‘What I Hear’ by Mary Robison

What I Hear by Mary Robison, 1998

The magic trick:

Portraying loneliness through a woman’s two troubled relationships

Mary Robison takes us to Anchorage today in this very short short story. The narrator shows us glimpses of two relationships – that with her daughter, and that with her almost-boyfriend.

Neither is in good shape.

She’s competing for their attention. Their distractions are very different, but the same dissatisfied feeling of disconnect is the same. As a story, it makes for an interesting comparison.

And that’s quite a trick on Robison’s part.

The selection:

“Am I bothering you?” I ask her. If I am, she doesn’t say. Should I ask her again to open these crinkly presents I’ve brought? She’s in something like pain when it comes to opening gifts, so I really have to think. Or I can be quiet. I don’t need entertainment. That pretty hair barrette is sliding down. No, I won’t touch it.

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