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When A Woman’s Around

Short Shorts is Arts Illustrated’s micro-fiction series that borrows from the thousand words through which a picture speaks to create a moment of experiential art. Featured here, from our issue on ‘Conflict’, is one such piece based on a work created by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour that was presented at the 2016 Yinchuan Biennale.

She looked at him after putting her bag in the baggage hold, a gaze that sat uncomfortably on the precipice of disbelief. The distance between them when she sat next to him was as long as their silences, barely able to mask their internal frustration. Seven hours later when they landed in Kochi, where they were to have a vacation, he was wondering how he could shake her off and send her back to London. Sitting opposite her in the restaurant, he watched her looking vacantly at the bubbles erupting from the weeds in the backwater flowing past the wharf to reluctantly join the sea. He said, though the words didn’t make any sound: ‘You are cold, smart and inexorably self-involved. How is it that after all these years together you could not have any sense of how your actions could hurt or disappoint others?’

Marks left Behind, Wood and Motor, 96’’ x 108’’ x 30’’, 2012

Marks left Behind, Wood and Motor, 96’’ x 108’’ x 30’’, 2012

She turned her head sensing something was being said to her. She took a slow sip from the glass of fresh lime soda and said to herself: ‘Why is that you always have expectations from me? All I commanded was respect, however eerie that might be, as I had been struggling to navigate my own desires, selfish as it may seem, outside your presence.’

‘Do you think we can continue together,’ he asked abruptly, startling her and nearly pulling her from falling further down the rabbit hole that she was creating in her mind. ‘No,’ she said firmly. ‘We have gone too far in our respective directions to turn back.’

He looked at the sky as dark clouds began gathering together, rumbling in disagreement and he implored: ‘Please pray that God would give me the patience and perseverance to get through this.’

‘Well,’ she said, ‘If you can get through these moments we spend here then you can crack the riddles of existence.’ ‘Take it like a man,’ she continued. ‘Keep what’s yours. Leave me what’s mine.’ And he almost said: ‘I never pretended to know the ways of the world. But now it seems a means to an end is the only way out.’

He wondered what she meant by the ‘riddles of existence’ as he imagined a machine from which a shrub that he had seen in the garden of the hotel hung, swaying like a pendulum. He saw it scratching his back leaving behind scars on his skin. The letters forming a line for her to see: ‘No one can know what makes you sigh or what makes you cry.’

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