Preoccupations: A Story on 6 Postcards

Richard-Yves Sitoski's picture
Originally from Ottawa, Richard-Yves Sitoski came to his senses and moved to Owen Sound in 2010. Since his arrival he has performed frequently throughout Grey County as a spoken word artist. He holds an M.A. in Classical Studies from Queen’s University and is the author of one collection of poems, brownfields (Ginger Press, 2014), and numerous scattered fragments. His fiction and poetry have appeared in Grimm Magazine, The Maynard, Eclectica Magazine and blue skies poetry. He is, along with Owen Sound's current Poets Laureate, Rob Rolfe and Larry Jensen, a member of the Métissage collective. In his spare time he writes songs and dreams of Guatemala.




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By Richard-Yves Sitoski


These are the things which she thought about on a regular basis: The fact that on the ground, there was a 100 per cent likelihood that you would get hit by a raindrop, but from up in the sky, it was impossible to calculate where any one drop would land. How a 10-pound object was ponderous in the hand but a gain or loss of equivalent weight on your frame went unnoticed. Whether you could determine how long a given species of animal would remain in its current form before differentiating into something demonstrably new. Whether happiness and misery were terms in a zero-sum game with your good fortune compensating on a one-to-one basis for someone else’s ill luck. Whether what drew us to one another was equivalent to the bioluminescence of abyssal fish: a brilliance emitted from within that catches the attention of mates but can also attract predators.


Sometimes when she finished listening to a recording she would turn on the radio and find that the same piece of music was playing. Sometimes when she was thinking of someone the phone would ring and it would be that person. What if her thinking it was that person made it so? If she thought of someone else, would that cause the person on the other end to change? She would never know, though, because evidently she couldn’t will herself to spontaneously think of someone before the phone rang, and waiting for the phone to ring then going over a list of possible candidates was cheating. Of course, when she called other people, she sometimes also wondered if they were thinking of her and that their thinking of her was what caused her to phone them. This she tried as much as possible to avoid considering.


In the checkout line of the grocery store she heard a man call her name. Turning around quickly — she did not recognize his voice, though he addressed her with familiarity — she locked eyes with a man she had never seen before. He smiled and began to ask her about a person she did not know in a manner which assumed she did. The instant she opened her mouth to respond, the woman behind her began to speak. Upon realizing that the man had been addressing the woman behind her all along — a woman, astonishingly, whose name she shared — she felt for the briefest moment that she and this other woman had switched places, and that she had to catch herself before this other woman’s words spilled from her own open mouth.


Growing up she and her father frequently played cards. Game after game of old maid, fish, hearts, cribbage and poker. Her father never held back and won unrepentantly on the principle that in loss she would become resilient. ‘Unlucky at cards, lucky in love' was all he would say, which she did not find very consoling. Nonetheless, she plays cards at every opportunity and with anyone who might be remotely interested: friends, family, complete strangers at the recreation centre. Not because she is intent on winning (something she has in fact long since given up on) but out of concern that her father’s adage might never prove correct.


They were reclining in the grass by a river, she lying with her head in his lap and he reading to her from a book. They were being pestered by a lone fly, which kept landing on her arm and which she kept waving off in annoyance. “Go away,” she would say—then promptly add, looking up at him, “Not you.” This continued until it became reflexive and the two sentences ran together. “Go away. Not you. Go away, not you. Go away not you.” Eventually it was thoroughly unclear who was supposed to stay and who was supposed to go.


She wanted a love that persisted like a song stuck in your head, or tinnitus, or a door-to-door missionary you couldn’t shake. She wanted a love as inescapable as the lies you were caught in while trying to unravel other lies. She wanted a love that developed like a skill, not caring how quickly she acquired it or whether her competence remained middling. She wanted a love that defined her forever, like a secret that comes to light and gives you a bad reputation. She wanted a love that made her miss him once he had gone, even if she had disliked him while they were together.  She wanted a love that remained in her memory like a painful injury — not the pain of the injury, which you couldn’t fully remember or else you’d never do anything again, but the simple fact that the injury was painful, which reminded you forever that it had happened at all.