Susan went to the retreat because she wanted silence, but Bridgette, her roommate in the small, rustic cabin would not shut the fuck up. Even in sleep, she carried on. ‘Bridge’ snored, and the sudden silences, tiny hiccups of relief in which Susan held her own breath, ended in Bridgette’s largeness thrashing back to heaving snores. When silence was mandatory, one of the official retreat gurus close by or guiding meditation, Susan would feel Bridge willing her to open her eyes. Sometimes Susan couldn’t help herself, and there would be Bridge’s wide, pale face squelched up sarcastically, her small blue eyes beaming radio signals Susan understood, her whole body a giant neon sign screaming, “You don’t buy this crap do you?” But Susan did buy it. She believed that if she just sat still enough, got quiet enough, stayed in the right now, she’d be enough. She’d be okay. She didn’t want to talk about it or say it out loud. Bridge lumbered into the cabin as Susan was undressing for bed, and Susan turned away. Bridge announced, “Nothing I haven’t seen before, sister.” Susan whispered, “How can you stand yourself?” Silence, wild with shame and discomfort, thick and seemingly alive, descended.
Barbara Harroun is an Assistant Professor of English at Western Illinois University where she teaches creative writing and composition. Her work has previously appeared in the Sycamore Review, issues of Another Chicago Magazine, Buffalo Carp, Friends Journal, In Quire, Bird’s Thumb and Prairie Gold: An Anthology of the American Heartland. It is forthcoming in i70 Review, Sugared Water, Requited Journal, Per Contra, and Riveter Review. She lives in Macomb, IL with her favorite creative endeavors, Annaleigh and Jack, and her awesome husband, Bill.