Interstitial Words


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Scene Title Interstitial Words
Synopsis Between the old wolf and the young cat, some observances must be maintained.
Date June 19th to July 9th, 2020

Brooks-Demsky-Lazarro Residence
Williamsburg, NYCSZ

June 19th
11:57 pm


Sent: 11:57 pm

Colette sets down her phone on her desk with the weight of every word she’s been struggling with for the last few hours behind it. The phone’s illuminated screen is the only source of light in the otherwise dark house. She is lit like a pale ghost, sitting cross-legged in her desk chair, dressed in black.

Through the window, Williamsburg looks like something pulled out of the pre-war past. Street lights burn brightly on the sidewalks, city lights glitter in the distance. With night settled over the Safe Zone, with reliable power now coming from Ravenswood, there’s no more swaths of utter blackness in the skyline. For once it feels like the light is winning.

Looking back to her phone’s screen, Colette’s stomach twists into a knot.

Read: 11:58 pm

Colette deflates in a release of tension, knowing that if the message went through, maybe she’s still alive out there somewhere. That, itself, is almost enough of a response.


Hana Gitelman does not treat her birthday as a day of celebration; once, she may have come close, but those circumstances are lost to time.

Nor does she — quite — appreciate the attempts of others to do so, be it in ever so subtle a way.

But Hana isn't the only recipient.

Thank you.
Received: 12:01 am

Mount Hope Cemetery
Rochester, NY

July 5th
8:27 pm

It’s taken a while to find the precise place. But Colette still isn’t sure if this is exactly where they were a couple years ago, but it looks right and maybe that’s enough.

Taking a knee in the grass, Colette lifts up her phone and takes a snapshot of a row of gravestones set against the treeline and the warm glow of a late summer sunset. She stands up, swiping through filter options on her phone, putting way too much thought into it until she settles on the notion that Hana doesn’t strike her as a pretty filters person. Unfiltered reality seems more her speed.

Colette thumbs onto the image, bringing up a horizontal gray bar with a text prompt. Sighing, she struggles with the text field here as much as she had the message sent earlier. Ultimately, she settles on a simple enough message, saves the photo, and opens up her address book.

Gitelman, Hana

Then she sends the image of the cemetery attached and a simple marquee of text halfway down the image.

thinking of you

Blowing an errant lock of hair out of her face, Colette waits. Her brows knit together until

Seen: 8:31 pm

Halfway around the world, it is two hours yet to sunrise: the hour of the wolf, the period where all the world bides quiet and still. The night birds have long since settled in to sleep, and those which characteristically greet the dawn are still to rouse; so too for the people who are the lifeblood of Tel Aviv, electric lights shining eternal over empty streets and curtained windows, silent sentinels against the deathly stillness of the night.

Hana Gitelman is not counted in the ranks of those dreaming peacefully this night. She has eschewed the light to kneel in the dark, meditating on matters most personal and most dear — and never mind that cemeteries nominally close at dusk, or that the single shielded candle before her offers only faint bulwark against surrounding gloom. She fears nothing in these sepulchral shadows.

Also, the candle isn't for illumination, anyway — not in that sense.

That the living here and now are quiescent does not mean Wireless enjoys the same degree of peace, but she has long since learned to relegate universal chatter to the nadir of her attention, tuned out and disregarded. It's the one directed at her that strikes home like a thrown javelin, piercing her meditation, shattering it to pieces. Unwanted, unwelcome disruption, on this day most of all.

Her eyes blink open, and she looks down at the candle with a slow, soundless breath.

Unwanted, unwelcome disruption.

And yet…

May I? asks the silence in the back of her mind, outside her mind.

And yet.

Do whatever you want, is curt, unfriendly, gruff as only Hana Gitelman can make it be.

It's permission all the same.

T.Amas sends by way of return the visual before Hana's dark-adjusted eyes: a single candle perhaps quarter-burned, housed in a box of brass and beveled glass, resting on pale granite base between two darker gravestones. Wan light glints back from inlaid lettering, hinting at the names of the deceased interred here — not that even hints are required on this day, not for one who knows Hana well. Below the candle, at the bottom margin of perception, are hands loosely folded over darkly-clad knees; on all other sides, darkness swallows all.

