Two days later, Shattered sat at Dora’s dining room table. Before him, a plate of olives, some feta cheese, several slices of apple. As he placed an apple slice into his mouth, he realized where he was; time had passed for Shattered in a queer ways. When he arrived, seeing Dora, time seemed near a complete halt. Now the sun would fall and arise in what seemed like a mere moment. His conscious mind could not keep up with the present; only in reflection did he know what had happened, what he had done; yet, this moment seemed to coalesce into a thickness that allowed his dendrites, synapses and – All those things William loves talking about! – to fire, pump and communicate in time with time.
“You need a shower… Today we have water. Fresh…” Dora looked down at Shattered. She stood over him with a white linen mask.
“Capi di abbigliamento?” Shattered responded. Dora laughed. Shattered, to his surprise, had unintentionally picked up some Italian while communicating with Dora over the past several days. She showed him to the shower on the third floor. He remembered his room was on the second floor, just below the bathing room. OK, so I am able to focus on what I am doing. Apparently, whatever happened, whatever I did… I did… Or didn’t do, who am I talking about? I, myself, yes, so whatever I did worked out OK with Dora. And I know her name somehow. And I am alright and I need a shower. He armpits, which he smelt, gave off a thick, pungent musty odor. He looked in the mirror. His face was very pale. His fingers traced the lines on the sides of his eyes; the heavy darkness underneath, the dry lips. Thirsty. Today we have water? Have we not had water? How long has it been since I had water? A pain in his side. Kidney pain. He turned on the shower. Cool water. Not too cold. He had taken many cold showers in Park. Before he soaped up, he drank in mouthfuls of water; he felt as a fish; breathing in the water, as they do, under the liquid-gas barrier that separates their lives from ours. Liquid and gas. He thought of the space called the surface of the sea, river or lake. But for our fish friends, is it called the ceiling? He laughed. He scrubbed his entire body with the bar of soap. Shampoo, and this is… conditioner… OK, I think the shampoo goes first. Yes. In Park, due to it being a largely resource-based economy, the use of soap was sufficient, with a bit of softener or cream added. Shattered read the bottle; on it was written, from top to bottom, Balsamo, Conditioner, L’ après-shampooing, and at the very bottom: FORTIFYING. They sure put a lot into labels back then. Or now. And then it was a week later.
Shattered had again been eating at Dora’s table. She sat across from him, sipping coffee. “Un’altra tazza?”
“Yes, sure, thanks.” Shattered noticed her dark hair; it reminded him of something. It had bits of grey, very few but enough to give Dora a sense of having lived a long life. Her skin was more colorful, less pallid than when they first met. He began remembering the last week. The Internet had been restored. They learnt the explosion had been from the port. What caused it? What caused it? Yes… A group of neofascist Italians had managed to set off a bomb on a migrant rescue ship. These times. But then, we have Central Valley, so 2063 is no model either. What is a good social model? Marin? I don’t know. I miss William. And three months passed.
He realized neither of them had left the house. Once a week a large man, a very rotund and loud Italian, would come on a motorbike and deliver groceries. Dora would open the garage door about half a meter. The man would slide the items underneath. Then she would take gloves, a mask, a face shield and spray items with something that smelt awful. Shattered had watched her do this many times. She wanted him to learn. They had become friends. He was unable to learn; he couldn’t remember. She thought he might have post-traumatic stress disorder. He had spoken of a place, a regional government, called Park, and she couldn’t find a such a place on the Internet. She assumed he made it up as a coping strategy to deal with some significant trauma. Before the latest pandemic, Dora had worked as a psychiatrist. She retired, luckily or unluckily, just a week before the outbreak reached Italy. And two months before her husband became ill. That was March.
“What’s the date?” Shattered asked Dora. He had asked her this many times. She knew how to answer.
“August twenty-one, twenty-twenty-eight.”
“OK.” Shattered put his hands in his pockets. They weren’t his pockets though. He was wearing some sort of soft fabric trousers. Dark blue with small white strips. His shoes were blue too. His shirt had many buttons up the center. White. A strange bit of fabric around the collar. A strange sensation came over Shattered. Is this my life? The thought was bodily. It ached, it excited, it made his palms sweaty. Dora asked for help carrying the newly disinfected items up to her main apartment. Shattered consented, feeling all the more moored here, lost to time unraveling, to a time before he was born, yet freed from time, his time, too. Ambiguous, he carried the box of oranges up the stairs; Dora opened the door to the main apartment. Inside the air was cool and fresh.
*featured image: Dora’s House, by author.