let’s talk about it in the morning by K Raydo

The hand fell back into the sink when Marie disentangled her own fingers from it. She held it up to the sunlight beaming through the window: a clean human hand, with immaculately manicured fingernails, severed precisely at the wrist.

“Where did it come from?” Frank didn't seem surprised or under duress but curious, if only slightly apprehensive, when he finally spoke from two feet behind, diagonally to where Marie stood at the kitchen counter.

She stared down at the porcelain smoothneass of it, white and waxy beneath still, gray water. “I don’t know. It was just there this morning while I was pouring my coffee.”

Frank cleared his throat, “Did you run the water?”

“No. That was there, too.”

Frank and Marie ate breakfast while sitting quietly at the wooden table in their kitchen. This was an event that hadn't occurred, not even for a single meal, during what Marie thought might have been at least the last eight to nine months.

She put an orange slice into her mouth and sipped black coffee; she had read somewhere that she should only eat fruit on an empty stomach. She glanced at the sink and compressed the orange's flesh between her tongue and the roof of her mouth; Frank ate two eggs while craning his neck toward the counter in curiosity. He did not look at his food, nor Marie nor anything else in the room save what he couldn't avoid peripherally like a dish towel, the outdated oak cabinets, and brown Formica ledge that bordered the area.

Marie dabbed a napkin at her mouth frequently, between every slice of orange or sip of coffee, unsure if this were regular behavior or not. She was only just now aware of her motions, paying attention to the sounds she made as she ate; the way she grasped the handle of her coffee mug, the numbness she felt in her left thigh; the particular way she crossed and uncrossed her legs in exact intervals to alleviate it.

Frank said, “I’m going upstate next weekend. I’ll be back on Sunday.”

“Oh? For what?”

She asked without looking up. Her chest felt caved-in; Frank took the last bite of his eggs and swallowed. “A seminar. I have to be there, apparently.”

Marie had no idea how these things worked. She usually accepted what Frank told her, afraid of seeming too ignorant; worse, insecure if she asked questions. She didn’t understand what was required of him in his lines of work and study—what one had to do; where, attend, or not attend. If there were one thing Marie could not bear, it was the thought of anyone, especially her husband, realizing that there were many things that she didn’t understand nor know about. She read voraciously; and, as the years passed, it felt less like a pleasure than a struggle to stay afloat in conversations with whom she had casually postured yet strained and calculated conversations.

Frank knew this about her and endeavored to avoid talking about his work with his wife altogether. There was a ceaseless pursuit of something in Marie’s life, something that couldn’t be summed up as easily as that of ‘knowledge.’ It had the appearance of ‘knowledge,’ but the texture of something obscured; there was an ideal into which she worked hard to wedge herself. Yet she would not allow herself to fully acknowledge what that ideal was, nor to whom the ideal actually belonged. There was some place far in the distance and she had to not only move toward it but move toward it discreetly and indirectly. She felt certain that she would know once she arrived there and thought of that moment, let the imagined relief of that moment, pull itself over her in a way that made her feel briefly contented.

She smiled at Frank and said, “Ok. I have a lot of work to do then, anyway.”

She wondered how many potential arguments they may have passed over this way. She thought to herself, “307.” An odd number. When asked to, she could never approximate anything even. It felt inauthentic; even if it could only possibly be an estimation, she must still make it real in her mind. If someone pointed to Frank’s aquarium filled with small fish about which she knew nothing, and asked, “How many fish do you suppose are in there?” she would say “29” because an odd number seemed real. Thirty didn’t seem real.

She walked to the sink and set her plate on the counter. “1,” she thought, staring at the hand.

Frank’s chair scraped across the floor; she turned around to see him put on his jacket and walk toward the front door “Where are you going?” “Just down to the bodega. I’m out of cigarettes...” “Would you mind maybe bringing back some orange juice or maybe grapefruit or something? I'm craving those for some reason.” Frank smiled. “Sure.”

Marie spent the rest of the morning typing emails and eating what little fruit and vegetables she had left. She took a shower and spent longer than usual drying her hair. She read articles from several different magazines and online publications. Sometime around noon she noticed an email from Frank's phone: Ran into Thomas. Needed help with his car. Having lunch. Back later.’ She set down and went back to reading for the next hour, and just as she closed the book, the phone vibrated from the end table. She didn’t have a chance to say hello before Samuel said, “It’s so windy here. I’m sort of crouched behind this wall... Jesus. Hello..? Marie..?”

