The Commitment

by janeeatonhamilton

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photograph: Jane Eaton Hamilton, clematis, 2015

The following flash fiction was published in Ocho, and nominated for a Pushcart:

It is lightly spitting. Lisa says she is unreliable, and that she sleeps with her exes whenever they contact her, both women, her favourites, and men, even though she is scarcely interested in them, even when she doesn’t particularly want to, and that in her professional life and in her friendships she is extremely reliable, and that she depends on her own reliability in these areas to bring her satisfaction and pleasure and self-esteem, and that her unreliability in love affairs causes her to be ashamed of herself, but she laughs as she says this, as if underneath her shame she is proud, proud to be ashamed, but then she sobers, ashamed to be proud, and Karen says that if this bothers her, she must change, the way that if smoking bothers her, she must quit, or at least understand that not quitting means increasing symptoms of COPD when already she is coughing badly. Karen understands that she is not impartial; she has a stake in this; she cannot stand the smoke, and she has wondered if it would be possible or advisable to love Lisa. Lisa wishes she already were those things, a non-smoker and a reliable lover, but she does not want to go through the process of becoming them. She would feel trapped if she were reliable, she says; she would take no risks at all and her life would shrivel like a man’s testicles. After all, she does tell her lovers that she is unreliable, and this single fact should get her off the hook, she thinks. Perhaps, however, she does not mention this soon enough, or in the right manner, because her lovers become hurt, and then refuse to see her at all. And she does not want to quit smoking at all—she has tried and it is not within the realm of the possible. Lisa and Karen are lovers; they have had sex once, and so Karen thinks Lisa is giving her a warning. She is not certain why she slept with Lisa, other than that she was there, and asked, and it had been a while. During the sex, she kept stopping them, saying, I would have liked to have considered this before I did it. I would like to know whether I want to be here, or I am just here by default, the trains stopped running, you needed to stay over. We should stop, go to sleep. But then they wouldn’t stop, they would start again, and so on throughout the night which was not mitigated by alcohol or drugs. She thinks she slept with Lisa in the way that Lisa sleeps with her ex-male lovers. Here is a chocolate. Eat the chocolate. Here is a woman. During this description of Lisa’s love life, which is now in some sense also Karen’s love life, it continues to rain. After Lisa has finished talking, and fallen silent, it is still raining, but a little harder, and they hurry towards cover.