[The following is an excerpt from Shane Jones’ new novel, Vincent and Alice and Alice, now available from Tyrant Books. Get your copy today.]
§ § §
“You look like Bert, from Bert and Ernie,” says Alice when I walk into the apartment. It appears she hasn’t moved today, the apartment surrounding her looks untouched. She’s dressed in what she wore last night.
“It’s the shape of your head,” continues Alice, who sits on the couch with her feet up on the table. The TV shows a man in a leather vest and American flag bandana with his outstretched arm aiming a gun at a crowd of forest-green ski-masks. In the background is a storefront framed in fire and people running in and out. Holding up one hand toward my jaw Alice pretends to turn my face in a deep study. “I don’t know if it’s because you’re getting older, but your head is longer and has a pinched quality to it now.”
“Exactly,” she replies satisfied.
She screams from the kitchen. Sitting on the floor with her legs crossed, head down, Alice is scratching at the floor tiles, peeling them up. I sit down next to her and ask what she’s doing.
“I felt it from the beginning. The call confirmed it. But I don’t care, I’m not going.”
I wonder what hotel Alice is staying at. She could be at RISSE right now. The real Alice could go for a walk and Alice, looking out my apartment windows, could see herself. She could walk down the steps wanting to meet herself.
It feels so difficult to do, but touching Alice I tell Alice she can’t stay.
“I said I don’t care,” she repeats, this time with more force, glaring.
I break another rule, I agree with her, tell her yes, you aren’t real. Her skin dims. Her hair flickers white, three night stars suspended in the mess. Everything is fine. I take a deep breath and she slides across the floor like it’s been turned vertical. I flip onto my stomach and reach, but she’s dragged into the ether edges of my collapsing gate.
I scramble on all fours and dive at her outstretched fingers.
I slap my hands along where the wall meets the floor.
Losing any year or version of Alice again is too much. I run through the apartment calling her name, wishing her back.
The bed covers rise with the mold of two bodies embracing. Limbs are writhing, arms and legs entangled inside. I’m seeing things, this is part of the collapse. But we’re in there, I know it, those are our bodies moving under those sheets, Alice and I, forever. Before we were married, Alice and I never talked about the future. Before we were married, I woke up holding Alice. Stepping forward, I pull the covers off, but there’s only the beige-bare mattress, a cloud of hot air.
I cover the apartment three times and everything to the sides is blurring and shaking and I know I should be excited Alice is leaving when Alice is back but I’m a mess.
Outside, I do two laps around the house in my bare feet, quickly becoming wet from the grass. My landlord, standing in the corner of the backyard, waves hello. The neighbor’s guitar playing is improving. A few backyards over kids on a trampoline are screaming over all the low fences.
I walk into the apartment and Alice is sitting on the couch with her feet up on the table. She says, “You look like Bert, from Bert and Ernie.”