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All Jen said was that we found it really difficult getting out of bed when we were on holiday, we were so exhausted, and it was true too, we were like teenagers again, lying in till midday. But the moment she said it I saw the look on Gareth’s face, and he might as well have raised an eyebrow, smirked and put finger quotes around difficult: you were in bed, right, sleeping, finding it ‘difficult’ to get out. Sure, Jen could’ve worded it differently – we slept a lot on holiday – but her words were innocent enough, so I made a mental note – Gareth’s still a dick – and ignored him. I wasn’t going to let him frustrate me anymore.

But the next time I saw him, at a barbecue at Rachel and Kevin’s, the first thing he said after saying hello was, sleep well last night?

I said, what do you mean? I saw raised eyebrows, smirks, finger quotes, but he just said, what do you mean, what do you mean? I said, come on. Why are you asking how I slept? He said, just making conversation. I said, and that’s your opening gambit? Sleep well last night? Not what’ve you been up to? Not how’s Jen? He said, all right, calm down. I was only asking.

Only asking? I said. Why? Is my sleep important to you?

No, he said. I felt like asking, you know. You said you’d been sleeping a lot, didn’t you, last time I saw you.

I saw the smirk again, the eyebrow, the finger quotes.

Fuck off, Gareth. Sometimes sleeping is just that – sleeping.

He said, I know, what’s up with you, and raised his hands like he was the innocent one, but all I saw were finger quotes.

I punched him and left.

On the way home Jen asked why I’d done it, so I told her about his innuendo, his eyebrows and smirks and finger quotes. She said, but that’s exactly what we were doing. I know, I said, but I didn’t want him to know, did I?

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5 thoughts on “Finger Quotes

  1. Hi,
    I think the character Jen would know why her spouse punched him. So maybe her question is rhetorical? Would she fish her husband for some reason?

    It’s an odd effect the whole story is about “mums the word” out of respect for the privacy of lovers I guess, but really the punch line just wants to spill the beans… and so the Jen character ends up being the instigator of that reveal rather than the man…

    hmmm…. believable? Maybe. But I’d leave your last line at: I punched him… and end the story there to make it stronger…

    But if you like the effect of the ending sorta causing the vicarious bragging that he attempted to avoid as his “unclassy” pal pried… okay… it is kinda interesting entirely flipping it on its head with the “I didn’t want him to know…… did I?”

    Because he did. He wants everyone to know. Very much.

    On that note, un-solicted “advice” or “critiques” probably always suck so you can tell me to rightly piss off.

    Your work usually freaks me out, but it’s interesting at times, which is all one can ask from a good writer.

      • Hi. Yeah, for my part as a reader accepting and preferring ambiguity in general so that I can call the story intention, I will say he did I think, because of the way it ended it in his questioning way. The “Did I?” is part of it, but also the awareness as reader-voyeur being let in on this privacy makes if feel like he does…and Jen is being used as the device to reveal it without being “obviously” bragging about what seems like a special time between two people.

        Please don’t feel insulted by my being freaked out. From your other readers comments it sounds like you have a good fan base, anyhow. I’m hyper sensitive to subjects when it comes to online writing in small pieces… and I freak myself out by reading. I wasn’t always like this for me… but I grew a thinner skin after a time… That’s not your fault or problem. I don’t believe in censorship. I wouldn’t get rid of Kafka, Poe, D.F. Wallace, or any number of “freaky” writers and I am actually a freaky writer, and artist at times…it’s just I know what I’m doing with it so I tend not to freak myself out.

        I like your candor ultimately. It’s just a lot of harsh lonely stuff. But I’m not criticizing you or the work really… sometimes I have to take a step back, and a long time ago you liked a couple of my posts before I removed them… which I tend to do a lot… so I wondered what it was we had in common. Probably some basic estrangement stuff… stuff about drinking… and then Japanese girls or Chinese girls maybe caught your eye as I spent time in Japan and I studied Chinese stuff…and that kind of thing maybe… is why.

        Anyhow… I don’t wanna point out particular stories as if I’m suggesting they are wrong. I think you should keep writing all the voices that emerge.

        That’s what I do.

      • I’m not insulted. If some of my stories freak you out, that’s good. Sometimes that’s my express intention, but as long as they don’t only do that. Candour is important but only if it isn’t just candour.

        I’m sorry to hear you have developed a thinner skin. If anything mine is getting thicker and in general once the story is online I almost feel like it’s left me. It’s not mine anymore and people can do what they will with it.

      • I suppose I won’t wonder why that’s your express intention. Somehow knowing that, makes you less freaky. Which maybe makes me all the more odd…

        Anyhow, I think because I use my real name and don’t have a pen name persona that the work doesn’t simply release from me as easily and as I wasn’t just posting fiction but also some “activism” or opinion type essays or whatever my artistic intentions got blurred. Plus I got bunches of guy writers that focus on “smut” or unhappiness with spouses and or empty relationships or brutal sex and I kinda wondered why that was my draw if I wasn’t being bombarded by religious follows who think that I’m a sinner who needs to be saved. I don’t really care what people think of me, as that can’t honestly be controlled and no one ever gets it “right” anyway, but I have found myself going up against sexual harassment, homophobia, racists, etc. quite regularly in my blog exchanges out and about… so the thin skin I developed about posting my writing online stems from a feeling of actually wasting my time on people who just aren’t serious writers and or readers as I swim among haters. And I’m too hardcore to fit into the straight laced “support groups” or “writer groups” who use the social graces and etiquette at all times in order to network… I mean I was conditioned just long enough in all of that to wanna buck the system(s) and I’m tired of “grace”. So I guess I’m neglecting my good “business” sense…

        I apologize that this is all long winded and not really necessary for you to know… but thanks for the dialogue so I can sorta perceive myself better.

        I failed to mention that in particular I liked your story about the Jacket, which was the first piece I read of yours. The other one I’m forgetting your title, but it was about the man knocking on the door like he had an appointment but you wouldn’t let him in…

        You are one of the only writers I check back on to read, even if sometimes the work makes me feel hurt in some way… (visceral responses) and so I think that makes you a good writer. That sounds like a backhanded compliment, but really I’m admiring your honest expressions while some of the topics are my “problem”.

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