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  • Writer's pictureAmr Abbas

Crack on the Wall

“Do you hear it?” She asked callously.

My heart skipped a beat. My eyes opened wide. Intently, I listened in careful anticipation. I could not look up at her. I could not look in her direction, but I looked at the cement of the untended balcony. I looked back at the door, then I looked at the balcony floor. There was dirt there, the kind of dirt that smudges the moment you touch it, so I did not touch it. I felt beads of sweat forming on my forehead. Cold sweat, the kind that sends a shiver down your spine, or perhaps it was not.

“Well?” Her eyebrows met, and her nose squinted. Soon, she was going to raise an eyebrow. She was going to look.

I gathered every bit of courage in my bones. I looked at her, and our gazes met. She wanted to ask. She wanted to ask! But I shrugged, “What? I can’t hear anything.”

“You can’t hear that ticking? It must be some sort of insect,” she said, but then she shrugged. “No, it’s too electric for that. It sounds electric. Like a buzzing.”

I peered through the glass back at the wall. It was there. The painting was there. Then I looked at her, “Ah…” I nodded. And for a moment, we stayed silent. It was dreadful. Icky dreadful silence.

 “I hear it,” I said. “It must be the door downstairs. It kept making that noise earlier.” It was not the door.

“It’s getting chilly,” she said. “Should we go back inside?”

I turned to the balcony door, but then I paused and pointed at the sky, “But the sky is so beautiful.” It was not.

She smiled and leaned into my chest. Her fingers intertwined with mine. Her hands were cold. The wind was blowing. I glanced back again as I wrapped my arm around her shoulder and gazed at the painting.

“Your heart is beating fast,” she said.

I twitched and brought her to stand in front of me. I thought of all the excuses I could make, and some of them were brilliant. Perhaps I should have written them down somewhere. They would be good excuses for a different occasion. Ultimately, I remained silent. The silence was harrowing.

Her fingers touched my cheek. Cold, cold fingers. She shrugged, “You don’t have to say anything, you know.”

I nodded my head and closed my eyes. I could see it, my heart, I could see it in my brain. A comical sketch of a wannabe artist of what the heart could look like, pounding; an image only made stronger by the beating that thudded in my head. And I felt her lips, she kissed me when I closed my eyes. I kissed her. And then she held my jacket and rested her forehead on mine.

“I should go,” she said.

I did not respond. Whether it was the adrenaline or endorphins, I could not tell, but my heart was waging wars. It was pounding.

She held my hand, looked into my eyes, then she walked inside. I followed her.

Suddenly, she glanced at the painting.

“That’s lovely.” She tilted her head as she spoke. Mesmerized.

“Thank you,” I answered quickly.

“It looks like a crack… how realistic. It looks like a crack on a wall, even the background looks like your wall,” she said, inspecting the painting. She walked forward, her fingers reaching, but I quickly grasped her hand.

“Marry me,” I said. Wait, what?

“Wait, what?” She asked, taking a step back all of a sudden.

“No, I don’t want you to marry me!” I said, “I mean, I just…”

She laughed softly and patted my chest, “You appreciate how I see your art? Easy tiger.”

Well, it wasn’t too bad. She understood. “You understand me too well,” I exclaimed. I meant it.

“Well, I must be going, but please ask me that in a year,” she said and planted a small kiss on my cheek.

She left.

She walked out of the door.

And she didn’t touch the painting.

I locked the door. I bolted it, too. I pulled a chair and placed it under the knob, tilted. There was no way to open that door. I pulled the curtains close and turned off the lights. I sat in absolute silence and darkness, working through the scattered thoughts and memories. I sat at the center of the room, gazing at the painting that was too dark to see.

But I could see it. A crack. On a wall. In a painting. On a wall.

After a while, I stood up. I walked to the painting that I could see the outline of. I picked it off the wall and placed it aside. I think I did.

I could hear it. Buzzing. Ticking. Beating.


Where the painting had been, the wall remained, and in it, a crack, identical in shape to the one on the painting, but so colorfully different.

I placed my hand on my chest and then lifted it to press on the crack. And the voices came rushing, and the crack, it expanded minutely, but it grew.

Written by Amr Abbas.

Cover illustration by Amr Abbas.


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