Natanya Ann Pulley is a Diné writer and her clans are Kinyaa’áani (Towering House People) and Táchii’nii (Red Running into Water People). She’s published in Waxwing, Monkeybicycle, Entropy, and The Offing (among others). Natanya is the founding editor of Hairstreak Butterfly Review and teaches texts by Native American writers, Fiction Writing, and Experimental Forms at Colorado College. Her debut story collection With Teeth was published by New Rivers Press (Oct. 2019) and her writing can be found at natanyapulley.com.
The Corner of Deus and Ex Machina
Like film slowed. Or stopped. Stills even. Laid one on top of the other, except in every direction. He says “Hi” and she doesn’t know what that means. She says “Hi” back and some of her begins to collapse. She falls close to a frame. The steady swish of stills falling into one another. A click to lock them. They say hi now, it seems. They imagine they have so much more to say. But they do not.
On Tuesdays she remembers what it was like to say hi to him the day before and Wednesday he considers the same. By Thursday they both wonder what it would be seeing one another somewhere else,somewhere beyond that fortuitous street corner that brings them closer and closer together every week with a different and long-held in the mouth “hi” and “hi” back. And on Friday they both try to run into one another on accident on purpose. She leaving a little late, he leaving a little early and now they are too far apart for that street corner to have held any of the warmth between them. Too many people coming and going and that small terrier that looks at his owner with sadness and shame when he lifts his leg to relieve himself on the tiny tree emerging from a small block of earth cut into the sidewalk.
The weekend is spent in their separate lives but always with a little wonder over the shoulder and a little “what if” as one of them goes to bars and restaurants and the other to the woods and parks. What if she turned a corner or he looked up and there—there the other was. And this would be the snapshot of them, both saying “Oh!” and “hi” and each thinking of how they would simply launch their narratives at one another because for each, the other was always there to listen and … just got it. Just really got them.
Monday would come by and the morning spent in anticipation and lunch spent wondering what new thing one of them would say, what new thing could they do to just let it be known that another hi later in the week was welcome—even wanted, though not in a desperate way. When she imagines herself walking down the street towards him, she always thinks the sun brightens her face and though her hair doesn’t flow about her or a wind doesn’t swoosh her skirt just so, she thinks of something fresh and new and brightly ready and alive. And she thinks this would be the sort of thing that just makes a man like him stop and smile and run his “hi” throughout his body before nodding and smiling and saying it right to her, no mistake. It was, oh so intentional. And when he imagined himself walking down the street towards her, he shifted between sometimes appearing easygoing and sometimes busy and important and sometimes a little troubled. And sometimes that little trouble was a true thing because as he neared he became so aware of his desire to seem either easy going or busy and important. But sometimes the seeming a little troubled was like wearing gloves and it was something he wanted her to remember later the way someone says “oh, and I think he was also wearing gloves. Can you believe it?”
But what neither knew and what many care to ignore is that they weren’t part of the same story at all. They weren’t anywhere near it. And there was nothing in his life that could transplant itself into hers and there was nothing in hers to find its way into his. It was all a fiction, all stills and pages and footage of them shuffled about but never enough to truly pull together. And the world went to great pains to keep them from one another because there was no reason for any sort of Hi or walking towards or memory of the other at all. From the moment he was born and the moment she, there was never to be a single time they would meet, let alone on Monday afternoons, as if they worked in the same buildings or had an appointment in the same area or lived near enough.
But this particular street corner was at some intersection of the improbable and the impossible. As if realities might split apart and try to whole themselves into full worlds only to find a small overlap. In the Venn diagram of parallel universes there was this street corner. And in the movies or romances we tell ourselves, street corners such as this bring together unexpected lovers and fates or one miserable person pushing a happy person out of the way of oncoming traffic so that one is indebted to the other or these are the places of chance murders with such wrong place and the wrong times decrees. Of course, those things don’t happen on Mondays and there are only so many types of stories for this street corner to hold in a week.