but whatever.  I felt like you should know I had a thought.  Christ, what was I thinking?

“You know, I was thinking,” he said.  “I was thinking we could…” He stopped. “Nevermind,” he started, then mumbled something under his breath.

“What did you say?” she said.

He said, “I said nothing.”

I said nothing, and then it started all over again.  I don’t know if the conversation went exactly the same, I stopped listening, but I wouldn’t be surprised.

“Why are you doing this with him here?”

He looked at me.

“I can go,” I said.

They said nothing.

I walked into my bedroom and closed the door.  All I could hear of their conversation through the walls was muffled shouts.  I grabbed my iPod and shoved the headphones in my ear.  In half a second their shouts were drowned out by melodies and harmonies.  The singer was shouting something at me, but I wasn’t listening.  It wasn’t important anyway.  The only thing that made any sense to me right then was the pounding of the music in my ear.  I closed my eyes and let my mind wander.  The music filled my head with images.  Images of joy and peace.  Images without words to soil them.  Just fuzzy memories of feelings or thoughts.

Then the images stopped.  The music had cut out.  I looked at my iPod.  The numbers were still running, but no noise was coming out.  Piece of shit broke again.  I pulled the headphones out and threw it on the bed.  It landed silently on the soft sheets.  Then I realized the shouts from the other room had stopped.

I went to the door, grabbed the doorknob, and stopped dead.  I think that’s when I first noticed it.  I let go of the doorknob and grabbed it again, harder.  Same thing.  It didn’t make a sound.  I started breathing heavy, but couldn’t hear the air enter or leave my lungs.  I cocked my hand behind my head and slammed it flat against the door as hard as I could.  Nothing.

I flung the door open to find her with both hands on her throat and her mouth wide open, feeling for vibrations as she shouted silent words.  He was in the kitchen banging pots and pans together in futile attempts to make sound.  The guy on the T.V. was fumbling nervously with his earpiece and lapel microphone.

Her eyes, filled with tears, met mine, and she mouthed what could have been, “What’s going on?”

He emerged from the kitchen with one of my green ceramic bowls in his hand.  He opened his mouth in what probably would have been a maniacal scream, raised the bowl over his head, and marched toward the window.  She and I both yelled for him to stop, but to no avail.  The bowl went flying through the window, breaking the glass without a sound.  He buckled to his knees and grabbed two handfuls of his own hair.

Out the window, people in cars pressed their hands against their steering wheels but no car horns sounded.  T.V.s and computer monitors fell from windows above mine and smashed silently on the ground.  A man broke the noiseless glass of a store window, and a muted gunshot put him on his back.

I looked back in my apartment to find his head arched back, his mouth flailing, shouting words he knew no one could hear.  Words he wanted no one to hear.  Words just to bring his mind peace.  Words to let his anger out.  To regain his sanity.

And then, out of nowhere, he said, “…and I fuck other women!”

Car horns and gunshots and indistinguishable screams poured in from out the window.

“What did you say?” she said.

The guy on the T.V. was saying something about not panicking and finding an explanation.

He said, “I said nothing.”

The sound of an explosion came from out the window.

I said nothing.

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Review of Ten Stories by mewithoutYou

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If you’re a mewithoutYou fan, you’re used to waiting a while for the next album to come out, only to find it sounds completely different from the last album you’ve grown to love over the past couple years.  For me and many others, their 2009 album It’s All Crazy, It’s All False, etc. was a bit of a disappointment.  We had just started getting used to the toned down and matured sound that came out of Brother, Sister three years earlier, still coping with the fact that frontman Aaron Weiss can actually sing, rather than just shout poetic wisdom at us through our speakers.  And out comes an album full of simplified, almost nursery rhyme-y songs about birds and beetles and all kinds of critters, accompanied by simple sing-song melodies and goofy instrumentation.  The true fans swallowed the bitter pill though, and found that despite the band’s dare-I-say dumbed down sound, Weiss had furthered his lyrical genius, fitting elaborate fables into his rigidly metered and rhymed poem-songs in a way that’s unmatched in songwriting.  Still, we were nostalgic for the abrasive beats and meditative guitar melodies that used to accompany his wordsmithing, and I have to admit, I missed him screaming for my attention over the raucous.  I found myself hoping and praying that this was just a brief derailment from their otherwise smooth ride toward a fully-matured and unique musical style.

And then Bam! the train crashed and spilled all over the place when the first single off their new album Ten Stories hit the web.  “February, 1878” in addition to being a nod to their classic first single, is an explosive and corrosive musical embodiment of a violent train crash on a snowy night in the American northwest.  I nearly wept for joy when I heard Weiss’s dearly missed raspy roaring in my ears as he describes the scene to the most minute detail, as only he can.  Then once the din died down, i was delighted to hear his brother’s dark and sweeping guitar carry the tone all the way to the contented conclusion.  I was convinced that the old mewithoutYou was back in full swing.  However, as I continued down the tracklist, I heard remnants of the more melodic tones that they had experimented with on It’s All Crazy, but more thought-out and complex than anything that album had to offer.  Believe it or not, they’ve perfectly blended the old with the new and come up with something completely different and more diverse than any of their albums thus far.  The contrast is most apparent in the back-to-back placement of the bright and boisterous “Cardiff Giant” and the dark and desperate “Elephant in the Dock.”  Each end of the spectrum is explored even further as the album goes on, from the wispy and whimsical “Aubergine” to the sluggish dejectedness of “Bear’s Vision of St. Agnes,” all coming together in the exultant final fugue “All Circles.”  It seems an appropriate end to an album where a band has come full-circle, embracing the new direction they had ventured into while sticking to the sound they pioneered in the first place.  This album is a great listen for fans as well as those who have never heard the band before.  I eagerly recommend Ten Stories to everyone.

