July 28, 2010

Robert John Miller

The Freeing of the Wardens

Once they realized they had never known each other, the Wardens divorced. But first they had to meet, and then they had to court, and then they had to wed. After the wedding, the marriage started.

The Wardens worked at their marriage, mastering all the proper phrases, the most affective facial muscle contortions, even different types of laughs to evoke different responses for different situations. They kept their lives simple, and they got what they reasonably thought they wanted. Unbeknownst to the Wardens, however, they were not reasonable people, and they didn't get much of anything.

Like a radio disc jockey confined to the same playlist every hour, on the hour, every hour, their words became thoughtless, thoughtlessness became automatic, automaticity became normal. The private linguistic system that emerged between them, instead of creating a framework for the exchange and appreciation of particular experiences, actually enforced their shared isolation. Unable to decode conflicting levels of reality—the difference, for example, in a stage performance, between the characters portrayed (we are married, we are saying the correct things, we appear fulfilled) and the people playacting (we don't recognize each other, we are filling the air with emptiness, we are separate when together)—each Warden smothered the other with loneliness while privately coping with uncontrollable bouts of tears.

Years after their divorce and following a chance meeting at a local convenience store, the Wardens remarried, happily. They talked of their exes in their previous marriage as if they had been characters in a screwball comedy, laughing together at real instances of what would otherwise be called dramatic irony, realizing that no one else could better relate to their present situation than this person in this aisle, right now. The stories of their lives had been taboo, even to themselves, and this new vocalization released them from their years of mutual imprisonment.

The Wardens, finally, were free.


Robert John Miller's work has appeared in poeticdiversity, Writers' Bloc, and Metazen. He enjoys hats. He was born in Indiana and you can read more at http://bobsoldout.com/work.

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