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[Nice Sunset isn’t it?] OR: I FUCKING HATE GROUNDHOG DAY

Honi Soit Writing Competition Fiction Shortlist

i.

“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He says and I nod.

It was by all accounts. Had all the hallmarks of a nice sunset. Pastel colours, orange, pink. All that shit that’s aesthetic and nice and all around lovely to see. I don’t really get sunsets. Apparently, the nod wasn’t enough for him and he turns to me, expecting a verbal confirmation.

What makes a sunset nice? I question back. I have the answer already, but I know I need to keep this conversation going. I know what happens when it ends.

He looks at the sunset and now it’s his turn to consider and I can’t help but wonder what he sees. ‘Spose that’s instinct though isn’t it? That want to tear his eyeballs from his face and put them into mine so I can see the world the way he does and then he can maybe see the way that I see him?

No?

Alright.

Not sure, he speaks quietly. I watch wordlessly as he takes his hand away from mine. Together, we stand on the balcony, performing the role of Juliet together. Tragic. It’s an odd word. It’s a fitting word. But this is how the narrative goes. There’s just something about them, he continues.

I know that I need him to keep on speaking, and I know what will happen if I don’t speak, and I know it’s inevitable anyway so what’s the fucking point. Because I need to end this before he can begin to-

ii.

“Let’s face it… And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He says and I watch.

An ex of mine explained it to me once. We were watching a film, Brokeback fucking mountain or some tragic gay story which we loved and broke our heart and all that crap. It was a matter of moral decency back in like the 80s. You could have gay couples on TV or movies, but they couldn’t be happy. They could never be happy. To be happy would be to promote the indecency of the lifestyle. So we die you know, or cheat, or breakup, and in some warped corruption of straight rom-coms where they always end up together, the opposite became the inevitable for us.

And it’s fine I guess. You know. Unhappiness is a part of life. It’s inevitable.

Inevitable, you know. Nothing can change it.

I suppose, I responded. I’d let the pause linger too long, from beyond that point of meaningful reflection to the point of thought, to the point of questioning. And now he knew I was questioning, and he knew I was doubting and he knew that I knew that something was wrong and jesus christ. ‘Cause if we both acknowledged something was wrong then we both needed to talk about it and address it.

And that’s how it begins. Nothing to be said, nothing to be done.

He turns to me and I can feel him considering the words carefully.

Maybe some other version of me would resist you know-

iii

“… undo”

Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He says.

I always hated Groundhog Day. And all subsequent spin offs. Happy death day, edge of tomorrow, 50 first dates, when we first met, source code, and it’s just hitting you over the head with the same concept over and over and nothing changes and the format is overblown. I mean groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day, groundhog day –

I mean. It’s just unrealistic isn’t it?

…Right, he replies. It wasn’t the answer he was looking for-

iv.

“Let’s face it. ”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He says.

Fucking marvellous, I shout. He laughs – awkwardly.

I lied before, when I said an ex explained it to me. Well, not lied. Underexaggerated. You know, in a way to seem approachable or hip or mysterious, more mysterious. The ex’s name was Chad [don’t laugh] and he dumped me after three years together

[really don’t laugh]

because he said he didn’t see a future where he and I worked. And I didn’t really argue with that because I didn’t either.

Not because, you know, we weren’t compatible. I mean, we were. And it wasn’t like one of us cheated, or one of us died or somethipng amazingly cataclysmic happened to force it. It was just a regular morning. I don’t believe in fate but I believe(d) some things can be considered inevitable and you know, Chad would agree with that sentiment. He was the one that engrained that sentiment into me, or, you know. One of them, one of the people.

Now Ali, he’s different.

You’re different, I say aloud and he turns to me. He’s dressed nicely. A blazer, button down. Unusually fancy but this is an unusually fancy night and I’m dressed the same.

Good different? He asks back and when I don’t respond he pushes further. Are you alright?

No, a profound no. A resounding no echoes throughout the crowd. Chad jeers. Psychiatrists form a cheering squad. My parents perform an interpretive dance. The answer is clear. And he knows it so I’m just a bit sick of him continuing with this-

I’ve been meaning to talk to you, he draws in breath.

And I knew it, the night was too nice-

v.

“We’re undone by each other. And we’re missing something.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He says and I watch.

