Editor’s Note: Today we are honored to have our first guest post on thekyotokibbitzer. “Her Arm Ached” is an exciting entry from a young writer who has chosen to go by “Mrs. T.” No relation, I assure you. The piece is a close reading of the push and pull that takes place in any intimate relationship, and it is honest, dead honest. I like it, and wouldn’t publish it otherwise.
Her arm ached. She tried to switch positions but couldn’t find comfort. Then it occurred to her why. She opened her eyes. The windows were fogged over, hazy white light shown on the synthetic red sleeping bag surface, red snow, red clouds. It looked so comfortable on the surface. Alex wasn’t awake yet but she felt Gorgias shift. He lifted his chin and nodded at her.
Beyond his head, his eyes now closed, chin resting on his paws, she saw the sparkle of the lake’s surface. The sun made a glittered effect on the rippled edges. The windshield was clear, though the side windows stayed hemmed in. Trying not to disturb too much, she moved her arm under her head to prop herself up and blinked in the light. Beauty could be such a simple thing.
The rhythm of life breathing in and out of the two boys in the car was the only sound. The water looked so active, the water and the sun rays, and yet she couldn’t hear their movement. Her mouth was dry. Her tongue felt wanting, and the inside of her lips were rough against her teeth. What was the beauty for? She understood the breath inside the truck, but what of the beauty that filled her sight?
It had been dark last night when they stopped. The road had been bumpy and her tired body in its limp state felt each bump rather than absorbing them. Had Alex known how close they were to driving into the lake? What trickery had the cloudy night sky played on the view? It was foggy, she remembered that, and dark. The headlights had only illuminated the clouds in front of them. No street lights, no moon, no other cars. Rather than face the uncertainty as she would have in the past, she relaxed against it. He would have control. Her fear would have only been a hindrance.
The lake filled the entire lower edge of the windshield. About halfway up, the other shore swiped across like a fat paintbrush stroke, a dark dull contrast to the glimmering water. Above, along the top of the window, light blue, no evidence of fog, waited. The sky seemed to her utterly distant, further than usual, and though the entire picture was beautiful, she wondered at the sheer difference of the nature in front of her. The water was active, irregular and begging for attention. The shore was stagnant, uninteresting, but in charge.
She relaxed back down into the pillow, closed her eyes. The question ran through her head again, incessant questions.
Would she rather do something bad or suffer the consequences of it? It was so strange. She had only ever viewed her choices in light of avoiding suffering by choosing right. Why would someone have to suffer if they had not chosen wrong? Or was it that you suffered because you chose to do what is right? If so, it was awfully pessimistic and suggested that what we have decided is “right” is not what is right for the individual, only what is right for the group. No, not right. There must be two “rights.” What is right for the individual and what is right for the group. These needed their own terms or there would be no making sense of it. So what could she call right for herself? Desire? And what then would be right for the group? Justice? If so, then there are four readings of the question.
i) Would she rather do something she doesn’t desire or suffer the consequences of not following her desire?
ii) Would she rather do something she doesn’t desire or suffer the consequences of injustice?
iii) Would she rather do something unjust or suffer the consequences of the injustice?
iv) Would she do something unjust or suffer the consequences of not following her desire?
The above assumes that the individual and the group cannot want the same thing. Since the group is simply a lot of individuals, then the more important question, surely, is at what number of individuals does the idea of “right” change? And why? It seems that, at least temporarily, her idea of “right” could match his. And does she need his similarity to justify her idea of “right”? Could he believe that his individual desires are weakened if she shares them? She may corrupt the authenticity of his unique “right”—if she agrees with him, then it is not his individual belief system, unique and correct for the fact that no one but he decides it.
As he lays there, awake now, she believes for the inhale and exhale are not as pronounced, she desires his concurrence. His body beside her is evidence of their shared purpose. But he chooses to preserve the solitude not yet broken by acknowledging her existence. He chooses to exist for a few more moments alone. He will perpetually try to convey the beauty of independence while she will repeatedly try to persuade him of the necessity of shared experiences, even if they are not always sharing a life. She will try to persuade him of the beauty of love, he will point out how love imposes unnecessary boundaries on his personal potential and hers. She will be the land and he will be the sky, and Gorgias, now scooching up towards Alex’s face, also knowing that he is awake, will be the lake moving easily between them, needing them, and leaving them.