“Where are you?” “San Diego. It’s fucking terrible. I’m coming back tomorrow, I should get in around five or so. Can you have dinner?” “I don’t know. Maybe later. Maybe later tomorrow night. I might be able to come by.” “...are you alright?” “Yes.” “Are you lying to me?” “Probably.” “It’s really horrible here, Marie. Just think of that, okay?” “I will.”

When she ended the call, Marie walked up the stairs without looking toward the kitchen again. She laid down on her bed and put her hands on her ribcage; she thought of Samuel’s hands spread across her in that exact way, his fingers sliding across each bone, counting them quietly.

The sound of Samuel’s voice was deep and unexpected; he was of average height and build, but his voice carried. She had once tried to explain it to a friend, the sound of his voice, the way it made her feel quiet and small and ready to sleep, but she found herself incapable of it. None of the words she had to say to them about Samuel made any sense. She thought to herself, “This is bearable,” and, “San Diego is terrible,” before going to sleep.

When Marie woke in the dark it felt like a birth, clear of memory or recognition. She walked in a bodiless way, seemingly unaware of the task her legs were performing: two steps three steps four and all the way to the foot of the stairs where she paused and strained to hear something happening in the kitchen—the almost imperceptible sound of water rippling, followed by a thunk. She stepped through under the archway and rose a little off her heels to peer into the sink. The hand was still there—a blurred moon glowing underwater. The soft light of an outdoor security lamp had set the kitchen awash in white-blue. Marie exhaled and curled her fingers around the edge of the wall. She pulled out a chair, sat at the table, and stared toward the sink.

She thought, if Frank came home just then, he would think she had been up waiting for him. Marie didn’t like the thought; she didn’t do that anymore—wait. This had been an urge she fought to control for two years, till one night she woke to find Frank standing at the foot of their bed; she remembered the clock said 2:51; he stood very still, caught, and probably wondering what to say. Marie only turned over and pulled her sheets tighter around her neck, covering half her face; buried her face in her pillow, grimaced, almost comically; thought, “Finally. I don’t care. I don’t care.”

As Frank rounded the corner onto the next block, he took his cellphone out of his jacket pocket and scoured for Ana's number. She answered on the third ring, “Hello?” “Hello.” Frank could tell he had woken her. “Hi, Frank.” “Are you busy?” He knew that she wasn’t; she would have never spoken his name otherwise. This was the way Frank phrased things with Ana; it was too direct to ask if someone was with her, and he had never really wanted to acknowledge the possibility.

“Busy? No, not really,” she said. “I just woke up;” he had embarrassed her. “I thought I might bring you some coffee if you have a minute... I wouldn't be able to stay very long.”

He could hear the shuffling of feet, the groan of wooden floorboard, “Sure,” she said. “I’m kind of a mess, but...” Ana was always a mess, but Frank never agreed. There were two things which were a near certainty when Frank would meet Ana: he would not be able to stay very long, so she had only ten to fifteen minutes' notice before he rang her buzzer. He knew she hated this and had tried a few times to plan ahead. But Frank couldn't very much help it that he lacked the foresight to know when he would want to see Ana. It usually struck him the same way it struck him now; something had happened, and now he wanted to see Ana.

There was something to think about: he found the sudden unceremonious arrival of the hand exciting; he knew things could happen this way; it had happened at least three times so far in Frank’s life—that he woke up to find he was surrounded by a sense of the other; that something inside (inside—somewhere) had moved around; become irreversible. And it was the same with the hand, it had appeared and now nothing would feel like it had before, but only after. He wanted to start using words like ‘fate’ and ‘providence,’—but only privately: these were words in an increasingly large group of words he had mentally marked “Don’t say them, they're too in-earnest.”

As he looked down into the sink that morning, Frank thought he understood something. He could really see, and plainly feel, that the skin, dermis, was the body’s largest organ: an actual alive and breathing thing. He was not sure whether he wanted to consider a separate existence of consciousness and body; or, rather, be an entire and moving unit of thought and action without disparity between intent and course of either—a singular and moving unit with indiscernible connection to any of the other whole and moving parts he came in contact with. To think of all the parts he needed to function, to sleep and eat and shit... to think too long about how he could want or feel something incongruous to his course, that it was even possible these things could be incongruous... the words kept coming to him: Consciousness; Bodies; Hands; Skin; Consciousness; Bodies; Alive.

