We Are Not Angels

Abstract art

Oakley balanced upon one leg, his arms out wide to steady him. He often did such things when June was acting oddly. She was sitting in a tearful hunch nearby, ripping herself apart from the inside all over again. Oakley had witnessed her doing this many times before over many different endings, and each time, like a ritual, she would go down to the rocky part of the beach to mourn what she had lost. The persistence of her attachment to Gregor, her most recently failed suitor, spun around and around in her core with all of its barbs exposed to her heart and her solar plexus. She was in turmoil.

Turmoil, thought Oakley. What an unusual word. Tur-moil. He then proceeded to repeat it under his breath, exaggerating the movement of his lips as though examining the word’s formation. Although he sported a smile, it was but a caricature of happiness planted on his chalky white face. Oakley knew very little about the concepts of happiness and despair; they seemed to him so alien, so unnecessarily polar.  

To June on the other hand, who was always looking at him through the filter of imagination, thought that his face changed with the onset of each of her new lovers. He had Gregor’s green eyes now, for example, but they were framed by Annette’s luscious lashes and Jake’s chunky cheekbones. Peter’s soft passionate lips pierced by rings of metal in two places had been a feature for years, but only recently had they been painted the deep red of the lipstick Shelley wore. In this way she moulded him into what she called her muse, and when she admitted his presence to herself she would build dark pretty things with her fingers out of clay. 

It really didn’t matter to him through which lens she chose to look. She belonged to him, and he to her, and there simply was no greater truth than that. All of these others were simply fleeting fancies; objects of desire satisfying her craving for normality and acceptance. More concepts alien to Oakley. More unnecessary polarities. 

Nobody else ever saw Oakley at all; he was just like a ghost. He’d heard himself referred to as an animus, or eros, by psychologists, and a guardian angel by those with more of a religious bent. 

But we are not angels. Oakley considered, hopping skilfully onto the opposite leg. When our truth was whispered, it was mistranslated like a game of telephone. Words are strange like that… Inaccurate representations of authenticity…

We are not angels, for we don’t know the meaning of virtue. We are simply the innocent: those who do not experience. And we are not guardians, for we do not protect. How could we when we don’t understand the way humans place value? Life or death, pleasure or pain, it’s really all the same. In place of the word ‘guardian’ I think I’d use ‘supervisor’. No, wait: ‘observer’, yes that’s much better. We observe our human.

Oakley observed his human. Her shoulders were beginning to settle, her eyes were drying, the storm was calming. She tossed the necklace Gregor had bought her towards the sea. The tide was out, but it seemed enough to know the gift would be claimed on the water’s next expedition to conquer the land. She took a pocket mirror from her bag and dabbed at her running make-up with a cotton pad.

A mirror, thought Oakley. That’s a good analogy. People are like shards of a huge broken mirror. Fragments of the all. Fractals. Each one gives rise to both the observer, and the reflected. The observer is indeterminate; indifferent without being uninterested. The reflection is the quite the reverse: full of purpose and will and definition. Neither really understands the other, and yet they are the same thing. Twins

As he regained his footing on both legs, Oakley wondered whether he should attempt to voice his semantic corrections to June. A revelation from an angel. But, on balance, he thought it best to simply continue observing. He wasn’t really cut out for changing the world.

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23 thoughts on “We Are Not Angels

  1. What a clever story! Subverting expectations at every turn. The observer being ‘indifferent’ while the reflected is ‘full of purpose’. The way June’s lovers were ‘objects of desire satisfying her craving for normality and acceptance.’ rather than other autonomous agents like herself. The fact that June is bisexual (I love the way you reveal that to us).
    And I wonder if you intend it as well to be a meditation on creativity, ‘and when she admitted his presence to herself she would build dark pretty things with her fingers out of clay.’ 
    You couldn’t improve on the ending; it’s perfect! ‘But, on balance, he thought it best to simply continue observing. He wasn’t really cut out for changing the world.’ Especially since Oakley has regained his footing on both legs.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for your positive feedback 😊 I’m really pleased my intentions came through here because I attempted to pack a lot into a short piece. Looks like you picked up on it all which is great!

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  2. Amazing, Caroline! The frequency with which you and I attempt to capture the same topic at the same time is becoming so common that it’s almost a given, bizarre as that seems. So I just attempted to illustrate the polar nature of everything in a series of alternating light and dark tinged pieces while you managed to do so far more brilliantly in a single post that reads like the poetry of the Tao.

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  3. I’m going to have to politely ask that you return all previously lent productivity- how can you possibly justify needing it when you post something like this? You’re lightyears ahead of all of us; I don’t know why I ever agreed to the trade in the first place. I’d be green with envy if you weren’t just so damn brilliant.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s very kind. I do wonder sometimes whether I’m writing a novel because that’s what writers do rather than following the natural flow of my creativity… Not giving up just yet though.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. An interesting observation. I would argue that certain stories require the format, although you should never try to discern that beforehand. Let the work shape itself, and figure out what to do with it after. And in the meantime, all these short stories will look quite nice in an anthology, wouldn’t you say? 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Funny you should say that, I have been considering it. I originally wanted my first thing in print to be a novel, but the idea of a flash fiction anthology is starting to look attractive.

        And you’re right, it could be restrictive to force a word count target and structure on a project before seeing where it leads naturally. Perhaps I’m smothering my idea with expectations 🤔

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