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"Fader" • The Temper Trap (by Joseph Linscott)

Your hair is on fire. I know and you don’t. I know it’s on fire because I can see you. But you don’t know. I don’t know why you don’t know, but you don’t, and your hair is on fire. 

This is how it’s always gone with us: one of us has their hair on fire and the other can’t speak. Refuses to speak. Is physically unable to speak. We’ve had issues with communication before. We’ll have these same issues now and forever, it seems. 

I want to scream at you. I mean I want to scream at you most days. I want to scream at you about the crumbling walls around us in this subway, about the crumbling ceiling of our apartment, about the crumbling sidewalks we take to get to this underground, crumbling mess. 

You want to scream at me for dragging us here. For pulling on some string of a dream that I had in which we both lived here and could be happy. You want to scream at me for not pulling the covers back up on the bed in the mornings when I’ve gotten up. You want to scream at me for not leaving you enough coffee before I leave, hardly able to stand myself straight up enough to kiss you on the forehead.

We want to scream but we don’t, or we cant, or we know we shouldn’t, and so we let our hair burn. We let a stranger tackle us to the ground, beat at the flames on our nape. Turn over, kiss the stranger, and imagine the stranger is us, and beat them with our smokey fists until things feel settled again, and the holes in the walls, in the ceilings, in the trim around the closets, and the cracks in the sidewalks become unnoticeable.

We’ll hold each other, hand in smoldering hand, until our next spark splits and we want to scream: Your hair is on fire.

Joseph Linscott is a writer and operations manager, currently living in New England with his wife and their dog. His fiction has appeared in Ponder Review, Corvus Review, and elsewhere. He can be found on Twitter, BlueSky, and Instagram @prosephlinscott.


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