The Physics of Apathy

By David Accampo

When there is nothing left between two people, the physics of the room appear to change. A stillness overcomes the space between them, lazy dust motes trapped in a shaft of light.  There is movement, of course — the nervous fidget of fingers, the swaying of legs, the tilt of the head to a slightly sharper angle.  A yawn.  But these movements become infinitesimal in the void between the occupants of the room.

Also, there is silence.  Not true silence, of course.  Conversation occurs in small, precise rounds, ticking in time to an invisible clock.  In these moments the dialogue doesn’t falter; it simply ends, resets, begins anew.  But beneath these mechanical sounds, one can hear the silence. It doesn’t come from the speaker — it emanates from the listener. This silence is deep; it is the practice of hiding oneself completely from a conversation so as to eliminate any echo or reverberation.

Eventually, one of them will leave.  The woman will stand, leisurely, and stretch.  She will reach for her purse.  She will do this neither too slowly nor too quickly, yet the timing will still be incorrect, vastly noticeable, and completely ignored.

“Well,” she will say, “I should go.”  Her tone is as flat as the statement.

He will glance up, taking one more sip of coffee to give himself an extra moment.  He will set down the mug, arrange the newspaper so it aligns to the edge of the table.  He will — in this order — look her in the eyes and then smile.  But these two acts will not align; they come one after the other, eliminating the warmth from either.

He will say something, but the words are irrelevant; in this space, words undergo an alchemical transformation, are rendered inert.  They become meaningless.  In this space the silence has deafened her.

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