Elizabeth is stretched out on a zebra crossing, deaf to the orchestra of honks.
If Helmut could see her now, would he be worried?
First time Elizabeth’s knees buckled she was aged 12 in Cuverville when a French-exchange student, Yannick, rummaged under her Bon Jovi t-shirt and down she crashed onto his mother’s rug. She was asleep for twenty minutes before waking up to see his ego in shreds.
At 16 she came second in the 50m backstroke and nosedived on the podium when the claps came. Had it not been for Tina, the bronze medallist who caught her, the swordfish trophy might have pierced through her temple.
In her twenties she learned about nipping emotions in the bud.
Too happy, she’d think of abattoirs. Too sad, she’d oink. Too scared, she’d gnash teeth at her own reflection.
She found a routine job and a routine boyfriend from the same routine job, acquaintances who partook in routine conversations. She went for crumpets with her family, didn’t travel far, didn’t drive. She slept with her arms wrapped round a pillow that remembered the contours of her head.
When she met Helmut though, she let the odd emotion run riot, even burst. Helmut thought it was cool. He told her he liked people with quirks, and narcolepsy was far out.
Her quirk worked in his favour sometimes. If she fell asleep during arguments, he’d classify it as a personal victory. He kept a secret log of her episodes and knew the techniques to get her riled just before Top Gear.
Sometimes she felt what it was like to have the upper hand. When Helmut was on top of her, controlling the rhythm and depth of his pelvic thrust, she deliberately fell asleep. He whispered mad cow (just after the disease!), thinking she couldn’t hear.
She felt like Tupperware with a snap close lid.
Soon after, Helmut started wooing Janine from Accounts who had a fear of small particles. Elizabeth noticed how clean Helmut had become and she surprised herself by writing him a note saying, “take your belongings and leave, please”.
Elizabeth returned to a bare flat. For each item he’d left a receipt as proof he’d bought it, duct-taped to her grandmother’s side-table.
Elizabeth was on her way to Helmut’s office to ask him to return her pillow when a man bumped into her on a zebra crossing.
Sorry, he said, placing his palm on her lower back.
Elizabeth’s heart detonated inside her ribcage, her knees gave way. The man and passing pedestrians bunched together to cushion her fall.
Elizabeth is sleeping, but when she wakes in the local hospital she will send an envelope of fluff to Helmut’s office, she will pour herself into sonnets and entitle them Man on Zebra Crossing and Ode to Stripes and, pillow or no pillow, she will own any fall that ensues.
Kik Lodge is a teacher/translator based in Lyon, France. Her flash has featured in Litro, The Moth, Tiny Molecules, The Common Breath, The Cabinet of Heed, Reflex Fiction, Slegehammer Lit and Ellipsis Zine.