Sent: 3:36 am

A message sent some six thousand miles in an instant. An image of a place dark and quiet halfway ‘round the world transmitted from one to another. It’s not just a response, in many ways it’s a proof of life. Though Hana Gitelman isn’t held hostage to anyone but herself. Perhaps the cruelest captor of them all, depending on the perspective.

Colette settles into a seated position from her crouch, folding her legs beneath herself and back up against the unyielding bark of an old birch tree. She listens to the dwindling sound of birds as long shadows turn into ambient gloom as the sun crests the horizon and disappears behind the treetops.

Fireflies hold court in the tall grass of the cemetery, glittering like wayward stars against the encroaching night. Colette turns her phone screen off with a tap of her thumb, turning her attention up to the twilight sky in shades of violet, midnight, and umber. A few birds pass overhead, dusk opportunists snatching night bugs from the air. She can see them even with her eyes closed as they are.

On any other day that might have been it. But it’s the first time she’s both reached out and received a response in too long to let it pass otherwise. Unlocking her phone again, Colette settles up on her knees and unclasps an old, tarnished NYPD Homicide Detective’s badge from her belt. She lays it face up in the grass and withdraws a second, newer badge from her jacket. This one having a different shield; an arrowhead with a double helix. NYPD SCOUT on the banner below.

Both badges have the same name on them with different badge numbers.


Colette creates a warm, ambient glow like candlelight around the badges and then snaps a photo of them side-by-side. She considers the image for a moment, then hits send.

Sent: 8:43 pm

Closing her eyes has no effect on the digital data that filters through Wireless' perceptions; for that matter, she could not have said whether she closed them for sake of better focus, or from the wish to shut it out. Or perhaps it's just fatigue from the night's vigil.

Perhaps T.Amas could distinguish. It volunteers nothing, in any case.

Two gravestones for the dead lost long ago. Two badges, one belonging to a memory and the other to the living woman following in memory's footsteps, however imperfectly. There's a poignancy in the symmetry that resonates like a plucked string, echoing back history more felt than reminisced. There is a solace in that feeling, but also a slicing pain; family is a thing bittersweet, and always has been, for as long as Hana can remember.

She breathes, listening to the sounds of her own vitality for lack of anything else to hear in the night. No words rise from the silence of her mind, neither voiced nor transmitted; what is there to say? Trite formulae hold no meaning, not on this board; and the truly, deeply personal does not package easily into words, not for her — especially not on the spur of the moment, in the context of an interaction unexpected and unlooked-for.

Despite the singular immensity of her ability, it is action that is Hana's native language, more than any other — the communication embodied in physicality and presence. Yet the empathetic silence of shared vigil does not easily send across an ocean, save only as seeming non-response.

Within its own bubble of digital silence, T.Amas counts the seconds that slip by, in each one attempting to weigh the fragile threads of interpersonal connection and whether its own intervention might make or break their restoration. Every model comes up inconclusive at best — or shipwrecked on the skerry of Hana Gitelman at worst.

Seen: 8:43 pm

Colette exhales a slow sigh that blows an errant lock of hair from her face. Picking up the pair of badges, Colette rises to her feet and tucks one in her jacket and clips the other to her belt. She checks her phone again, considering the implications of immediate receipt and the delay between thought and action, especially where Hana is concerned. Computations may be instantaneous, but emotions less so.

Nodding in affirmation to herself, Colette turns toward the dimly lit silhouette of her motorcycle parked on the side of the dirt road that winds through the cemetery. The fireflies dance in front of it, like the beacon of a lighthouse when she is adrift at sea. Times like these.

Kiryat Shaul Cemetery
Tel Aviv-Yafo, Israel

July 6th
5:38 am

It's birds that break the silence; small birds, scattered, their chirps and twitters herald to the coming dawn. Highways to the west and north mean car noise follows soon enough, the quiet, sporadic rush of one or another early-riser beginning their workday. Then footsteps, Hana's own, the soft scuff of rubber sole on dirt as she passes between long rows of densely-packed gravestones, hands unburdened.

Shrouded in the gray solitude of twilight, she does not speak, neither without nor within. No more does her perennial companion, having chosen for itself the better part of valor.

Besides, it knew what she had decided before the woman herself did.

