Prompt Responses: A Fragile ConnectionMature

Prompt:

write about a fragile connection.

***

They sat together in the same room but were separated on so many levels, in so many ways, that it was a feat in of itself that they were here.  A single hanging light provided the only illumination in the tiny room, filling it with static shadows that deepened the gloom. From somewhere, a clock filled the room with its ticking.

Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick.

“Why?” One of the pair asked. The questioner’s chair was turned away from the other, the large empty table that took up most of the room sitting on his right, his right profile presented to the man in a suit and tie. At the moment he was bent foreword, elbow to knees, playing with some small, shiny object, a nickel-plated lighter.

“I don’t kno-“

“Why?” The question was asked right on top of the answer. The suit slowly adjusted his tie before he placed both hands flat against the table, staring straight ahead across the room at an imaginary point behind the questioner’s head. They refused to connect; neither one quite willing to acknowledge the existence of the other.

Tick-Tick-Tick- 

“Why?” Pressure built between the synthetic wood and fingers until white shone through nails and flesh.

Tick-Tick-

“Why?” It was repeated and the fingers knotted into fists.

Tick-

“Why-?“

“Don’t ask me why!” The explosion as the suit stood rocked the table, shoving his chair back, and set the hanging light to swinging, casting shadows across the room to dance, waver, retreat and resurge in turn. He stood there, shoulders appearing to shake within the shadows as they washed across him. Abruptly he turned his back on the room, one hand stuffed into his pocket, the other rubbing his temple.

Click. Puffing noises.

Snap. A soft exhalation of breath and then a sigh. The smell of cigarette smoke filled the room. 

Tick-Click-Tick-Snap-Tick-Click-Tick-Snap.

The one with the lighter, still sitting, leaned back in his seat, the chair creaking beneath him as he replaced the package of cigarettes in his leather jacket. Slowly he rested his elbow on the table as he craned his neck back, staring up at the non-descript ceiling. In his other hand he played with his lighter. Click. Flipping it open. Snap. Flipping it shut. Taking a deep draw, he added another cloud of smoke to the growing haze wreathing his head. “What’s the point then?”

“I-” Click. The one standing stopped, rubbing his neck. Slowly he touched the line of thought within his head, tracing it through the twists and turns of his mind, feeling the contours of the tangled confusion that he felt. How would he explain? Gingerly he tugged on fragments, shifted insights and organized arguments till at last, with one great pull the knot imploded. Snap. The tangles pulled straight, order was created from the madness.

Click. The words flowed, they sang, they moved within him with a spirit entirely their own, beautifully and completely unstoppable, convincing. He would get a chance at what he sought.  Straightening his tie, the suit spun about to face his counterpart with clarity and purpose. With his tie swinging in time to the swinging of the light he set his fists on the table. With both energy and flair he opened his mouth, prepared to present his case, tongue poised to speak. The light that swung slowed. The shadows that danced ceased to move. For a moment, an instant, there was a stillness so profound that one might think that the mysteries of the world were about to be unveiled.

The one standing, tie dangling, fists planted on the table, mouth opened to make his point paused.  Panicked.  Froze.  Choked.  Snap. The silken lines of poetic justice slipped from his grasp and fell into an undignified heap, a jumbled tangle once more. They wilted before the imagined rebuke from the one with the lighter. There was sense, there was meaning, but how would he get the other to understand? The reasons and principles were near impossible to explain, easier to explain why water was wet. Lost, his head dropped, his shaking shoulders replacing the shaking light.

Click.

Drawn by the noise, the one standing in the suit looked up and saw that his counterpart had turned his head slightly to look at him. Their eyes met. Snap. The one standing saw an openness that he had not expected.  An understanding that reflected his own in those dark brown eyes.  Realization dawned. The questioner in leather nodded, noting the change and stamped out his cigarette in the ashtray at his elbow. Straightening in his chair, he turned both it and himself so that he was facing the one standing. Settled, he placed his lighter carefully on the table and folded his hands before him. Once again the ticking of the clock reclaimed the room.

Tick-Tick-Tick-Tick.

“Why?” 

The one standing arched an eyebrow in silent question before responding. “Why ask why?  You know why.”

A smile threatened to tug at the questioner’s lips. He took hold of his lighter again and twirled it for a moment, listening to the grate of metal on wood before sending it sliding across the table. On the other side, the suit caught the skidding object in his hand and slowly lowered himself back into his chair, drawing it in closer to the table as he tucked his tie away.

“We are ready to deal?” asked the questioner.

“Yes.” Click.  A deep inhalation of breath and a contented sigh as more cigarette smoke joined the haze in the room.  “I believe we are.”  Snap.

The End

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