Evan James Sheldon

Saying the same thing

We’re sitting at a metal park bench, the kind wrapped in soft, protective plastic. We aren’t touching.

Children play, a couple argues quietly, not wanting to draw attention, a calligraphy class paints unknown words, a dog chases a frisbee and after catching it, takes it to a stranger, wagging. It’s as if reentering the world has made shared settings idyllic; we longed for a park while we couldn’t have it.

This isn’t real, you tell me. Or maybe you’re telling everyone else, though no one else hears.

I light a spliff and we pass it back and forth. We used to smoke joints, but it was too much for you, went to your head, gave you violent dreams. A buffer is the key.

There’s a spot on the picnic table where the plastic has torn exposing the metal beneath. I finger it, thinking. One-in-three of these people are not who they claim to be, you say.

I can’t imagine where you got that statistic. Maybe you scrolled through study after study, researching on your phone while we sat silently at dinner. Maybe you gleaned it from that true crime podcast I refuse to listen to. Maybe you made it up. I have no way of knowing for sure.

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Evan James Sheldon’s work has appeared recently online in American Literary Review, the Cincinnati Review, and Anti-Heroin Chic, among others. He is a Senior Editor for F(r)iction and the Editorial Director for Brink Literacy Project. You can find him online at evanjamessheldon.com.