fiction by writer Shari Lopatin
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This week I am sharing a two-part story from fiction writer and Substack poster Shari Lopatin. Shari also writes about travel, relationships and a sense of being in the world—check out her newsletter—next week I’ll be back with more of my own words.
“Shari Lopatin is an award-winning journalist who now writes serialized fiction and sociopolitical commentary in her Rogue Writer newsletter on Substack.”
A Call From Paris: Part One
By Shari Lopatin
“Do you remember when we used to talk about renting a one-bedroom apartment and saving all our money to travel the world?” she asked him.
“Yes, I do,” he answered, his voice quiet on the phone.
“Do you remember when backpacking across Latin America sounded fun?”
His voice grew even quieter, now. “I do.”
“Why can’t we think like that, anymore?”
He sat there, pondering, the cold phone pushed against his ear. He didn’t know. He didn’t know what happened, or how.
“Do you remember―”
They were 35 and 39. Married for five years, together for ten. And this Tuesday night, summer rain tapping against their four-bedroom towering windows, they spoke countries apart. A business trip … yet again.
She often wondered why she took them—Money, that’s right.—
And he sat alone, in the dark. Just another routine weeknight. Just another routine.
“Why didn’t we do it?” she continued, her voice broken by static from the long-distance phone call.
“Save and travel.”
“Your mother,” he reminded her. “My school loans.”
She sighed. And maybe wept. He couldn’t be sure, because of that damn static. People who travelled lived in a bubble, he reminded himself. They lived on trust funds or skirted responsibility.
“Do you ever wish we could give it all up?” Her voice sounded serious, and for a moment, his heart jumped. He felt a tingle again, a spark of excitement.
“Give what up?”
He began to say yes, but something stopped him. And he sunk lower into his chair, the beginnings of a grin fading from his face. “What about the house?”
“We can rent it.”
“What about our jobs? We may not find work after we come back.”
“Fuck my job.”
He could hear her pacing on the other side now. He knew his wife well enough to detect when the anxiety started.
“Do you remember what it felt like?” Her voice pleaded with him, begged, like a hungry man desperate for a bite of bread.
“We have responsibilities now,” he reminded her, and wondered why he didn’t feel heated. They’d argued like this before, and the rage always began crawling up his neck to pound at the doors of his head. But this time, it didn’t. Instead he just felt … numb.
“We don’t have kids.”
“We have cats.”
“They can stay with my sister for six months.”
He listened as she took a deep breath, her voice shuddering as she exhaled. “I guess you’re right.”
The world stopped with her words, with her surrender to his rationale. Someone was gripping his windpipe and squeezing. Cutting off the life. Why did she always have to give up on him, on them?
Read part two at Rogue Writer.