Apr/May 2008  •   Fiction

Two Flashes on Isolation

by Brandi Wells and Carla Lopez de Azua

Cargo by Carla Lopez de Azua

I can hide. I can hide from your dirty clothes, the dry air, the smell of rain. I can hide in the holding tank or above the bridge. I can hide from the mailbox and food. I can hide from you.

You might look for me under the bed and find a dent where I sat uncomfortably for a while. You might notice a pile of bit-off nails and hair. I might have escaped to a closet and then run off.

If I'm daring that day, I'll probably hide inside SHED 1. SHED 1, across the street. It has a big blue sign. I could hide there, along with the strings and wires they stock and store. Strings and wires waiting to ship out. Maybe I'll ship out in one of those huge cargo boats going to Russia or China. Maybe I'll see who lives there. I'll hide between the ropes and anchors, in hopes you'll find me. But if you don't, I'll count the days apart and how many men are allowed ashore. I'll wonder if they rotate from port to port. I bet the captain always gets to go ashore. I'll count the seagull nests and the hours of labor. I'll share food with another stowaway. My hair will get hard, and my eyes will turn red. But I'll assume you're looking for me in the captain's quarters or on another cargo boat.

Once I reach an inviting port, maybe Marseille, maybe Casablanca, I'll telephone you; better yet, you'll already be there. Then we'll telephone everyone and say we're getting married. And we will get married. We will get married at some local church, maybe near the sea. Or at the city hall, if there is such a thing where we are. We'll buy a moped and a small house near the beach. You'll take photographs of our travels, and I'll own a restaurant. Our skin will get dark and our hair lighter.

But one day, before we can even mutter the words—those words of warning: ATTENTION!—we'll be stuck in a battleground. The two large cargo companies will fight for dominance. They'll fight for permanence, land, shipyards, and routes. They'll ask us, the foreigners, for alliance. We'll decline both offers. We'll be like Switzerland. We'll decide to move away, run away, back to the metropolis, back to where we came from. Back to what we really know.

I could do all this. We can do all this. I already hide from the mailbox and have hiding places for when you come by.


Smaller House by Brandi Wells

Inside my house is a smaller house, made of Styrofoam and cellophane and cardboard boxes. I taped the sides together with masking tape, and there is a blanket draped across the top so it always feels like night. When you knock on my front door, I will crawl out of my smaller house to answer. I will reach up and unlock the door and then very quickly crawl back to my smaller house. You should come inside and knock on the smaller house. It will have no door, but you can knock on the cardboard. I'll hear it because I'll be expecting you. I'll move a cardboard flap, and you will crawl inside. With the two of us, there won't be much room, and we will sit knee to knee, my elbow almost touching your face. You shouldn't comment on the lack of room, and we should only talk about things we've talked about before. I will reposition myself 17 times, and when my elbow bumps you in the face, you shouldn't say anything. You should leave before I ask you to. Crawl out of my smaller house, and I'll crawl after you. I'll hold the front door open, shut it, lock it behind you, and then crawl back into my smaller house. We'll do this every day until we are dead, and it will be the same as living.