From the beginning, this story made me uncomfortable (in a good way). It seemed to be demanding a great deal of introspection and analysis of gender and power from the reader. After this initial discomfort wore off, I was drawn in by its comic melancholy, brutal bluntness, and searingly absurd images, which still linger in my mind at odd moments.They practically ruined my day because I couldn’t stop thinking about how utterly inadequate they both were to me. I went over to them, hung my bag off the shoulder of the young one and put my wide-brimmed hat on his head, and lay my briefcase on the lap of the old limp thing, popped it open, took out my newspaper and started reading it, silently defying either of them to look at me.
First published in Calleja’s short story collection I’m Afraid That’s All We’ve Got Time For (Prototype, 2020). Reproduced in The London Magazine, April 2020, and available at The London Magazine