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Stasis

Roberto Bommarito is an Italo-Maltese author, born on the island of Malta in 1981. After spending his childhood in Italy, he went back to Malta where he currently resides. He won a number of different Italian awards, including Premio Polidori 2015, Premio Robot 2014, Short-Kipple 2012, and Minuti Contati. He's a 2015 Premio Italia award nominee. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies and magazines. He collaborates with the publishing house Kipple Officina Libraria and the artistic group Electric Sheep Comics. His first graphic novel will be published in 2015. He can be found on both LinkedIn and Facebook at facebook.com/roberto.bommarito.
When her little sister Mary died, Clarissa stopped eating up chunks of her time.
At first no one noticed. She went on pretending to be the happy-go-lucky eighteen-year-old we all used to know. She was really good at masking her grief as something else.
The day after the funeral, we went to see her. She was sitting on the edge of her bed. We formed a half-moon in front of her, like ants biting on a crumb of bread.
"I'm cool," she said.
"Like hell you are," replied Jessy, her best friend. "You loved Mary." Jessy threw a glance at Jason, Gabrielle, and me. "Let us help you."
"There's no need." Clarissa's smile was a flash of white light at the bottom of a deep dark well. It was somehow unsettling. "Everything is going to be OK," she insisted, as if we were the ones in need of some comfort.
Jessy's face hardened. When it came to hiding emotions, she couldn't match up with Clarissa. She put a hand on Clarissa's shoulder. I guess she needed to see, hear, and even touch her best friend's pain. Maybe we all needed that. Without it, we felt useless.
All this happened 3,652 dinners ago. Happy days taste like apple pie with a touch of maple syrup. Some love them, others don't. It's a matter of preferring sweet rather than salty stuff, a matter of taste. Salty days usually mean pain, and love includes that too, so they aren't that bad after all.
But Clarissa didn't care much for all that drama. She had an appetite for sweet days and that was it. She wasn't a potential candidate for Glamour's front cover, but she was nonetheless beautiful. She had no idea I was in love with her, none of them did.
And yet there I was, standing in Clarissa's room as still as a mannequin. I wished I could be alone with her, in order to tell her the truth instead of saying something stupid like: "It will pass." I mean, how can things ever be "all right" once you lose someone so close to you? To an unlicensed, stupid, drunk kid driving his father's car, no less.
They have an expression for that kind of accident: hit and run. It sounds like nothing more than a game. Hit. Run. And if no one catches you, boy, you're free.
"Please go." Her father was looking at us from across the room.
Jessy retracted her hand as if caught in the act of stealing something, and replied: "Sure." She looked at Clarissa again, opened her lips to say goodbye, but decided otherwise, smiling instead. It was more of a disappointed smile than anything else. Clarissa didn't seem to notice. Her mind was already somewhere else, paying attention to a couple of sparrows flying across the window, chasing each other.
"She's becoming so slow now, when she blinks it's like she's having a nap or something. You can't even tell the difference." I could sense Jessy being satisfied now that Clarissa was showing at last some kind of reaction to the tragedy that had hit her. "She's getting slower and slower by the day."
When you stop eating chunks of time, you lose speed. You move slower, you speak slower, you exist at a rate which is different from anyone else's simply because you can't metabolize time any more, and there's nothing much anyone can do.
"You don't look too good yourself," Jessy added. "You're having too much of those." She pointed at the bottle of beer I was holding.
"As of lately, you mean?"
"As of always."
I wasn't completely drunk and yet I felt like I was standing on a pavement made of jelly, trying hard not to lose my balance.
"I'm fine," I lied, and she replied with a skeptical look on her face.
"You should visit her," she said.
"Yeah, maybe I should." She had no idea how much my guilt was already killing me.
I took another sip, while she bit on her lips. After a moment or two she voiced her thoughts: "Why is she doing it? I can't understand, you know."
I had a theory of my own, but I preferred to keep it to myself. Anyway I knew I had to find the courage to visit her. Some days later I did.
Clarissa was lying on her bed, eyes open, staring at the ceiling. Her skin was so pale I had the impression I was looking at a porcelain doll.
Why was she doing it? Maybe she wanted to know what it feels like to be dead without being actually totally dead. Stasis does that to you.
The house was so silent I could hear her father preparing himself a drink in the other room. As for myself, this was the first day sober in quite a while.
Hit and run. It sounds like a game no one should ever win.
I took a deep breath, then I whispered in her ear the only thing I was supposed to say all along. Not the feelings I had for her; guilt managed to eclipse those too. It was a whole other kind of confession: "I'm sorry to be free."
That same day, I repeated the same thing to the bluecoats.
All this happened ten years ago and that is how long she has been in a state of stasis. Today I'll be released from prison. But guilt, and this is something you discover only later, doesn't care much for time. Unlike days, it just can't be consumed.
The End
This story was first published on Tuesday, July 7th, 2015


The thought of time being consumed in much the same way as food is, made me wonder about how difficult our relationship with both these two things can be. Whether we embrace or struggle with them, at the end of the day they both look like a metaphor for life itself.

- Roberto Bommarito

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