Stephen O'Connor

We Want So Much to Be Ourselves

Fiction from NER 33.3.

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Roland’s longing trailed after him as he walked, a sort of dirigible, attached by a silver filament that tugged and tugged without ever lightening his step.

“Why’s that thing always following you around?” his brother asked. “Haven’t you already got everything you could possibly want?”

Roland didn’t bother to argue, not because his brother was right (wasn’t it simple fact that human desire was endlessly replenishable?), but because his brother was a very small man with the jaw of someone twice his size. He walked with his jaw foremost, his shoulders hunched and his elbows back, as if he were being bent nearly to the ground by the burden of all the things he couldn’t have. If anyone were to be followed around by a dirigible of longing, it ought to have been Roland’s brother, but the air above his hunched shoulders was a void. And this seemed sad to Roland, although many things struck him as sad.

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Stephen O’Connor is the author of four books, most recently Here Comes Another Lesson (Free Press, 2010), a collection of short fiction. He teaches in the Columbia and Sarah Lawrence M.F.A. programs.