The chunk of salmon fell off her fork. It clipped the side of the dish and bounced over the edge of the table and hit the floor.
Woman: Crap. That was such an inviting looking piece.
Man: Pick it up.
Woman: Forget it.
Man: I'll pick it up.
Woman: Just leave it.
Woman: Leave it.
Man: Salmon. Not just an "it."
Woman: Not anymore. It's become something else now.
Man: It doesn't have to if you decide to pick it up. Or if I pick it up for you. Allow me.
Woman: I won't eat it. It's joined another category of things.
Man: Goodness. What are you going on as? A librarian? Is that what I'm sitting across from now? Has this become a library? Is that where we are? What we've entered into. Who have we become? Are we borrowers? Never possessing anything anymore? Going about and asking for things we eventually give back. Tasting them and relishing them for smaller moments. Squeezed by shrinking time and weighed down by ever heavier obligations. Quick! Let's see who can draw faster!
Woman: I don't want to.
Man: Because you know I'm faster.
Woman: Yes and its a pointless activity.
Man: Pointless because you lose.
Woman: Pointless because I lose. Pointless because you win. And pointless because it's meaningless.
Man: Point taken, but what's the real reason underneath all of that?
Woman: You want to know what is underneath all of that?
Man: Yes, I do.
Woman: A chunk of salmon laying on the floor beneath our directionless banter no longer inviting me. No more invitations. At least to things that I would attend because I really want something. Invitations were more frequent in the past, but they didn't just want you to be there. There were always strings attached. Strings to get tangled in. Rope burns they were. Expectations. Bring something for others to stick their paws in. Some kind of sales pitch to buy something. Long distance deals. Real estate deals. Living arrangements. Flower arrangements. Remedies for aging. They don't send out any invitations. They are all dead and gone. The same old invitations and pitches went wild, sank into the Earth, or got batted away enough by people who knew better or were just sick of the same old business. Same old business. They keep repackaging it. And somehow they keep finding new customers to invite. Get less invitations these days. Maybe it's because there's less looking around. Less turning of the head. Less to orient to. Less to belong to.
Man: While you were diatribing for your lengthy stint as the librarian, I picked it up.
Woman: You didn't.
Man: Why would I say I picked it up if I didn't?
Woman: Just a futile effort at rearranging the world that doesn't end up as another upgrade of derangement. Did you eat that in one bite?
Man: I did.
Man: The infamous conjunction that leads one to curious compounds. Something sharp that snaps between the teeth that will grind endlessly until you find what you've been looking for and avoid the inevitable. Growing immune to deterioration, but can never quite get past following the same putrid rationalizations every reporting cycle. Keep choking down the same promises until one is incapable of making a sound.
Woman: Feline have your tongue?
Man: Practically. More like the server.
Woman: The who?
Man: The server. I think my digestive tract will have to accomodate one of his toenails. The body's way of attuning to those who serve.
Woman: Not necessarily the server's. Could have been someone much further removed in the scheme of things. Funny that it's referred to as a "scheme." Says it all. Those who suffer the scheme's own process of incorporation find themselves by losing themselves. Forced along the highways and byways of excretion. They'll spend hours and hours wracking their brains in the last moments of darkness. They'll have to start all over again as the sun over-exposes their vanity of vision. They are truly converted. Broken down so far below any coherent argument that could convince them of being part of any heritage whatsoever. Nothing to do with it. No sound to emerge but the polluted tide churning them between one erosion and another.
- Max Stoltenberg