Give a Little A Collection by Annabel Banks
Give a Little
Spontaneity is attractive. Will you try? For me? She said yes, although sure she wouldn’t like their sea smell and slipperiness, like drowning in genitals, but doesn’t want to be that girl, the one who says no. Spontaneity is attractive. Took the shell for the hell, tipped it back, smiled and swallowed. Disgusting, she laughed. But at least can say I have done it now. New experiences are all part of this contract, aren’t they? There are things she wants him to try as well: recycling, self-care. Show willingness to be plastic. That’s the problem right there. Would you? Maybe. Will you try? If it hurts too much, she said, I want you to stop. I don’t think I’ll like it. I sort of tried it once already and it made my belly sore. There’s a question of size, how much can be accommodated. If you can’t talk about it you’re not allowed to do it, she thought, but that doesn’t mean I want to rake over the rake marks. Spontaneity is attractive. I want to be able to do what I want, but what do I want? That’s the problem right there. How will he know when it gets too much? How will she signal this? Will you just try it, to see if it fits? He touched his finger to his lips. No, I don’t think it’s any smaller. Perhaps you have put on a bit of weight? She flinched. Perhaps. I’ve missed Zumba every week since we met, because we can only meet on a Wednesday night. That’s the problem right there. That’s ok. Just try your best. She pulls herself in as much as possible, elbow snagging on the rough edge. This is definitely a different box from the one yesterday though, isn’t it? No. Duck your head. Yes, good. See you very soon. So glad you’re here. And now here is the box for today. Is he apologetic? She is not sure. Maybe he is just amused, as he holds up the shape. Will you try for me? Will you try? Spontaneity is attractive. Spontaneity is attractive. That’s the problem right there.
We need to locate the point of contact. Are you watching? The wind sock flutters—chukkkerchukkker— then drops. This could mean the airfield’s signal is lost. A dog chases its tail outside of the bank. The thin woman with seabeads around her neck, wound so tight she looks as though she is wearing a collar, seems afraid of the animal. She lifts her hands, waist high, to skitter past. This one who has had fingers nipped, we think, and if we zoom in we might see an uneven stubbing where younger flesh was clipped. Or maybe she was lucky, and just lost a nail. Of course, we can always go the other way, and suggest the beadcollar does more than decorate a (bittenuglyscarred) throat.
We can find places to land if we look carefully. There is always another way in, remember that. Find a line to follow, like here, where the shadows are thick and inviting. The concrete sends up its shimmer under the blaze of unexpected heat, and we can make out the man, sitting in his car, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette. We can hear the air conditioning—hmmmmmmm— but he also has the window open. This may be to let out the smoke. Or it may be because he doesn’t understand systems, the transparency of glass. Let’s get in further. He has a child’s toy stuck to the dashboard, a plastic mouse in a pair of red trousers, some cheaply-made silly free in a cereal box or with a fast-food chain’s meal. We suggest he doesn’t see it any more, for the mouse has tipped to one side, to view the world from an unlikely angle. Perhaps it was a favourite of his son, who he is not allowed to spend any time with because of his girlfriend’s dissatisfaction with his drinking. Perhaps the child died. A misstep at a roadside. A hole in the heart, unknowingly finite beating. (Runtome!faster!goodboy!) We can get closer if we want. We could smell his resignation.
We can also pull back. This is not as intricate as links but can be useful, can sometimes give a rounded perspective. Just don’t forget to get back tight—mistakes are made when you extrapolate from the general condition. We can see the circling traffic and the externals of fields and hedgerows, uncounted pressures. The air-swiping of the turbine blade. The exclusion zone around these three buildings—see that? A clear pattern of security. Those empty sentinel spots are manned. Do you want to go in deeper? Thought you would. We can find a point of contact if we get down into the earth. The corridors are cool. Try this way. Yes. Here is a man, alone in a quiet room. No distractions. The terminal in front of him is a glass box of colours and perpendicular truth. Let’s move into his ear. See that scar? Perhaps he had surgery when he was young to remove a poisoned bone. Perhaps he doesn’t hear as well as he used to, but hears well enough for the job at hand. (amreadynowyesyes) He flies without moving. Do it now.
Of course, we all knew what was going to happen, you know? It was absolutely on the cards. Would have put good money. Saw it coming. Totally knew. After all, how ridiculous was the idea to start with? Even professionals wear safety equipment, have nets and harnesses keeping them from the smash-and-spill that—considering his age, the dodgy wire, the fact that he’d said this was an unapproved, one-time-only attempt—inevitable. No one said anything though. Or perhaps they did, but we can’t recall who it was or what was said, but there was definitely a feeling that someone should step in, step up, speak out. Call the security guard up to the roof. Call the police, if necessary. We had our phones out to take pictures. Perhaps we were out of signal, or all the ducting and aerials up there affected the connection. Anyway, we know that there was a move towards someone asking, or telling him, to stop. Perhaps. We think. When he fell we could barely watch. Someone said that someone should have stopped him. And someone should have. Our hands could have reached out and held him down, held him in place until agreement had been reached about what to do, who to call, and who should speak. Then he fell. Pity us, for we have seen a terrible thing. We are scarred by it not physically, but mentally, you know? We are afraid of talking about this too much, and gather in corners to whisper, intimate, raise eyebrows when we have to use words like height, fall, spill, in our everyday interactions. And his mother told us we weren’t allowed to go to his funeral, so we held our own ceremony. Took a picture from Facebook, one of him spinning the flame poi, to framed with flowers. We did a brilliant job. We took turns to speak, each of us recounting a particular memory, some outlandish dare that had gone well, followed by some soft private moment of when we had absolutely connected, when we had touched. We really made the most of it. We cried and held hands. It was awesome.
Annabel Banks is an English writer of poetry and prose. Recent work can be found in 3:AM, International Times, Dirty Chai, The Manchester Review, and other journals and magazines. In 2015 Annabel was nominated for the Pushcart Prize twice (poetry and prose) and for Blazevox’s Bettering American Poetry. See annabelbanks.com or Tweet @annabelwrites. She would love to hear from you.