Breaking up the Silence by Lauri Kubuitsile


They spoke their first words at 8:51 am.

“You forgot to buy milk yesterday,” she said.

“Ya… sorry,” he said in return.

Then silence again. A big chunk of it. Not so heavy anymore, though. Just silence. Not companionable. Just what it was. He was used to it now.

He eats. She reads the newspaper. He drinks his tea without milk hoping to leave enough so she doesn’t have to. He washes his dishes and goes outside.

He turns over the soil around the onions. He likes doing that. He feels a freshness in himself when the air makes space in the compacted soil. He can hear her in the house. He imagines she’s baking, though he can’t be sure of it. He just thinks that’s what she’s doing. She does a lot of baking lately. Puts it in the freezer for when the kids come home. She’s always preparing for those days. When they’re there; when the silence hides. Or it’s covered up.

He heard her on the phone the night before, on the phone with their daughter. She didn’t know he could hear her. He was turning the soil at the front, in the bed of nasturtiums there. The window was open to let the summer breeze in, but it also let her words out.

“Keep track of things. Pay attention. Yeah… you should really pay attention, that’s the most important thing. Pay attention to the details and keep track of time. Don’t let it get away from you because suddenly it’s all gone… it’s gone and you’re not sure what the point was. I let things get past me. I wish I hadn’t but I did.”

Those were a lot of words, he thought at the time. He doubted she’d said that many words to him the entire week. The words that floated so lightly out the window sat heavy in his thoughts. He wondered what got past her. Which details paid attention to might have made the difference? He felt responsible for the disappointment her words alluded to though he wasn’t sure why. Later, he wished he hadn’t heard the words at all. Later he wished for silence in their place.

He stayed outside with the nasturtiums, and later the patch of strawberries he’d started new that year, until long after dark. Until he couldn’t really see what he was doing anymore. The bats tweeted over his head, swooping down and diving up. But he stayed digging. Letting the air in, trying his best to unpack the compacted.


12 responses »

  1. Very short. Osemhen, I’m surprised I even managed this. My short story gene is seriously buggered right now. I’m glad LP forced me to write. Maybe I can get it working again. But thanks!

  2. A very short story that shows what can happen when things are left unsaid. I especially like the ending that captures the man’s feelings of hopelessness.

  3. I enjoyed this short piece Laura. I rings so true to the lives of many couples today. So sad but true. A well written piece. I’m here from your blog and I’ll check out other pieces over time if you keep reminding us on your own blog 😉

  4. I guess I forgot to mention why I liked it. It wasn’t because it is short, lol. It is because I think you really captured the essence of what happens to many couples over time when they stop trying to esteem the other before themselves. When they stop thinking of how to make the other one happy and let themselves drift apart. I think it can so very easily happen and then you think like the woman in your piece “Don’t let it get away from you because suddenly it’s all gone.” the one thing I didn’t like so much is the description of the bat tweeting. Maybe it’s because I never heard a bat’s sound…and I can’t imagine them “tweeting”. Small point, I know.

  5. Short but with a wide range of emotions. I particularly like how it begins.

    I think it won’t hurt to add a bit more detail to this story. The structure’s already there. 🙂

  6. Thanks Nel. Yes, I think you’re right, I could add a bit more. I should do a rewrite taking everyone’s suggestions into consideration. Morenike, I think at this point sex has been put on hold, sadly.

  7. This is a very rich piece, i feel these people’s pain/regrets/loneliness through their silence. There is so much left unsaid. And because its so short… the reality of the situation and its relevance to today’s culture is unmasked

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