The Echoes ...


A fragment.


Ranbir Sidhu lives and writes in Athens, Greece. His books include Deep Singh Blue, Good Indian Girls and Object Lessons (in 12 Sides w/Afterglow), and he is a winner of a Pushcart Prize in fiction. You can find his fiction and non-fiction in The Georgia Review, Fence, Zyzzyva, The Missouri Review, Other Voices, The Happy Hypocrite, The Literary Review, Alaska Quarterly Review, Vice, The Wire, The Towner, Los Angeles Review of Books, Salon, Terrain, and The Nation. Among other projects, he has been working on The Echoes for some years, and thinks of it as his Lanark. t: @SSRanbir /// w: ranbirsidhu.com


It was no different from taking out a pair of pants that have gotten too tight, she didn’t know why Ralph was making such a fuss, it wasn’t like she was shooting junk into her veins, which was all the rage, by the way, not like she hadn’t thought about doing that because let’s be honest, who hasn’t thought about it, and if she wanted to, why shouldn’t she, why shouldn’t anyone, a woman should be able to get it on the NHS, get a prescription, just want a bit of a lift today, doc, feeling down and frowzy if that’s a symptom, why not offer junk, could do the world a lot of good, have you seen the way people walk down the high street, Ralph, with their stone dead faces and children screaming and carrier bags, why not give them heroin, why not give them coke, better than a book of green stamps and the football pools and a council flat that’ll kill you from the ugliness and boredom of it much sooner than shooting golden wonder into your veins; the only difference being, she continued, was that in this case she was the tailor, it was her widening the waist on the pants, adding a little room under the arms, putting a little play in the shoulders, yes, Ralph, me, my own self, and she wouldn’t make apologies for it, didn’t see the reason, it was her body after all, her head, her skull, no one had any right to say a thing to her, not even Jack, and she was married to him; and oh Ralph, you have to feel it to understand, she said, drawing closer across the bed and adopting, for the first time since the argument began, a tone of conciliation, because, she said, it’s not a drug, it’s not a thing I’m doing to myself at all, it’s a thing I’m doing with myself, with my whole body, think of it as me giving myself a gift, but not something I unwrap one day, wear for a week and throw away, this is much better, it’s like a new pair of eyes or another head, a whole head, think of all the things you could do with a whole other head, she said, I promise you, it’s not mutilation, it’s augmentation, and soon everyone’ll be doing it, from dukes and duchesses all the way down to the char lady pushing her trolley down the hall; it’s going to be a new world, Ralph, we won’t need words, that’s what they say, we’ll hold up colored cards showing our mood because what else is important, really, I’ll hold up a red card, say, showing I’m feeling a bit wild and passionate, and you’ll hold up a blue one, showing you’re not really up to anything, maybe a bit down, so I’ll hold up a purple card, showing sympathy, and you’ll hold a green card showing you’re feeling a bit more relaxed now you’ve got some sympathy and someone’s seen your color, and life will be so much easier because no one will have arguments because they won’t use words and it’s words that cause arguments and instead we’ll walk around floating a little bit off the ground, think about it, Ralph, we’ll be high, totally high, but all the time, no one will ever feel bad again, we’ll have moods of course, everyone has moods, they should have moods, but no one will ever feel really bad about anything again, just a bit bad, even if you’ve done something terribly wrong, say killed someone you shouldn’t have, you’ll hold up a black card and people will understand, they’ll understand it was a mistake and they’ll understand you feel bad about it, and because of that you’ll feel better almost at once and that’s what’s important isn’t it, to feel better, and in no time at all your black card will turn to a blue card; and it’s so simple, it’s amazing no one’s done it before, just a little thing really, you already touched it last night, and look what it did for me just by touching it, I’m not even sure it’s supposed to do that, but it did and last night felt wonderful and I’ve wanted oh so to tell you but I thought you’d make your serious face, your big serious black card face, that you wouldn’t understand, or at least that you’d pretend not to understand, because I think when it’s explained everyone understands, they only don’t want to say, they’re afraid, Ralph, and she told him that she understood why he would be afraid, it was natural she thought, because if he did it he was going to make a leap from being one kind of person to another, and all that was needed was a tiny little hole, a small hole drilled in the head all the way through the skull, to relieve the pressure on the brain, it’s cooped up in the prison of the skull, it’s solitary confinement for your whole life, why do you think babies and small children are so happy, it’s because their bones haven’t built a prison for the brain yet, it’s not shut away from being able to breathe — to breathe, Ralph! — oh how many years did she feel the pressure, her own skull weighing down all her thoughts, stopping her thinking, from feeling anything at all, all that weight, all that gravity, but she understood now, gravity is the enemy, she said, and one day soon everyone will know, everyone will be able to feel as free and happy and weightless and high as she is right now, and feel that way all the time...