“The Libidinal Economy of the Suburbs” – Fiction by Joseph Tomaras

Smiling Blonde - Marjorie Strider
Smiling Blonde – Marjorie Strider

“Things said and unsaid that cannot be unheard” make up “The Libidinal Economy of the Suburbs,” Joseph Tomaras‘ flash fiction from our Spring 2016 issue.

{ X }

YOU HAVE TO FLUSH THREE TIMES to send all your excreta to the town café’s septic system. It was the kind that is pleasurable but leaves you feeling a bit dirty afterwards, no matter how vigorously you wipe. You wash your hands and leave the bathroom, book in hand, three-quarters of your second mug of coffee gone lukewarm on the table.

She, overtanned with sun-brightened hair in the manner of white American women of the middle classes, says as you sit, “Have I seen you before?”

“It’s possible,” you reply from your Saturday morning stubble, your hair uncombed and two months overdue for a cut, in your faded jeans and the blue, buttoned-down shirt whose threadbare state is visible only at close range.

“No, I mean, here, today, earlier this morning. Have you been here a long time?”

“What time is it?” You ask honestly. You wear no watch and left your phone at home.

She flashes her tennis-braceleted left wrist and says “A quarter past a freckle,” chuckles, then looks at the iPhone in her right hand and says, “No, really, 10:32.”

“About an hour, then.”

“You said something to me on the line.” You never speak to people on the line. “I stopped in here after I dropped my son off at soccer, and you were with a group of people.”

“You must have me confused with someone else.”

“Actually I’m just trying to pick you up.” Her sons, five-to-eight years older than your kids, roll their eyes at one another as you steal a glimpse at her breasts, five-to-eight years lower than your wife’s. “No, I’m just driving my kids crazy.” By which she means:

“Really I am trying to pick you up but with my sons here I have no idea how to make that happen and you don’t seem interested and this is embarrassing, abject really, please help me out.”

You reply, “No matter what you say in public, if your kids are around, they’ll think you’re trying to drive them crazy.” By which you mean:

“You are not as unattractive as you fear, and you probably did not see my wedding ring, and you cannot possibly know that my wife has a nasty case of post-partum and I’ve barely touched her in four months, so if your kids weren’t right there, if this café weren’t filled with half the population of our town, if the cashier didn’t also work at my daughter’s school, if there were some means by which I could become other than myself, ensure plausible deniability, that no one gets hurt, I would go home with you, I would fuck your brains out, I would make sure that you come, you would smell my beschissenes Dasein, see the holes in this shirt, and in all your respectability you would regret it, but that is not the way things work, someone always gets hurt, you probably also do not know that I am a writer, so I will work this into a story or prose poem or something in between, and years from now when I’ve published a collection the librarian will clue into the fact that there’s a writer in town and invite me to do a reading and you’ll see my headshot on the flyer and come to the reading and I will read that piece and you will be embarrassed, and rumors will fly, people trying and failing to identify the woman in that piece, and they will assume that something happened because they hate the kind of stories where nothing happens even though that is the kind of story that I write, and someone will be hurt, perhaps it will be you and your kids. Didn’t you ever hear the one about the scorpion and the frog?”

You think, “This is the libidinal economy of the suburbs, things said and unsaid that cannot be unheard,” and you read another paragraph of Franz Mon as you drink down two-thirds of the remaining coffee. …Ratten überliefen das stumme Mysterium. You keep your eyes averted from her, forego the last quarter-cup of now-cold dark roast, and leave: You still have to go to the library and the local organic whole-animal butcher.

{ X }

tomaras-photoJOSEPH TOMARAS is locally confined to southern Maine. When not helping scientists get money to test their hypotheses, or ranting about the state of the world on his blog (skinseller.blogspot.com), he leaves traces of prose in any genre or the spaces between. His fictions have appeared in Clarkesworld and the Haikasoru anthology Phantasm Japan. He also encourages strangers to yell at him on Twitter (@epateur).

1 thought on ““The Libidinal Economy of the Suburbs” – Fiction by Joseph Tomaras

  1. I liked how you went with the story. The second-person narrative, the inner monologue and the setting all make it intriguing. It stuck in my head after I had read it.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s