Do you ever feel like we’re sort of just performing this, you know? I parry back and he mocks surprise at my vicious tone as if he wasn’t expecting it. Oh crap, maybe he wasn’t expecting it? You know, I continue, softening my tone, like… we’re sort of just… filling roles. And we don’t have that much control and we don’t get to change the plot?

Do you think actors want to change the plot? He muses back.

I think I would, if I was like Juliet, and I knew I was going to die. I’d want to change it. I couldn’t but I’d want to.

But that’s characters… not actors, he retorts.

What’s the difference? I reply too quickly, knowing that he’ll answer.

Actors choose their roles, he answers with all the self-satisfaction of a junior debater and fuck I love him and fuck this is going to be hard. I’ve been meaning to talk to you, he continues and I draw in breath.

‘Cause what do you say when the man you love is proposing.

I thought he was breaking up with me at first and that was a relief because that meant we didn’t have to wait for it to come undone by itself. You know, that painful process as things unwind and unravel and break apart and all you can do is watch. The inevitable self-destruction. Well, not self. Duel? Duel destruction? I’m sure the German’s have a word for it. I can handle a break up.

I can’t handle him not knowing it’s coming. Him delaying it with pageantry and faux happiness and hollow promises of forever. Cause that’s not how it works-

vi.

“we’re not missing something.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He asks and I throw myself off the balcony and run.

vii.

“Let’s undo each other.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, isn’t it? He asks and I resist every urge to jump off the balcony and run.

I mean, what sort of question is that? Like I can’t say no can I? I can’t flatly refuse the niceness of his sunset, not without good reason. And there’s no good reason. You know I struggle for a reason, I try and think of a reason but I can’t as much as I try.

It was Chad who introduced me to that quote. He was older, a philosophy major and the type of person to act like one. It has a greater meaning, I’m sure, but the way he spat it and took it out of context to justify us breaking up cemented it in that line. That relationships don’t work, not for people like us. Not for people that know the statistics and know how they end. We undo each other, together we are undone.

I was a writer for a time and I wrote about unhappy gay couples as most unhappy gay writers do. And I’d go on to meet Ali. And we’d be happy for a couple of years, or however close we’d get. But I’d still be writing those stories because that’s how the stories went. And we’d grow, or he’d grow and I’d remember that quote and I’d never forget how it has to end.

Yeah it is, I reply. He cleared his throat; he sank to one knee.

It WAS a nice sunset. Problem is he couldn’t see the night that loomed behind it-

viii.

“we’re not missing something.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset-

No. I interrupt. No it’s not a nice sunset. I mean… what even is a nice sunset? What constitutes a nice sunset? What makes this sunset any nicer or greater than anyone that came before you know. Cause it’s nothing right, it’s an illusion. The illusion of something isn’t something. You get that right? You know Ali I just can’t figure you out sometimes and I don’t get this and I don’t get what you’re about to do. It’s as if there’s some part of you that can’t conceptualise why this, you get that, you and me, why that can’t work. Because it doesn’t, that’s not how it ends up. I’ve replied it a thousand times in my head and it doesn’t matter how tonight goes, how great the sunset is, because it doesn’t work out. Right? You got that? So tell me then, tell me why it’s a nice sunset.

I waited for him to leave. That was the point of that whole performance of mock outrage, something to send him packing before it was too late. That, and my own gratification.

‘Cause you’re here, he speaks gently. I turn to look at him and he’s telling the truth.

And you know, he believes in it.

I love you, he continues, And I’m not going to stop. And I’m not going to let anything, and that includes you, get in the way. and I’m not going to let you sabotage this, I’m not going to allow you to keep living the same repeating self indulgent sadness. You get that? Because I know you love me to. And I know you’re afraid or bitter or believe that you’re broken. But that doesn’t matter to me. All that matters, is here and now and this sunset and you and me.

And run on sentences I want to say. But I don’t.

Because he’s telling the truth. It may not be the truth, I’m not sure. It felt wrong in the way of wearing somebody else’s shoes – you know what shoes are, you know what they feel like. But these aren’t yours, this never belonged to you. But still.

I’m inclined to believe him-

ix.

“Let’s face it. We’re undone by each other. And if we’re not, we’re missing something.”

  • Judith Butler

Nice sunset, I say.

‘Cause it is. Or you know, can see how it could be.

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