This week Monkeybicycle is pleased to present a collection of three fiction pieces from three different authors—A. Harding, J. Robert Lennon, and Virginia Zech—on one central theme. The collective title is Falling Down the Stairs. Read Monday’s piece here, and Wednesday’s piece here.
Now that so much had happened and, more recently, for over five years, but equally significantly, or so it had seemed to her at the time, so much had not happened because they, she and he, hadn’t been speaking to each other and, more recently than that, today, and this evening and right now, when they are possibly still not speaking but she isn’t actually sure because he isn’t actually here, where she is, at his childhood home, where his parents live, and she is, wearing his mother’s nightgown because she hadn’t planned on staying over or, more honestly, maybe she had wanted to stay over but hadn’t wanted to make her plans obvious when she arrived by bringing her own pajamas, but in any case she is thinking, back to the nightgown now: who knew Victoria’s Secret had a country line? and, hadn’t she always thought, a vagina isn’t really a secret anyway as the store’s name implies? and certainly hers isn’t to him, but after all that, and also after, but this was a little earlier, being sure, several times over, that there wouldn’t be anymore afters because they would never see each other again, which turned out not to be true, and yet still didn’t come to much of anything, but at the same time had aroused a lot of warm and confused feelings of the sort she had thought were all in the past, and then those feelings had led her back here, to his house, where he isn’t, but she is, in the nightgown, then also, just moments ago, she had been sure that there really was nothing left to do in this relationship with him and his parents, which had never been the kind of relationship she wanted anyway, not with him, although she still adores his parents, but theirs, hers and his, had been a sometimes bad relationship, and yet had remained, for years and years, one full of longing for a past together that had been, mostly, unpleasant, but of course sometimes so comfortable and familiar, but also at other times deeply and publicly unpleasant, like, or maybe especially, that one Thanksgiving, the one that she had thought had finally initiated the final after, the Thanksgiving that came after their friend’s too-early death, the Thanksgiving when he said to her, “You know, I always thought I would marry you, but I just don’t like you that much,” yes, after that, when she was sure there was nothing left to do, or to happen, in her relationship with him and his family, which she had started to question the existence of, outside of her memory, a memory she was, earlier today, finally coming to accept as inaccurate, because after all there were those blackouts to consider, but that was, to be fair, a long time ago, but, then again there was still the rolling of the eyes of friends which she never quite knew the meaning of, and only suspected must indicate boredom or that she was missing something, probably boredom she thought, but suppose they weren’t mutually exclusive?, after wrestling with all that, today, upon opening the door of his childhood bedroom, where she is staying for the night, she is quickly realizing, but only as it is already happening, that, apparently, there is one, at least one, thing left to do, at least one scene left to cause, because this is all happening after she decided she had to use the bathroom, which is down on the first floor, because honestly she is pretty drunk at this point and definitely has to pee, as by now the drunkenness has been out in the open for several hours during which time she and his parents have returned home, to their home, his former home, and had sat chatting, casually, she thinks, about him, in the living room, while she had some drinks, and all of that had come after it, it being the drunkenness, had not been out in the open when she had started drinking, early in the afternoon, from the large bottle of whiskey she had in her purse, while at his hometown’s first annual His Hometown’s Annual Appreciation Day where she had gone with his parents and met or, in some cases, seen after a long period of not-seeing, some of his friends and family, and had quickly understood the event to be a nearly intolerable one for sober people who used to have, honestly, pretty strange sex with their son, although she could admit that, for everyone else anyway, it seemed like His Hometown’s Annual Appreciation Day had been going okay, so it was after all that as she opened the bedroom door, his former bedroom door, and stepped out onto the landing, where she is now, and where she is finding this thing to do, and the thing is something she had feared for a long time and, then, not feared because she hadn’t been in this house for an almost equally long time, and that thing, the thing still left to do, is to trip over this one stupid rug that doesn’t have a carpet pad underneath it or anything else to hold it in place because to open the door, the door she just opened, the bedroom door, the rug necessarily has to move to allow the door to move because it, the rug, is too thick, and then the door kind of bunched it up as it moved to let the door pass, so that as she opened the door and realized that there was at least one more annoying, nearly trivial, possibly predictable, thing, one more thing in a long string of things that have happened, things that she will never forget, that she absolutely has to do before she can finally walk away from this whole mess and hopefully get over it forever, but now, she is seeing, with clarity, finally, she thinks as it starts to happen, it is at least possible that she will not be walking away from, or even toward, anything, for a while, maybe a long while, and she is thinking isn’t that just how it is, this life, in which, she is realizing maybe there are certain people you just never get to unlove, and maybe that’s kind of a gift, yes, a painful and confusing gift, and maybe she will just decide to think that way, at least for now, and for efficiency’s sake so she can move on to the other thing she is doing, which is tripping over this thick, bunchy rug and beginning to fall down the stairs, meanwhile never forgetting that she is wearing the mother’s nightgown which, because the mother is short, is also much too short for her, and is, no doubt, going to cause one hell of a final, awful graphic scene, if indeed it is final in any way, when she is done with what she is doing, which was falling down the stairs, and has gotten where she is going, which is down.
Virginia Zech’s journalism and reviews have been appeared in The Onion AV Club, Seattle Weekly, The Reykjavik Grapevine and Ski Racing Magazine. The first chapter of her novella in progress, “The Claw”, is forthcoming in the science flash fiction anthology Gigantic Worlds. She lives in Montana. Find her on Twitter at @virginiazech.