He felt he wanted to eat a steak; he wanted to take Ana somewhere they could have a steak and then he wanted to take her back home and take all her clothes off, one small thing at a time, and do it in a less rushed way, a little more calculated than the usual with her. Later he wanted to sleep under her fat white comforter, drink a beer and eat a sandwich, then get back under the big white comforter and press his chest against her back and sleep once again.

When Ana appeared in the doorway, Frank coursed directly to her sofa and sat himself down; he noticed she had put on a little makeup. Else it was left over from the night before.—He wondered where she might have been but didn’t ask. She said, “You seem different today,” and sat down next to him. “Yes?” “Enthusiastic. Or something.”

He pulled her to him and kissed her forehead. “The oddest thing: I couldn’t wait to tell you about it...” She pressed herself against him. “What?” “There was a hand in our kitchen sink this morning.” “A hand.” “Yes, a clean, whole, human hand.”

Neither Frank nor Marie was sure who began to move the furniture first. Frank couldn’t remember which piece preceded the others in making its way, permanently, into the kitchen. It may have been a folding chair from the card table that was mostly neglected except for the occasional game of dominoes on Sunday afternoons. Marie seemed to recall finding Frank sitting on it one evening, seated almost casually in front of the sink with a newspaper held up front of him the pages crumpled at either side in his loose fists.—Frank did recall, exactly, when the conversations began: it was the afternoon that he wheeled his recently emptied aquarium into the kitchen and put the hand in it.

Marie sat across the table from him; she looked up from the magazine she was reading, “I’ve been reading these books...”

Frank noticed her gaze was unfocused toward her hands, and her mouth was turned down. He sat up straight. “Which?” “Different ones. Not a series of books or anything like that. But I noticed. Something that’s been bothering me, something that seems to happen in everyone.” She looked up abruptly then and Frank felt a strange recognition as she did: he was familiar with this look, but couldn’t at present recall what it signified. She continued, “There’s always just one person. The narrator, I guess we could say. And, well, it’s in the dialogue. I notice it more frequently when there's a dialogue going on. There's always just the one person being rational, saying what sound like calm, logical, pleasant things. While everyone around him seems communicative. You know, to the extent that they’re constantly talking or telling. But none of it seems related, or to make any sense.”

Frank cleared his throat. “I don’t know...” “Okay,” she went on, “well—it’s like, every novel I've read is told from the perspective of one quiet person who is constantly surrounded by many not quiet persons who just rattle on with observations and small talk. And the quiet person can never make sense of any of it, the quiet person is just there, existing, watching things happen to him.”

She picked up a book from the chair beside her. “This one, for instance. In this story, a woman goes to the home wherein she lived with a former boyfriend who has recently died in a tragic accident. It’s out on a sort of farm; very rural area. So she goes and walks round the property till the present owner acknowledges there’s a stranger walking round, and comes out to see what it’s about; what she’s doing just walking around there. And when the owner, without actually seeming worried about what the hell's going on, realizes who she is, she just starts telling her random things, just unrelated things, and making associations between... I don’t know what, all this weird stuff; about a tree and a time capsule; unrelated stuff. And the woman, the quiet one, just responds with simple sentences, like she's living in a world of crazy people and is the only one sane. It bothers me; why is that always in books? I can’t find any meaning in it.”

He said, “Maybe that’s the point. Maybe that’s like life: everyone feels like the only sane one all the time.” “Do you feel like that?” “A lot, don’t you?” “No,” she said, “I never feel that way, I think it's the opposite.”

She gazed down at her magazine again; he looked at her hair, her small nose; large eyes. He didn’t know why but he thought just then of the time when she had broken her ankle and the way she had managed to weep without sounding pained. “You feel insane?”

She looked up again: “I feel like if I can’t understand what everyone around me is trying to say, then maybe I’m the irrational one.”

K Raydo is a freelance writer and nice person. Sometimes she lives in Brooklyn, NY, and sometimes she lives in Austin, TX. She blogs at algorithms.tumblr.com.