Posted by on January 8, 2017

Finding Shapes

Written by Robert Cole

Painting by Maureen Barten

January 8, 2017

Lawrence has a degree in crime science, says Kathryn.

I have a degree in maths, argues Michael.

Everyone has a degree in maths.

Crime science isn’t even a real science.

Lawrence has a degree in Russian Stuff too.

I don’t want to talk about Lawrence anymore.

He can name a few cities by heart.

That’s fascinating.

It used to be a really important country.

I’m sure it still is.

Why don’t you go back to schooling like Lawrence?

I don’t like schooling. I can teach myself.

Like how you taught yourself to do shapes?

I can do shapes, Kathryn.

Lawrence has a degree in shapes.

I really don’t want to talk about Lawrence anymore.

You never want to talk about Lawrence.

What is it you want, Kathryn?

I want you to be happy. I want you to take care of yourself.

I have no idea what that even means.

Of course, you don’t. Lawrence says that’s part of the problem.

I think I should go have a little chat with Lawrence.

There’ll be none of that.

I’d love to pick his brain on Crime Science, like how to murder someone for instance.

That’s enough.

I’m tired Kathryn. It’s a four-hour drive to the road.

You’re always tired. It’s always about the road.

It always has to be about something, Kathryn.

“Does it now.” Kathryn concludes, removing herself from the dinner table.

Her eyebrows hold all the contempt and scrutiny in the world. If there is one word to describe Kathryn now, that word is ‘prim’. Kathryn is prim and nothing will change that. No matter how much she had tried to continue loving Michael, a switch was flipped.

It occurs to Kathryn that the only way to leave a man like Michael is to lie. She will have to tell him they needed groceries, keep a straight face and proceed to disappear. It isn’t for fear of some temper or unpredictable explosion of emotions but, in fact, quite the opposite. Michael has become this projection of a human being who almost wants to participate. There is nothing to him anymore. No zeal or vice or change. This is not a man she can have sex with.

Kathryn carefully makes noise with the dishes and peers over to Michael. He’s caught in a cycle of panic and coping, his food uneaten before him, the glass half full, the cat asleep on socks, the world moving on as usual in spite of all the grief or shame or anger.

Michael looks down at his plate and can clearly see it is round. He can hear the documentary in the background. The female commentator’s British accent creates depth and intrigue:

Complex relationships are round while circular shapes are indicative of personal injury. The story of the circle is incomplete without first grasping the tenets of roundness. After all, the study of suffering does not help us understand death any better. Why should shapes be any different?

Michael has heard it all before. There was only so much that could be gleaned from conceptual things like shapes or feelings. The terrain where these two things meet has no bearing upon the road, the argument with Kathryn or how much schooling Lawrence received. The shape of Michael’s emotional state is a polygon and the color of that polygon is light green. He can see it clearly in his mind. The angles are acute and will not budge. He examines the feeling and puts it away. There’s nothing else to do with it.


It is this pitiful scene that Kathryn comes to resent the most. It’s possible that some semblance of guilt began to creep in after cheating on him so many times. In spite of that, it doesn’t bother her at all to see Michael completely distraught, mind and body. In fact, it comforts her to prescribe suffering to her weak, disgusting husband.

“I’ll be going out for a while tonight to have sex with Lawrence several times. I’m doing that because he is a much stronger man than you.” Kathryn kisses her husband’s forehead and starts heading for the door.

Outside, the weather is perfect. Not too sunny. Not too hot. If she’s lucky, Kathryn could catch a screening of that new documentary about the origin of shapes before having sex with Lawrence. She fishes her sunglasses out of her purse and gets in the car. All the neighbors are out watering their lawns, laughing and waving to each other. Kathryn feels this general sense of contentment. Everyone is exactly where they are supposed to be. Kathryn loves driving in the morning and breathing in deep the clean air rushing by. She thinks about tacos again for lunch and smiles. It’s going to be a fun weekend, like a square with a square on top. It would make her feel like the number 37 in bright red.

The number 37 is the sexiest prime number available. Within 37, one can divide 6 by more than 3, creating circles that at once emanate from the triangle. There is, in fact, no greater adultery.

Kathryn can’t help but smile. So much despotism to feign spread out across time. Scenery to inhabit with a pensive demeanor. Michael would diminish like an enclave of coral, weighed down by the sea of lack around him. The path would be clear, and so on. There would no longer be a circle beneath her red. The road opens up before her while Michael continues to look past his food on the table, staring deeper and deeper into the dials of the dishwasher. He would have to find new shapes to contend with and she would no longer be one of them.

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