Actions have resonance. Actions are things. All things resound. They continue to resound in the place they happened.
Driving back home one night from visiting her mother in Atlanta, last Tuesday actually, Lara sung along with the stereo, the low highway rolling by with yellow ticks of paint and reflectors in the dark. The song was melancholy with a refrain to belt out legato and intense, allowing Lara to emote while belting, tears forced from her eyes. The last time she heard this song was through headphones in the much more public location of the treadmill at the gym. She couldn’t do her listen then the justice that she could now. As it ended, she stopped at one of the annoying stoplights on this highway.
She started back off from the light into the darkness, building up speed again, and she saw a flicker of light ahead on the right shoulder. She wondered what it was. It was a quick intense wonder and she released the gas gradually to look. When she saw it was a candle flickering at a flower-decked cross, she braked and pulled over.
The night was chilly, but she left the car without getting her jacket from the back seat. She hit the hazards and shut the door, scanning the night. Whoever lit the candle was gone, for how long she didn’t know, but it was still lit against the windy whizz of the cars on the highway. Lara knew what the cross meant, and she always thought the concept was strange. Why come here when the person is most likely buried somewhere else? Do the loved ones, family members, always go to both, here and the grave? She thought they probably went to the latter on the birthdays and here on the other day.
Today must be that day, she thought, and this must be the spot. Lara stood in front of the cross. Three cars passed behind her, all big sport utility vehicles, all fifteen miles per hour over the speed limit and the wind they brought cut through the knit tights she wore under her skirt. The flame flickered, flickered, flickered, cutting hard back against the wind each time in its partial glass enclosure, finally standing hard again.
This was the spot.
Lara turned around and looked at the highway. It didn’t look so violent now. There were cars with their lights far back to the left, behind the red light, and far taillights to the right horizon, but right here, right now, it was a dark peaceful place. She lowered at the knees and sat down her dark skirt into the cool damp earth.
Her ass cooled and a chill went up her back. She lay her legs out flat and slowly down her back went to the earth; just a t-shirt marring little of its chill. The flickers of the candle were just above her head. Every few flicks brought the shape of the cross or the flowers, or both, a terrifying shadow. Lara held her breath with such force she choked. She coughed and jerked against the earth, loosening it and generating more chills. It was hard to breathe, hard to catch her breath again. The white lights on the horizon to the left closed in on her. She held tight to her breath, pressed her back to the slight hill of the ground, and the candle went out as the torrent of traffic overtook where she was.
In that one moment, in that place, there was so much noise from the cars, released from the traffic light, Lara could hear nothing; from the bright of their lights she could see nothing; from the intense pain of the place she could feel nothing, and through the thudding off-time beat of death her heart could not complete. When the traffic abated and she could see again and hear again her breath released and her heartbeat resumed.
Lara knew everything and felt it all, all the pain. She rolled to her side to retch, and retching and rolling slushed in the wide puddle she had released and in which she now lay. It was awful, all awful. She stood and whipped her face with her hand and against her short sleeve. She was achy and cold, wet from the waist most of the way down. Without turning to look back at the cross, flowers, or candle—the cross made and laid by Jose’s mother Marisol, and the flowers from both his Tia Julieta and Tio Juan, and the candle placed and lit tonight by his sister Miryam—she slowly staggered down the hill to her car.
Pushing her legs through the ache she got to the car swiftly. On the hillside of the car she leaned on the back passenger for a moment to catch herself. She needed to get out of here fast. She got in the car and gunned it, just drove, off from the shoulder and out down the highway, as a panic overtook her and her nerve endings. She cried and wanted to scream and punch the wheel, but held it, she had to focus and get away. Twenty miles and fifteen minutes down the road she pulled over on the shoulder and got out to run around to the side and retched again. Ducking down into the back seat she took off her t-shirt and wiped her face with it, cleaning her mouth and dabbing at her eyes. Luckily the jacket she had with her was a raincoat-style and came down to her mid-thigh. She removed her skirt, tights, and panties all in one motion, stepping out of her boots to get it all down. With a clean corner of the t-shirt she wiped at herself where she was still wet and then balled all her clothes up into a wet gross mess and shoved it into a plastic grocery bag littering the floor of her car. Lara then stood with the jacket on and put her back to the road to button it. With a newspaper from the backseat she padded the driver’s seat so she wouldn’t get filthy again and got in to leave.
Why me, was all Lara thought the rest of the way back to Athens. It had all already happened to Jose, why did she need to feel it all too. It lingered in her memory, her whole body, her muscle memory, in a way that it couldn’t for Jose, for he was dead. She kept wanting to scream but instead just ached and drove. Other than “why me,” she did think “poor Jose,” but what he felt only lasted a moment whereas for her it continued to linger; she could even see the car that hit him, hear the crunch of plastic bumpers and metal frames, and feel again and again the metal into skin and into bone. Her seatbelt felt so tight as she drove, Lara felt the way it choked the breath out of Jose, but she was scared to take it off.
She needed to go straight to the library. Lara had been cutting close the drive all night.
She left Atlanta with just enough time. The stop at the flickering candle slowed her down and now she had no time to remedy the situation that she was naked under her coat except for a bra. She could call in, but what would she say, “I see dead people, or really just one dead guy, but mostly I just feel him, the pain of his death;” and the absurd humor in this potential interchange gave some levity to her state. But Lara still couldn’t think straight and come with any good excuse, passively with no better option to cross her mind she headed to the library for her late evening shift.