Hana passes from amongst the ranks of the dead to a broad walkway defined by concrete pavers, following it to a terraced memorial garden, raised beds of more stone holding flowers and bushes, a single modest fruit tree in the middle and far taller cedars at the corners. She walks to an east-facing bench, but does not sit, looking out beyond trees and cityscape to pale horizon and the gold-kissed clouds that float above it.

The first luminous rays of light to surpass that horizon bring no joy with them. Sunrise is but time marching on, incessant and implacable, carrying her ever farther away from the halcyon days when what Hana Gitelman loved most had not yet been lost.

She is more alone in the light than she ever was in the dark.

The woman stands nonetheless in the first light of day, solitary occupant of a plaza in a cemetery otherwise unencumbered by the living, at least for a few hours more. She looks at the play of light upon the clouds in the sky's upper reaches, and upon the distant angles of buildings and the solemn deep-green pillars of cedars much closer to hand.

She's used to being alone. If asked, Hana would even say she prefers it; other people make things complicated. And yet —

And yet.

Once upon a time, she wasn't. On this day — on a ghost of this day — she wasn't.

Still Hana says nothing. But nothing need be said.

Sent: 5:43 am

It’s late at night when Colette’s phone vibrates on the top of a coffee table beside a couch she’d fallen asleep on. She groggily looks around, squinting as she considers the monochromatic quality of the dark and the blooms of color in the light of the nearby kitchen. Rolling onto her side, she picks up her phone and its light bleeds color into the night around her.

The clock on the lock screen reads 10:44 pm. But it’s what’s below that catches her attention.

1 New Message

Swinging her legs off the couch, Colette puts socked feet down on the floor and hunches forward, thumbs working at the screen of her phone as she hastily unlocks it and tabs over to her messenger app.

A crystal clear photograph of dawn in a city she’s never seen confronts Colette, a missive sent in the name of a long-lost friend and mentor. She can’t help but smile, watching the screen with wordless uncertainty as if it might come alive, as if she might hear that voice again. It doesn’t come, and the still-life of morning in Tel Aviv remains just that; still-life.

Colette starts to compose her thoughts in a response, but backtracks. She wonders for a moment how someone like Hana parses something as simple as the three little dots that tells a recipient someone else is typing. Is it a tickle in the back of her mind? Does she see three little dots in her peripheral vision? Does T.Amas?

It takes Colette the better part of a half an hour to actually put her thoughts together. In between she’s written and rewritten them a half dozen times, made a cup of tea, and relocated herself to the kitchen. Full paragraphs are pruned away, questions both innocent and probing lost to the cutting room floor. How does she say hello to someone both so important and so aloof?

You woke me up, jerk ;)

Colette immediately regrets the emoji, and every second she looks at it burns. So she tries to distract from it.

Looks nice there. I miss the hell out of you.
Sent: 11:08 pm

By the time Hana receives a reply, she has left the cemetery behind, candle yet flickering in its glass shelter bracketed by paired headstones. Too, she has put the digital dialogue out of mind, her attention migrated on to more immediate and present concerns. The day has hours yet to go; it is not even half over, with nearly fourteen hours remaining until sunset that eve, but time does not wait for anyone.

Six am makes for quiet streets to drive along, a deficit of traffic on the highway; there is not much but the road, the bike, and its limited cargo. The greatest impediment now is but the need to transition through interchanges as Hana makes her way out of the criss-crossing network of urban highways and onto a route heading east.

The reply, therefore, comes as a surprise. Albeit a small one.

She can't help but wonder, briefly, if she might have preferred Colette not wake so promptly.

Can't help but remember the messages that insistently woke her, once upon a time; sent by someone else altogether, yet intrinsically linked by conceptual association. Hana's lips thin behind her helmet, and she says nothing — not to herself, not to her other half, not to the wind that rushes past and least of all to the digital aether.

Memory draws metaphorical blood; so does emotion, both in its presence and in its absence, each its own manner of tangling briar.

What debate takes place does so within the bounds of Hana's thoughts; there is no animated ellipsis documenting the fact of composition. Only the final selection, a response that would be dry enough to suggest humor if voiced, and that does not touch missingness with a figurative ten-foot pole.

Not my fault you didn't turn your phone off.
Sent: 6:19 am

The streets are quiet, the wind a constant companion, but dawn brings more than new days for Hana. It brings more than sequential experiences.

Dawn brings change.

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