The door creaked slightly as Stephen entered his home. The door hinges spoke in such a shrill tone, as if screaming for freedom and wanting to break away from the rest of the house. Stephen smiled faintly at the familiar sound. It was a sound of safety for him – security. A sound of crossing the threshold between a world he could control and a world he could not. He neatly placed his hat on a hook beside the front door, softly uttering the words ‘we’re safe now’. He stood there for a minute or two imagining another figure wearing the hat and staring back at him. The figure smiled with Stephen’s mouth and blinked with Stephen’s own eyes; the figure was a construct of every part of him, but still, this figure was not Stephen. No matter how hard Stephen tried to recreate himself, this figure would always be different and better.
“Fuck you!” Stephen swiped at the phantom self and sent the hat and other items flying down the corridor. His head dropped into a mask of hands. Inhale deep and exhale fast. He muttered to himself as he dragged his hands downwards, stretching his face and momentarily showing only the white of his eyes. There he stood silent, settling, before gathering together the parts of himself he had scattered across the hallway.
“Jess, are you home?” His voice rang out into the empty air. No reply, except the faint echoed response from the walls. “Work was shit,” Stephen continued, “Just like it always is. Just like it always will be. Living to work; we are all just little tiny parts to that big fat fuck of a whole.” He walked through the corridor and arrived at the kitchen. “We keep it breathing. We keep feeding ourselves to it: the monster with a million limbs, but one brain.” Stephen’s head disappeared into a cupboard as he retrieved two tumbler glasses. The tumblers made a numb clunk as they were placed on the kitchen table. “This world is turning into a place I don’t want to have any part of, Jess.” Ice cubes responded with a sharp ‘clink-clink’ as they fell into the glasses. “I’ll just shut up; I know how much you hate seeing me all worked up and all. We’ll drink some scotch, relax and toast to being happy together – to being completely in love.” He had poured out two sizeable measures as he spoke and slid a glass to the quiet pale figure that sat across the table from him. She didn’t speak, nor did she move, she just sat there staring beyond him. Her eyes looked out forever into another existence; an existence where she could perhaps respond to his continuous ranting.
“Another?” Stephen’s glass was already bare and he had started pouring a second helping. Her glass of scotch was untouched. The ice had already begun to melt and gave the illusion of a plastic film spread across the surface tension of the single malt.
“Not thirsty? Oh, well that’s okay. I’ll drink the waste.” Stephen took the glass from her and poured it into his. Still a dead silence tore between each word he spoke. The speechlessness in the conversation had not registered with Stephen. He continued talking, filling in the answers himself.
“How could I forget? You’re a rum drinker. After all these years of being together and it seems like I’m just making it up as I go along. I’ll get the Havana bottle.” Stephen began opening cupboards and searching, his face growing more and more frustrated with each failure. “There’s no rum? Jess, you drank all the Havana and didn’t think to let me know? Christ, well I guess you’ll just have to settle with tea.”
The figure, a female shape with immaculate auburn hair, watched him turn the kettle on to boil. Jessica sat at the table poised as if she had been there for years, frozen stiff and void of any presence. She was a background prop in a scene where Stephen was the lead role. She was a mirror, a wall throwing echoes back at him during his rants. Her silence made him happy. She was the perfect companion for Stephen; it was as if she had been made solely for him. Jessica’s beauty was her silence, she was a vessel to accommodate, to invade and host. She was Stephen’s other half. Stephen loved Jessica for providing him with the space to project his self. He had suffered for too long as a solitary figure. His inner thoughts had become too much for one body to contain; his self had to be broken down, flat-packed and shipped off to other parts of his kingdom. This house was his world and he breathed life into everything in it. He controlled all.
Stephen returned to Jessica with a cup of tea, placed it in front of her and gently touched her hand. Her skin was still fresh and had the youthful elasticity of rubber.
“Smooth, well-crafted and almost warm” Stephen looked up into the empty space above him, “Someone did a real good job with you, Jess.”
Stephen returned to look at Jessica’s face. He was met with a flawless smile, something only an artist could capture. He smiled until the void of speech became too loud for him to bear and he continued to fill the silence.
“Mike at work was going off on one today, worse than the usual ranting. Christ, that guy likes to talk. I can’t get a single word in with him. I’m always hanging onto the edge of each word he says in hope that it’s the last, but it never is.” Stephen sat down opposite his other half and continued: “He was talking about love and narcissism or some bollocks. Apparently, he thinks that loving someone else is primarily a narcissistic act of self-love. I know, right?” Silence met Stephen. “I knew you’d laugh. Anyway, he thinks that we are attracted to others not because of what they are, but for what they provide for us. Mike says that love is mostly about establishing your own self through the recognition of others. He went on about other stuff too, like love making us ‘whole’ and some shit about a ‘mirror-stage’, but I gave up listening.” Stephen sipped his scotch and laughed through his nose. “That Mike, eh? He needs to put down those philosophy books.”
Stephen picked up Jessica’s hand. He wrapped her fingers around his. He helped her move. She would not do anything if he did not make her. Without Stephen, Jessica would simply sit still for days, mute and cold. He was the ruler in this relationship and the driving force which kept their lives from fading into nothing. Jessica only seemed to exist at times when Stephen was present.
“I’m going to have a shower and get changed.” Stephen rose and leaned in close to Jessica’s face. His lips touched her lips. He deflated into calmness during the burning cold contact between them. He kissed her as if he was breathing his soul into her. Each time their faces touched he loved her with the same intensity he felt the first time they met. He kissed her how he imagined he would like to be kissed and, after all these years, he was yet to have a complaint from her.
Stephen turned away from his love and headed towards the stairs. Life buzzed within a small radius around him. He spurred life into the floorboards and they began to scream under his feet. He entered the bathroom, turned on the shower and began to whistle a simple tune. The shower sprayed and hissed in a fury of unbreakable sound and movement. Stephen submerged himself into the roar of water. The roaring grew until the silence that haunted him could no longer be heard. A smile split open his face and his eyes stared out forever into another existence. He stood there inanimate like a doll before reaching out towards the bathroom door and slamming it shut. The threshold between two worlds had been closed and, after the echoes of the walls and the creaks of the floorboards had died, silence swept through the house once again and a lifeless shape of a woman retreated back to the shadows.