Scientists found God… (not really)

The scientific world (and some of the pseudo-scientific world) was in an uproar last week following the announcement of the discovery of the long-awaited Higgs-boson, or as some have deemed it, ‘The God Particle.’  This tricky little sub-atomic particle is an essential puzzle piece that had been missing from the standard model of quantum physics for more than 40 years.  The discovery and subsequent research of the particle will answer many questions that quantum mechanics has been struggling over for decades.  But the question on most laymans’ minds is “What the hell is it and why is it called the God Particle?”

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The term was coined by Leon Lederman, who claimed that he named it so because the particle is “so central to the state of physics today, so crucial to our understanding of the structure of matter, yet so elusive,” and added that he chose “the God particle” because “the publisher wouldn’t let us call it the Goddamn Particle, though that might be a more appropriate title, given its villainous nature and the expense it is causing.”  The name unfortunately stuck, and has led to countless pseudo-scientific and antitheistic arguments that science is finally putting the lid on the whole ‘god delusion,’ thus adding more fuel to the eternally burning conflict between science and religion.  A conflict that I and many others see as much a delusion as atheists claim God is.

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I was raised in church, going to sunday school every week, and I know what you’re thinking, but no, I was not brainwashed.  I was told stories, asked questions, and taught to think of others before myself.  And I was never, ever, not once told anything about science, evolution, the big bang, none of it.  I was very scientifically inclined as a young boy.  I watched Bill Nye as religiously as I went to church.  But the two never clashed in my mind.  I don’t remember exactly when I first heard of the conflict between science and religion, but I remember always being baffled by it.  To me, the two were entirely separate ways of thinking that didn’t interfere with each other at all.  I remember an instance where I asked my mother something along the lines of “If the earth is 4 billion years old, why does it say God made it seven days?”  My mom responded with something along the lines of “Well, how long is a day to God?”  Her response stuck with me for the rest of my life, and it always served as a reminder not to think of religion along logical terms.  Still the war wages on, and some people have dedicated their lives to fighting for one side or the other, not realizing that neither side has got it right.

From astronomy to evolution, scientific discovery has been met with hostility from religious literalists who claim their discoveries to be heresy.  So it’s easy for a rational person to view religion, as many atheists do, as a plague upon mankind, and an enemy to reason.  Some atheists, who might more accurately be called antitheists, cite past religious wars, crusades, and terrorists attacks as proof that religion has done nothing but harm to the human race.  They seem to forget the countless religious charities that exist to provide food, shelter, and medicine to poor and underprivileged people around the world.  There is also a tendency among atheists to deify science and view it as an infallible benefit to humanity.  They seem to forget, again, about things such as radiation poisoning, chemical warfare, and the atomic bomb.  The fact is that neither science nor religion is inherently good or evil, but that, like most things, it is up to us to decide how we will use them.

Then there is the mindless back and forth arguing about the existence of God.  Atheists claim that since there is no scientific evidence for him, that he cannot exist, while theists futilely try to come up with some logical way of proving it.  The problem is that you cannot logically make an argument either way.  Ludwig Wittgenstein (whose work inspired this blog’s namesake) said that not only can the question of God’s existence not be answered, it logically cannot be asked.  Wittgenstein was a very logical person, who liked to classify things according to their nature.  He saw that there are a set of things which exist and a set of things which do not exist.  But God, by definition, does not fall into either category.  He is above and beyond anything the human mind can conceive, including existence.  He is that which created existence and non-existence, and so cannot be defined by them.

To me, the problem lies in the fact that people forget that there is a rational side and a spiritual side to every human being.  We must be able to think rationally, because it helps us to survive in the external world, but there’s a part of every human that wants to transcend the physical world.  As Plato tells us in his cave allegory, we only see shadows of what the real world actually is.  This is where our spirituality comes in.  The problem occurs when one substitutes his rationality for spirituality and vice versa.  On the religious side, a person might see a scientific theory as contradictory to his spiritual upbringing, and so denies his rationality.  On the other side, a rational person might see religion as contradictory to his rational thinking, and so denies his spirituality.  Both people are missing out on the full spectrum of what it is to be human.  We are a harmonious balance of intellect and insight constantly struggling against our primal fears and desires.  Without both qualities in your arsenal, you will be unequipped to battle those primal emotions, and will lose out to your animalistic nature.

As you’ve probably noticed, I used the Higgs story as an excuse to give my thoughts about this topic, of which I have a lot.  So I hope that you will forgive my somewhat unorganized ranting.  But my hope is that a rational person might read this and be swayed against the popular anti-religious sentiment among atheists, and that a religious person might read this and decide to keep his spiritual and rational mind separate, but both growing and evolving throughout his life.