PRISONER EXCHANGE

by bantuh

Gus is ideal sentience with a beautiful smile and pan seared charm, the nerd of the literal world that has kept the consistency. He cuts a curt lackluster figure with a motley of bland jokes, neat lines and the thorough efficiency of a knock out merchant, he is a contradiction of aesthetics. I have known the bastard for more than a decade and all I can say is that he has a really wicked pen. Everything else is grey matter under a thick skull.

He lives in a shell of sorts, a place where normal humans rarely pay visitation homages. I pop in and out of that shell with more occasional frequency than he is accustomed to, stick a stick inside that madness and see what pops out. Gus is refined kosher and so I barely walk out bare handed.

Meet Brian Guserwa

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They meet in the fading light of the day. On the creek facing the same sea that first brought them together.
His people called her people, gruff messages were exchanged, and now they stand, bathed in the stunning glow of the sinking sun but incapable of enjoying its splendor.

They stare at each other for long moments. Then they glare at each other for a few more. It is a silent battle of whose eyebrows will dip lowest, whose jaw will clench hardest, whose face will contort the most. Nobody blinks, and the angry silence stretches out into a tense, simmering renewal of resentment.

She is the first to move. She reaches behind her and grabs the suitcase, tugs it forward and throws it down between them. He does not hear the click of her tongue that accompanies its thud as it hits the ground. He is busy hauling his own rucksack front and center. Throwing it down with just as much vitriol.

That should be it. Prisoners exchanged. Transaction completed. Back to their separate lives.
But still they stand there, trading scowls, glowering murderously at each other. A bird coos somewhere close by. Merry sounds drift towards them, bourne by winds that float from a nearby villa. A wedding, from the sounds of it. The audacity, he thinks. How insensitive of the world to go on spinning… how selfish that couple is to grab at happiness, to bracket it with vows and emote it in front of a gathering.

Still they stand, two pillars of salt, neither capable of turning away.

Finally, overcome by the urge to attack him, she steps forward and attacks the suitcase instead. She yanks the zipper hard enough to rip it. She throws the case open and grabs the first thing her hand lands on.

“Here is the sweater you gave me.” She shoots the words at him, not looking in his direction but aiming the syllables at his jugular. If there is a god, she thinks, the right adjective will slice his throat and he will shortly lie bleeding in front of her.

“When you were pretending to be chivalrous, but really, you just wanted to get in my pants.”

That spurs him into action. He throws the rucksack open and upends its contents, scattering the assorted trinkets on the ground. He snatches a beige blouse from the air as it falls and waves it at her like a checkered flag.

“And here is one of the 50 things I bought you that you never wore.”

She grabs a dumbbell, tries to lift it and lets it fall back into the suitcase. “Oh, look! The workout set you have never used. 2017 New Year Resolution, was it?”

He brandishes a chipped mug bearing the words Sorry I’m Taken, then tosses it over his shoulder. “Not any more, I’m not.” And he grins when he sees her lip quiver.

A frilly lace something comes flying at him. “Your whore’s bra, which I found in your coat.”

Pantyliners, still in their unopened box. He tosses them at her feet. “Here is your poor attempt at marking territory.”

And then they are yelling over each other, paraphernalia raining down between them as they weaponize the remnants of their time together. The socks she liked to wear. The broken heel he found behind his shoe rack. His hoodie. Her fountain pen.

Soon enough, they have run out of things to throw, or memories to fashion into daggers. But the yelling only ticks up.

“… wasting four years of my life…”

“… childish, immature, incapable of receiving affection…”

“… you’re a writer, we get it!”

“Do you? Because you’ve never read anything I’ve written!”

“Maybe if you were not always writing about your whores…”

It ends suddenly. It doesn’t peter out, or fade, or trail off like an abandoned thought. It just ends. He stops throwing words at her, and she stops shooting hers at him. They are closer than they have been yet. Inches apart. He can see the concentric circles between her eyebrows, the ones she gets when she is mad. Or turned on. Or both. Is she one or the other or both? And she can smell the musky bass notes of his aftershave, the one he uses when he wants to impress. Was he trying to impress her?

Another pearl of laughter floats over to them. The happiness of others, such a foreign concept to them. But it is enough. It cuts the thread holding them hostage, snaps them back to reality.

Silently, they step back. Silently, they assemble the scattered mess around them and pack them once more into suitcase and bag. Silently, they zip and secure the prisoners and pass them over to each other. It is over this time, he knows.

The sun has dipped below the horizon.

Photo by Al Elmes on Unsplash

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