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How to have an affair as a person other than yourself

Jason Jackson

They only talk at night, and her phone gets hot in her hand.

‘Where are you?’ she says, and he’ll be walking the dog, or heading to the shop, sitting in the car with the engine idling because it’s hard for him to get away.

They tell each other childhood memories, and recently she’s started to make hers up. ‘I had to wear a body-brace when I was five,’ she says. ‘My spine was all twisted.’

This story makes him cry, and she wonders if he’s strong enough, if she can love a man who’s so empathetic. She got the idea for the brace from reading about Andy Warhol, who took a bullet to the gut and had to wear a surgical corset for the rest of his life.

Sometimes she believes the things she says as she lies on her bed, staring at the ceiling, listening to the person she has momentarily become.

Tonight, she tells him how the block of flats she lived in when she was twelve had to be demolished, how she went to live up the road with her gran, how she walked past the remains of the block one day and saw her old bedroom — with the pink flowers on the peeling orange wallpaper — through the hole where the side of the building had been ripped away.

‘You poor thing,’ he says, and she sighs. The image comes from a photograph she saw online — Manchester or Glasgow, the early seventies — and she considers admitting to the lie, imagining what might come next.

‘I never see you,’ she says, and it’s always, maybe Saturday, or hopefully next week, and later she falls asleep, holding the cooling phone, promising herself it’s the last time she’ll call.

Jason Jackson's prize-winning fiction appears regularly in print and online. Recently his work has featured in Fractured Lit, Craft Literary and the charity anthology You Are Not Alone, Jason’s story Mess of Love was awarded 3rd place in the 2020 Retreat West Short Story Competition and his flash In my dream I see my son is featured in Best Microfictions 2020. Jason is also a photographer, and his prose/photography piece The Unit is published by A3 Press. Follow Jason on Twitter @jj_fiction

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