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The We Part

by Francine Witte

 

At first, we didn’t know it was a gunshot.

We, being me, as Nathan was actually asleep. Which actually is most of the time.

The street below our apartment is filled with people, even at 2 a.m. Nathan said we shouldn’t move in above a bar. I think he also meant we shouldn’t move in, but the me part of we won out saying it was a good commute to work. Somehow, I thought that might help things.

It didn’t.

I don’t think we’ve had one good night together since we lived here. And the me part of we hasn’t slept for ten whole minutes in a row. The Nathan part of we comes home and doses himself with a melatonin/cough syrup combo. Insists it’s to block out the noise from the bar.

Another bang or boom or whatever. Most nights, the me part of we tries to not hear the breaking glass, the fuck-you, man’s, the throat clear of the constant Harley’s. Most nights I sit up watching Nathan. He is REM-sleeping, his eyelids all jumpy, maybe the only part of him that moves anymore when I’m around. Don’t you hear all that noise, Nathan? The me part of we is asking. I pretend he is stroking my hair, “shhh, I love you,” he is saying.

The me part of we wonders what to do about the noise outside. What’s the best thing to do with a gunshot? Do you run towards it or away? The me part of we wonders the same thing about love.

Nathan is lying there, snoring up the night like a chainsaw, like a motorcycle, like a man who is ignoring me. All of those things more danger than a gun.

I look out the window to the street below. Light swirl of cop cars and a shot man on the ground. Woman in handcuffs, “I love you, I love you,” she says as they lead her away. Love kills again. I look back at Nathan. Drifting and distant and not any part of we anymore.

Quiet now. Quiet enough to close my eyes. The only sound is Nathan snoring, the buzz of it cutting a hole just big enough for me to crawl out of.

 

Francine Witte’s flash fiction has appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. She has stories upcoming in Best Small Fictions 2021, and Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton.) Her recent books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (ELJ Editions,). Her latest book is Just Outside the Tunnel of Love (Blue Light Press.) She is flash fiction editor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.

 

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What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “The We Part”?

I wrote this story in a workshop led by Tommy Dean. The workshop was based on the short stories of Raymond Carver. We read “I Could See the Smallest Things,” and the prompt has us really examining the small things we could put in a story. A noise, a shift in the air, etc. It was the idea that the tiny moments are what can build a story. I started my draft of “The We Part” by thinking of the things in this couple’s life. They live above a noisy bar, the snoring, the husband sleeping himself out of the marriage. All of these small things adding up to one turning moment. Then I started writing, and the phrase “the we part” came up. I thought how “we” is always made up of at least two people and even though there seems to be a solidarity in the word, there often isn’t any at all.

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