“The Symmetric Property of Congruence” by Robert Edward Sullivan

Ignore the patches on her frayed jacket. Ignore the bands that you, her, and maybe about a hundred other people have ever heard of. Ignore that top-ten smile. Ignore the sparkling brown eyes—brown does not sparkle. Ignore her playing with her hair, twirling it, biting her lip, in rhythm with her tapping foot, to what must be a steady beat in her head. Ignore when you Facebook stalked her a little, and all those photos of her eating ridiculous food with equal amounts of ridiculous abandonment—the gigantic leg of turkey, the massive spoon poised over a mound of mac and cheese, thumb held high. Ignore the night she came up to you and introduced herself, thankfully mentioning that you both knew Ted and Sally. Ignore the kiss on your neck. Ignore Christmas at her parents, and her mother’s words, “you can sleep in the same bed when you’re married,” and the giggle it produced from who you had been calling “your girl” for about six months by then. Ignore the perfect clap of the high five, the sound waves wrapping around you in an instant, when she told you she successfully defended her thesis and the grad school chapter was almost over. Ignore the properties of sound, the waves and receiver, the infinite question of trees falling, and if one needs the other to exist. Ignore how she glowed in that red dress, in Spain, and all the red wine, you stumbling through the Proposal, her tears, her “Yes, Thomas, yes, always yes.” Ignore her belly, your child together. Ignore the next two children, more of her than you in each one. Ignore the year she took off work and her silence, her distance. Ignore when she kicked a hole in the wall at your infidelity. Ignore the counselor using the word “investment.” Ignore the following year of conflicting schedules, new career paths, backyard barbeques, new routines. Ignore one child declaring she’s a lesbian. Ignore the other one becoming an architect, the third, a drinker turned social worker. Ignore how they are no longer children and all of them frown at the music of your youth. Ignore working on the garden together, that one Sunday, when your wife brushed the hair out of her face, took her gloves off, and asked, “am I still your girl?” Ignore how fucking shitty, god awful terrible, you felt knowing you had ever hurt her. Ignore the passion, the heavy breathing, the headboard smacking against the wall later that night, after the garden, after you cried,  after you babbled, “Yes, Holly, yes, always yes.”

Ignore how the future is already here. Ignore the angles of time, and space, and where they intersect. Ignore when she slips her wrinkled hand into yours, right at the moment you look up at a blue-pink sky and see a diamond up there, wondering if it’s the 8:30 flight from MSP, or if it’s a star, or if it’s a quasar—a star in disguise—a galaxy of galaxies at the edge of the universe, at the edge of time, its entire past ahead of it, behind it. Ignore the light taking all of time to reach you. Ignore the properties of light, how it can be both a particle and a wave, can be either, or both, depending on the situation, the circumstances, the observation, the observers. Ignore all that distance, all that space, all that time, between you and that spot of light in the sky. Ignore everything, even the idea of nothing, and when she squeezes your hand, just squeeze back.

More fiction at Used Furniture.


  1. This piece is absolutely beautiful. At some points the punctuation propels me forward like I cannot breathe… if that wasn’t the plan, kudos to you, because it is hard to make that kind of movement within a piece. It’s all so quick, which is a good reflection of the content, too. I am smitten. Thank you for sharing and keep it up!

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