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“The error caught us around the corner from the last pub that spat us out. The story he was telling about his father’s racing greyhounds became one long syllable…”
The error caught us around the corner from the last pub that spat us out. It lanced through the world right there in front of Star Fish Bar, above whose signage a very fine mist sparkled in the eco-friendly LED of a Camden streetlight. Achille was the first that the error sliced in its cryptic way, and the story that he was telling Lina about his father’s racing greyhounds became one long syllable – well, long and stretched and then very pitiable – the sound a mammal makes before it is inside-out, viscera pasted to tarmac. Well, Achille was just fine, and it was Lina and I who were left to understand that we were to live like this now, that we were meant to parse this, and go on.

And you know the human ability to just plaster over error and remain. But then, we all do it. Look at Lina. All night she has entertained herself with a riddle: imagine a leafy tree heavy with chicken’s eggs, some of them fresh, and some of them rotten. Lina is the upstanding kind of person who can order chips and curry sauce, and even remember about cash-only, all the while riddled, scalloped, by errors. She taught herself how to pretend to be human. So, when the error that found us grazed Lina, what she thought about was the moment a third and final egg is cracked over the skillet. And how at home she was in her misery; in her citalopram; in grey; her mask; that stalactite of wet at the tip of her nose; sour cherry vape; and her scarf even though she hated its tassels. Well. And Achille and I, we saw maybe a second of her reborn as – not someone else – but herself with many, many mouths, and all of them pursed tight.

And so, the error’s touch on the back, finally, of my own hand – disconnected-number tinnitus, and Achille and Lina floating headlessly in view, their heads a refraction apart and beatific in the smudged glass storefront of Classic Shoe Repair, Est. 1995, where I once saw a boy vault a Mazda to stick a kitchen knife into another. Please, the error begged, there is no room for restitution. But I said: We’ll help you, friend; take us out of this normal. We owe you that much. I suppose even machines must be taught that it is okay to reveal digit after digit of infinity for a whole life, only to fritz into ruin.

We of kebab shop Tuesdays and leftover kebab Wednesdays. We of dead houseplants and grow-lamped pot. We of error code 500. We of never-ever-land. I stay awake at night and stand guard over Achille’s and Lina’s insistence of breath, trying to imagine whether there’s a moment of ecstasy waiting at the end of me. And my grandmother who died in her plastic chair in rebellion. Well, we’re good at errors. We can teach them.

Sara Saab

Sara Saab was born in Beirut, Lebanon, and now lives in north London. Her fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, The White Review, and elsewhere.

© Sara Saab