When she pulled into the parking deck a clear thought cut through the residual ache and lit upon her consciousness, Rose. Rose would be working the front desk. Rose is always either to or from the gym on one end of her shift or the other. Rose would have a change of clothes, gym clothes at least.
Lara grabbed her purse and phone and ran from the deck into the library. Rose greeted her with a smile at the front desk.
“Hey girl, why you rushing, you are just in time, and just in time to do a lot of nothing.”
“Hi Rose,” she gasped out of breath, “do you have your gym bag with you, or is it in your car? Please say you have it.”
“I have it, Jeez, I was gonna go late after work. Why?”
“Excellent,” Lara leaned on the desk and then paced in a circle catching more breath.
“Can I borrow your gym clothes right now? Maybe you will have time to go by the dorm before the gym after work for more. Please, its important.”
“You need my gym clothes? Why? What are you wearing under that coat? Girl, what have you been up to? Seriously?”
“Please, I can’t really explain. Will you just help me out?”
“Sure, relax, it’s fine, here you go,” and Rose reached down beneath the high desk and drew up a red and black gym bag. “But you owe me a story at least and an explanation of why I wasn’t invited to whatever craziness you have been up to.”
Lara took the bag and agreed, laughing off her friend. She clocked in and then changed in the bathroom glad that she and Rose were roughly the same size, except for in the chest, but luckily her bra had survived the filth and soiling. She quickly cleaned her face and crotch the best she could with hand soap and set to work. There was a full cart of books needing to be reshelved and she hoped the methodical mindless repetition of her slow uneventful job would cool and calm her down.
What was on the cart brought her first to the third floor and then up to the sixth. Up and down the stacks she breathed slowly, focusing on each breath, like she learned in yoga. She paid close attention to call numbers and her work and her mind wandered about the books, up and down each aisle, film theory, biographies of directors, then African oral literature and folk traditions. It seemed funny to her that all of this should be on the same floor, but there were only seven floors so it had to all mix together in some way. At the end of an aisle Lara noticed a wooden chair off in the corner, a chair that should be at one of the study tables in the floor’s common area near the elevators. This section of the sixth floor was the most private part of the library, and Lara knew, though not first hand, of its reputation as a popular make-out spot. Most likely explains the chair, either way, it was her job to straighten up behind the library visitors so she went to get it.
The chair faced the plain off-white corner, cold and isolated and for the second time tonight Lara felt a compulsion, she needed to sit in the chair. The second she sat down she shut her eyes and felt the tongue. She opened her eyes and there was no one around but her eyes slammed shut again and she felt the tongue again. It was right against her, it was right against her and it was right. A boy’s face flashed before her shut eyes, a boy she had never seen before, his eyes shut too, just going to town and humming and she could feel the humming burn-cooly out from the spot into her thighs; and then a different boy’s face, and then a girl’s. Lara pulled her eyes, open no one around. There was a girl’s face she didn’t know, a second ago before her shut eyes, between her legs, but they weren’t her legs, and the girl was more than just tongue, she was lips and mouth and sucking, so warm. And then Lara felt the waves, three hard-breaking waves over her, stiffening everything, boiling her blood. The first two were familiar, similar to long orgasmic waves she had felt before but the last broke shorter, cresting earlier, in three stalls and jerks and then nothing, no resolution. Her hair follicles on her head and down her arms, toes, and fingertips tingled as she drooped out of the chair and crawled into the stacks towards her cart.
All the pain from earlier was gone, and the aches had transformed; Lara was spent. Slowly she pulled herself up to sort of slump against the cart. She hadn’t bothered to borrow panties from Rose’s bag, but now the gray sweatpants she did borrow were a wet shade darker in the worst, most obvious location. Lara was done. She was done with this night. She was spent, wet, and freaked out. She was so done with other people’s feelings, other people’s experiences. She didn’t feel like herself and she didn’t feel real.
Lara rolled the cart as cover in front of her to the elevator and down to her coat for better cover. She clocked out and on her way past the front desk she told Rose to tell their supervisor she was sick, it was food poisoning, she had to go. Lara was very done with this night.
Over the next few years these moments of heightened sensitivity continued to occur, but never as bad as this first night, never two in one day. The world became a minefield for Lara, and as she slowly understood what was happening, she became increasingly careful of where she sat or lay down, where she let herself relax with her guard down. She could never really know though, hence the minefield feeling. She never told anyone about these experiences and could think of no practical use for this ability of hers. Her “sensitivity to locations” was more a curse than a power. Mostly it was just disruptive and embarrassing, but she did learn to control her reactions to some degree. Sadly, all her practice and preparation couldn’t prepare her for that one fateful night where and when she learned how her father really died and what kind of person her mother really was.
A curious amalgam of the corporeal and phantasmagoric, Jordan A. Rothacker will birth forth his fourth-birthed book in February, 2019 under the title, Gristle: weird tales (Stalking Horse Press). As every story is a ghost, “All Things Resound” will haunt that book as it does this site. Close your eyes… can you see her… what dark truth does Lara know about her family…