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I loosely calculated faint figures in my hand. The bridge to the east side of town would be down and crossable for a quarter of an hour from quarter past twelve, and for ten minutes at twelve forty-five. Even if I were to make the close of the first window, I would still be fifteen minutes late, yet the second window glowed in pink neon next to the faded twelve-fifteen. I knew I would be distracted by the world. The world requests time. I’d been listening to the news on the radio before leaving and had to spring back upstairs to note down names mentioned in the broadcast to look up later on. The bus pulled in while I was scanning the headlines in the newsagent’s in front of the bus stop and I rushed out to meet it. It had been the wrong bus, so I waited and wondered how long ago the council had had the bus shelter replaced, if ever.

Once on the correct bus I sat beside a woman completely unlike myself reading a newspaper. I sought out the important parts out of the corner of my eye. I completely agreed with the style of dress chosen by a French politician. I read all the stories about America. I had to unpick the tears sitting on my lower lashes after reading about a memorial service up north. I didn’t notice the woman leave, but remember picking up the newspaper from her empty seat to continue reading it. My fingertips felt roughened and dry from the paper; I looked around in my bag for hand cream. There is so much space between molecules that we never really touch anyone or anything. I moisturised more air than skin. As the bus took a detour due to the Carrutherson Pass being closed on Thursdays, which I’d forgotten about, I was notified that my book was ready to be picked up and would be available for the next three weeks. I got off a stop early to pick it up.

There was no one at the counter, so I went around the back to try and find someone who worked in the stockroom who could find the book. I’d ordered it because the blurb used a turn of phrase I’d always admired and I was half serious about highlighting any word in the book that I felt proved the existence of an ideology I’d been playing around with for almost two years. It started off as a miraculous discovery, a new way of seeing, but now it was the only way I saw, the only way I wanted to see. Not many others knew about it though, so I wasn’t a fanatic, I was just very interested. The depot had a TV in the corridor outside the stockroom and I leant as if bored against its screen, with a flat palm on the end of my stiff arm, to twist my head and shoulders in for the thrill of guilt and culpability the international news would give me. Television perfectly illustrates the theory of quantum physics; I birthed this intellivision in my head. Those pixels everywhere in every colour being everything—being there but not being there, I reasoned—they could be everything, though they will never be real, they will never really exist outside imagination. Possibilities mean so much more than reality these days. They certainly do to me. If only he wanted to confuse me or contradict himself and smile because of it.

I started walking towards the bridge, but very slowly. I was worrying, I remember, about whether things would turn out alright in the end, if things had already gone wrong sometime up to this point. On the way I saw a cash machine, but decided not to check my balance. It looke a lot like an arcade game with its fully-flashing colour screen, full quantum. Where is my money? There’s more money than there is money, there’s more money than is needed for the whole world to be OK.

I thought of a joke I could tell if I thought he was trying to make us feel serious. I read it through in my head while my facial muscles held a tech rehearsal. I knew I’d missed my chance to cross the bridge, but by this I had saved myself.

Watch the author read the text here.

Jen CALLEJA is a writer and literary translator originally from Shoreham-By-Sea, West Sussex, and now based in London. Her debut collection of poetry, Serious Justice, was published by Test Centre (2016), followed by the pamphlet Hamburger in the Archive (If a Leaf Falls Press, 2019). Her short fiction and poetry have appeared in many publications and anthologies including Ambit3:AM MagazineSomesuch StoriesFunhouseAnother GazeHotelStructoPrototype and Spells: 21st Century Occult Poetry (Ignota, 2018), among others. She was shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize 2019 for her translation of Marion Poschmann’s The Pine Islands (Serpent’s Tail) and was the inaugural Translator in Residence at the British Library. She plays or has played in the bands Sauna Youth, Feature, Monotony, and others.

I’M AFRAID THAT’S ALL WE’VE GOT TIME FOR—thirteen stories that pick apart the hidden motivations behind our desires, the ways we seek out distraction from difficult truths, and the mechanisms with which we investigate histories, power dynamics, rituals, institutions—is published by (prototype) and can be purchased direct from the press here.


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Partner to a press called Tenement, Hotel is a publications series for new approaches to fiction, non fiction & poetry & features work from established & emerging talent. Hotel provides the space for experimental reflection on literature’s status as art & cultural mediator. 

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