FOR MONTHS I had struggled to interpret my friend Raven’s aversion to me. More than once I’d asked him about it, but he had an aversion to the question and never alluded to the subject. Later, I’d messaged him with an invitation to meet me for lunch or a cup of coffee, just to talk things over. Raven replied that he’d given up chatting. He was fed up with small talk, with sharing news of his daily activities or mishaps or prattling on about television shows or movies he’d seen. Enough said, he’d abruptly concluded his message back to me. Yet when I messaged our mutual friend Mulroney, he mentioned seeing Raven and recounted details of their conversation. I made no attempt to pump Mulroney for information about Raven, but oddly, Mulroney messaged at some length about what books Raven was reading, an art show he’d attended, and which politicians currently irked him, as if to convey an unstated message that because Raven preferred not to tell me of his aversion himself he’d contrived to tell me indirectly through Mulroney. If this was Raven’s intent, Mulroney must have known he was a participant and therefore could have foreseen the reaction his account would provoke. I was disturbed by what I feared was his collusion with Raven, and I further feared that Mulroney was simultaneously implying his own aversion. How else could I explain why he’d join forces with Raven? Evidence of an aversion could be deduced from his tendency not to react to remarks or ideas initiated by me in my messages. I couldn’t resist commenting that I felt excluded, on the outside looking in. I hadn’t seen Raven in months, I confessed, and found it difficult to get a dialogue going with him, whereas he had no difficulty and most of what he said pertained to Raven, while little or nothing of what he said pertained to me. A long message silence followed, reminiscent of Raven’s silence, causing me to wonder if it could have been premeditated. As I half expected, his silence was followed by a cloying incredulity. He was stunned at the way I’d reacted to his news of Raven. He’d make a mental note to limit mentioning him in the future, though he’d feel awkward talking around a hole, an undertone of mockery coming through in his phrasing with its implication of a void between me and Raven. Was Raven angry at me? I asked him. Did that explain his aversion? Mulroney denied Raven had ever said a word about being angry with me or spoken of any aversion or complaint. He couldn’t imagine, he claimed, why I’d suspect Raven felt an aversion, but, he added, that was a subject I should discuss with him. He closed his message there, and I did not send a reply. Had he suggested I speak with Raven to divert attention from their collusion, thinking I’d think that if his intent was to make me feel Raven was avoiding me then why suggest a conversation with him? If he and Raven had strategized on the topic, they may have agreed to incite me to react and then attempt to undermine my suspicion by having Mulroney open a metaphorical doorway to Raven. Yet if I contacted him, I’d be met with evasion or silence. Did Mulroney believe I’d be tempted and fall for a trap hatched with bad intentions? He’d no doubt divulge what I’d said, after which Raven could take the generous step of initiating a dialogue between us if he felt inclined to clear the air. Why should I be tormented into contacting him again? Though I can’t be sure if this is an intended or unintended consequence of their possible actions, I have not contacted him or Mulroney, and so far, they have not contacted me.
Glen Pourciau’s second collection of stories, View, was published by Four Way Books. His first story collection, Invite, won the Iowa Short Fiction Award. He’s had stories published by AGNI Online, Epoch, New England Review, The Paris Review, Post Road, and others.