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  • Writer's pictureLex Enrico Santí, LCSW, MFA

Fiction: What Do You Think?

This short story, all told in dialogue, was published first in the IN POSSE Review in July of 2016.

“But what do you think?”

“What do you mean, what do I think? I think we’re living 8 hours away from each other for the next two years.”

“Tyler, you don’t have to sound so negative you know.”

“I don’t mean to be, I’m just being realistic about it is all.”

“It’s just that I’m not sure I really get the sense from you that you want to do this.”

“Look at this.”


“This, all of this, everyone on the benches for starters. One, two, three couples around us, this is like make-out central.”

“I know, romantic isn’t it?”

“I guess—there isn’t really much else to do in this town besides sit on benches on a Friday night and inhale diesel fumes on the side of the road, while the trucks go by.”

“Don’t change the subject.”

“From what?”

“You know, us, and what will happen when we have to go to our sites?”

“Robin, I know what you’re getting at, but all I can say is we’ll see. We’ll make it work, if we can, this is the Peace Corps you know. We’re volunteers here—”

“I know, and I’ve gone over all of that in my head, about the distance and all, about the traveling—I mean we don’t even know if it is feasible to do, if there’s a bus or what.”

“There’s plenty of buses here, rumbling along on this strip, gosh look at the plumes of black smoke coming from that one.”

“I know, environmental disaster. They’re that loud as well because they removed the catalytic converters. Years behind European Union emissions standards in this country.”

“That’s your specialty, not mine; I concentrate on the human condition.”

“Fuckin’ social work volunteers.”

“Fucking environmental volunteers.”

“Oh fuck this place, what is this? You move across the globe, land in a country immersed in post communist depression, the RO, Ro-ma-nia- hit training in a town that is a toxic waste dump, fall in love and then find out you’re moving eight hours away from them across two mountain sides. Fuck.”

“I don’t know what to say, Tyler.”

“Listen, Robin, I love you, I do—but this is all new, all of this. It’s new to me, and I’m willing to go back and forth and try, yes I’ll try.”

“What if we bought a place in between? In the mountains and we met there every other week. It could be our place. We could split it, or I could have my mom send me extra money to pay for it, mom will do that you know?”

“They’re incredible you know?”

“Who is?”

“Them. They love here, in this country. These kids don’t have much, there are no huge paying jobs out there waiting for them. Chances are this is it, just this, this is what they have: each other. Damn.”

“What about the house in between us two for us, in the mountains? I really wish you wouldn’t smoke.”

“Huh? That’s well, an idea—not one I can afford or anything.”


“Come on, don’t look at me that way. It’s just a cigarette. Okay, I’ll put it out—”

“I just wish you wouldn’t—”

“Listen it’s just important to me that we try. I’m cusping, I’m feeling that I may slide down in the wrong direction you know what I mean?”

“No, I’m not so sure I do, what’s cusping means? I’m not sure you’ve told me about that one—”

“Cusping. Cusping it’s—it’s what I call it when I’m right on the verge of depression, on the verge of going down hill in some kind of way. Down you know?”

“Huh—cusping—is there something you can do about it?” “Just stay positive, and try not to let things weigh down on me.”

“Do you know anything about your town, Tirgu Neamt?”

“Yeah, it’s tiny.”

“Well, that ain’t all bad.”

“I’ll be working with bison, and a national park.”

“That’s what you told me you wanted to do right?”

“Yeah, It is. The office is five miles away from the town though, and they’re all guys in my office. You know what that means.”

“Uh huh.”

“What about your town, it’s half Hungarian right?”

“Yeah, it is. Big too, too big. The heart of Transylvania, Tirgu Mures, that’s what Tudor said, ‘Oh, Alexis, you are going to the heart of Transylvania, how wonderful,’ I felt like smacking him. ‘Heart of Transylvania,’ what’s that supposed to mean, some sort of oxymoron?”

“Stop it, we promised each other we wouldn’t do this.”

“You mean?”

“You know, tear apart what we were given. Remember what Ken said ‘you have to be like a cork,’ and ‘float,’ that’s what we have to do, float through this and see what happens.”

“Weird how both of our towns are called ‘Tirgu’ that’s something, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, it is.

“What does that mean anyway?”

“It means market.”

“Market, huh? Ahh the irony of it all. The place where you do your shopping, buy the groceries, look for stuff that you don’t have.”

“Yes, my poet, ironic.”

“Tirgu Mures, and Tirgu Neamt, damn, I can’t believe they’re that far away. I swear, I thought they were going to put us at the same site, she gave me that feeling. She said, ‘Ty-ler hows do you feel aboot to being placed with another volunteer, a volunteeer that may be needing you there at their site because of metitcal reason?’ you know with that butchered Romanian/German sounding accent of hers.”

“That bitch, Catalina, damn, I’m sorry I shouldn’t talk like that.”

“Things could be worse though huh? We could be on complete opposite ends of the country.”

“As opposed to across two mountain ranges from each other you mean?? Oh, am I being sarcastic?”

“Yeah, it’s okay— it’s okay to be sarcastic—especially when you are living eight hours away from the person you love, when do we go visit these places, Tuesday? Why do they do it so fast, just tell you, and then bam! ‘By the way, you’ll be visiting these places, well, tomorrow, gosh look at the time!’”

“Stop saying that.”

“Saying what?”

Eight hours, you’ve said that over and over, it may not be that bad.”

“Yeah, you’re right, it could be longer.”

“Now, you’re just being cynical about it, listen sit down. Come here, closer.”

“Smell that?”

“Sure I smell it.”

“That’s the oil refineries they’re just getting started for the night.”

“You saw them from the train, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, when we came back from Bucharest I saw the flames shooting out the stacks, the fire, the burning. They’re immense. The flames leap out 15, 20 feet into the air you can see it for miles as you’re coming here. All of it, old and huge. They leave the ground covered in the morning, covered with soot, a film you know? I’ll never forget the smell of this place Robin. It stinks. All of it does.”

“You know this town had gas lighted lamps before Paris did?”

“Yeah, what good did that do them?”


“Relax, Kiss me.”

“So we can be like all of them, sitting here and making out?”

“Yeah, so we can be like them, come on.”

“Okay, let’s kiss. Let’s.”

“We’ll make it work.”

“Yeah, we’ll try Robin, we’ll try.”

“You think?”

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