About the Author
Kjersti A. Skomsvold was born in 1979 in Oslo. "The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am" is her first novel.
Read an Excerpt
I LIKE IT WHEN I can be done with something. Like a knitted earwarmer, like winter, spring, summer, fall. Even like Epsilon's career. I like to get things over with. But impatience has consequences. That time when Epsilon gave me an orchid for my birthday. I didn't really want an orchid. I never got the point of flowers, they're just going to wither and die. What I actually wanted was for Epsilon to retire.
"But I need a refuge, away from all the . . ."for a second I thought he was going to say "togetherness," but instead he said "nakedness." "Does that mean me?" I asked. "I'm not naming any names," he said.
So I undressed for the orchid instead, and soon the buds began to blossom, little pink flowers were springing out everywhere. "I wish you had the same effect on me," Epsilon said.
The directions that came with the orchid said to prune the flowers after they wilt, then they'd revive in six months. First, though, the flowers had to die. So I watched and waited and finally I couldn't stand it any longer. Time to be done, I told myself, and then I pruned the plant down to its skinny, bare stalks.
"What happened here?" Epsilon asked when he came home from work. "I did what I had to do," I said. "The flowers wouldn't wither. But don't worry. There will be flowers again in six months, just in time for fall. If I'd waited any longer, we would have risked not having flowers until winter."
But fall came and went, and then winter, and then spring, the flowers didn't return, the orchid was dead, and for my next birthday I got a throw pillow.
Now that I'm lying in bed, I'm the very opposite of impatient. I'm wishing I could save what little I have left of my life until I know exactly what to do with it. For that to happen I'd have to lock myself in a freezer, but all we've got is the small one in the refrigerator. I can hear people coming home from work, they're thinking about their dinners, and here I am in bed, and the whole thing reminds me of a book I once read.
Maybe I should turn off the lights. Not that it matters, the man with the scythe can see in the dark, he'll find me no matter what. What will it be? My legs? My arms? I'm wondering. I wiggle my fingers and toes. The left side of my body's numb. The right side too. It'll probably be my heart. Before Epsilon, my heart was like a grape, and now it's like a raisin. Or maybe my shriveled tonsils? You can't trust those things.
It may take a long time before anyone realizes I've died. I read about a Chinese man who was dead in his apartment for twenty years, they could tell from the date on the newspaper on the kitchen table, and when they found him he was just a skeleton in pajamas. I'll wind up a skeleton in pajamas too. But, I'll start to smell before that, and first the neighbors will think it's the Pakistanis on the first floor, but when the Pakistanis start complaining too, someone will remember the little old lady on the third floor. "But didn't she get shot dead during the war?" they'll ask. "No," June, my next-door neighbor, will tell them. "I saw her last Christmas. Time to call emergency."
When I was a child, I always dreamed of being taken away by an ambulance, and when there was one nearby, I'd cross my fingers and whisper: "Let it be me, let it be me," but it never was me, the ambulances were always moving away from me, I could tell by the sirens. Now I hear ambulance sirens in the distance again, they should be coming to get me because I'm wearing clean underwear and will be dying soon. But no, there's someone else in the ambulance instead, someone who's no longer responsible for their own destiny.
It's getting dark, I'm trying to concentrate on something useful, and the only thing that matters now is to figure out what my last words will be. "The probability that we're going to die is smaller than e, if e equals a microscopically small quantity," I told Epsilon. It wasn't like me to say something like that. I wish I'd said something different.
I want to say something meaningful, make my last words rhyme, so I lay awake the whole night trying to think up something appropriate. I know I'll never get out of bed again. But then morning comes and I feel so hungry.
Epsilon says that, statistically speaking, a given person will probably die in bed.
Maybe I should get up now.
What People are Saying About This
A gloomy feel-good novel about the irreparable loneliness of being human. A tragicomedy of rare quality.