"Well, he's terrified of rungs."
"That's not an allergy," said Marissa.
"No, but I thought I should mention it."
Marissa wrote down 'rungs'. "So... no ladders?"
"No, no. Ladders are fine. It's just the rungs. No rungs."
"But all of our ladders have rungs."
"Oh. Then, no ladders, I guess."
"All ladders have rungs. What's a ladder without rungs? Just two long bits of metal. Or wood."
"I suppose you're right."
Marissa crossed out the word 'rungs' on her notepad and wrote 'ladders' instead.
"I think that's it."
"So... gluten's fine? Nuts?"
"Yeah, he's fine with nuts. He likes nuts."
Marissa wrote down 'nuts'.
What kind of woman is Marissa?
The answer won't come from a brief description. She is not defined by her appearance, nor a brief biography. Her age will tell us nothing. Her occupation will offer no clues. Her clothes are a red herring. Her accent is simply colour.
Who is she? How can we know?
Can we know?
Perhaps we can't. Perhaps there's nothing to grasp. Perhaps distance is a boon. If we were to touch the stars, our hands would burn and we would be blinded.
Marissa is beyond our comprehension.
But she does own a notepad.
That's something to hold on to.
My name is Paul, and today I will be taking you on a journey.
It's not the kind of journey you can make by barge, bike, balloon or batmobile. It's a journey of the imagination. I'm here to guide you through the wonderful world of my own writing.
At times, you may feel disorientated. That's fine. That's normal. It happens to everyone at first.
But remember that I'll always be here to hold your hand and shunt you in the right direction.
'Shunt' sounds unpleasant. But it doesn't have to be. You can shunt with love.
We began with a very short story. Remember? Then we moved on to a discussion of one of the story's characters. Then I introduced myself.
Do you remember? If you'd like a quick re-read, be my guest.
All of a sudden, we were at three hundred and fifty-seven words.
The blog post was well under way.
I don't know, man. The days just keep coming, don't they?
It's difficult to maintain a sense of rhythm when we're all just bobbing about on a sea of time. I wish we had the occasional break from time, just to contextualise things. Just a couple of buoys of no-time, to help mark out the horizon.
Let's lighten the mood. We can put a halogen lamp in each of the 'o's, and a reflective strip on the stalk of the 'd'.
I think I should actively try to map my daily emotional journey. If I can find a pattern, I might be able to judge when to soften the highs and harden the lows. I could do it in my Outlook calendar. I could crunch the numbers and do a line chart.
The happy/sad spectrum is like the tides: mappable, dependent on the moon, irrelevant to the landlocked.
This blog post has been going downhill ever since Marissa.
It's not her fault. She couldn't have known.
I should have shown more faith in her, that's all. Why did I think I would be more interesting than her? Is it because I have male genitals and she - for all I know - doesn't?
Am I sexist or solipsistic (and selfish)?
She stepped over a bucket and around several crates full of empty glasses.
Against the wall stood two six-foot long pieces of wood. They were thin, cylindrical, and each one had a series of notches in its side.
Marissa approached the pieces of wood and looked at them carefully. She ran her fingers down the smooth sides of the sanded beech. She felt the inside of one of the notches with her index finger.
"Something should be here," she thought.
"Marissa!" Robert shouted from upstairs.
"Can you come and give me a hand? This bloke needs me to sign something, and I'm not sure what it means."
"Yeah, just a minute," she said. She turned away from the wood and didn't look back.
Four miles away, at the bottom of the river, a dozen smooth beech rungs lay half-hidden in the mud. Even the fish kept their distance.
One day, everything broken will be whole again.
One day, we will all be afraid.