about the author

Katherine Forbes Riley is a computational linguist and writer in Vermont. A Dartmouth College graduate with a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania, her academic writing appears in many places. Her creative writing appears in Fiction Southeast, Halfway Down The Stairs, NOÖ, Spartan, Crack the Spine, Storyscape, Whiskey Island, Lunch Ticket, Eunoia Review, Literary Orphans, Eclectica, BlazeVOX, McNeese Review, Akashic Books, and Buffalo Almanack, from whom she received the Inkslinger’s Award.


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Infinite Loop 

Katherine Forbes Riley



x = 1;
while (x < infinity){

do{


take your son to his first piano lesson. keep an eye on him from the anteroom while you talk superficially to the teacher’s wife and your two-year-old daughter and her two-year-old son color together on the floor. watch in horror as he suddenly stabs her in the eye with a colored pencil. squeeze your screaming daughter to your chest while picturing the eyeball puncture, the agonizing pain, the permanent blindness, and all the ways you should have prevented them. say, “what do i do?” over and over to the teacher’s wife, who is now crouching beside you. barely notice that she’s about to cry, that she hardly chastised her son at all, that he’s toddling around now as if nothing’s wrong. when she says, “you have to look,” try to pull your daughter’s hands from her eye. hear her moan as she resists. try harder. feel her crying intensify. hear a new voice say, “on monday, the froggie ate a big green caterpillar,” and look up in surprise at your son’s music teacher standing there with a children’s book shaped like a frog, the pages all its mouth, the hot pink sparkly tongue dangling above the fat green caterpillar. feel more than see your daughter look up too, and remove her hands from her eye;


x = x + 1;
}

do{


not cancel your son’s piano lessons. be happy about how much he is enjoying them. continue taking your daughter along and make an extra effort to be nice to his teacher’s wife while the scratch that missed your daughter’s eyeball by barely a millimeter heals. keep talking to her until you realize you actually really, really like her. let your daughter play with her son again. watch them carefully but pretend you don’t see how mad he gets when she plays with his toys, how his mother distracts him just in time;


x = x + 1;
}

do{


take your daughter to the playdate she’s invited you to at her house. show her there really are no hard feelings. hide your surprise at finding two other mothers with toddlers already there. don’t think of them as her soldiers when she says they are friends from her pregnancy group. don’t think about how good friends they clearly are. don’t think about how they probably know the whole story. don’t think that one of them seems to be giving you the cold shoulder. don’t think your shirt is too pretty or your shorts are too short or your legs are too thin and tanned. don’t notice how none of them have lost the baby weight yet. or that that one is definitely giving you the cold shoulder. hardly notice your son’s teacher is there too, or that he is the only one not acting uncomfortable around you. hardly notice that he’s looking at you a lot, or that it’s in such an open, smiling way. feel like he’s trying to balance the equation. tell him again as you all walk to the park how much your son loves his lessons. try not to show how afraid you are when your daughter climbs the play structure with his son and he tries to push her off. feel better when the teacher rushes forward, and thereafter closely monitors the situation. listen to the other mothers and slowly realize he probably feels left out too. when he talks to you realize you are enjoying it. don’t let the other mothers make you feel as if simply because you are female and he is male you are doing something wrong.


x = x + 1;
}

do{


continue going to your son’s piano lessons. barely notice when the teacher’s wife stops coming, or that the teacher talks to you so much more when she is not around. begin to feel the space as his, notice the books, the instruments and amps scattered about the floor, the posters on the walls. be struck often by what an amazing musician he is. wonder things about him during the lesson, and when you discuss your son’s progress with him at the end, pay attention to the line of his body under his clothes, his strong arms and fingers. feel something without being able to define it (a heightened awareness.*? a current.*?) and wonder if he feels it too;


x = x + 1;
}

do{


be surprised when his wife starts coming to lessons again. do not show disappointment. pretend not to feel her presence like creeping fingers behind you when you talk to her husband at the end. notice he doesn’t look at you anymore. do not look at him either. talk to her, and laugh with her. realize she is actually pretty, and cool. go on more playdates with her, to parks and swimming holes. watch her play with your children and see how much they like her. alone, recall the current you felt and feel shame.


x = x + 1;
}

do{


pretend you don’t feel thrills climbing up you like fire whenever you don’t see her car in the lot. pretend your heart is not pounding when he opens the door and his smile pours all over you. smile back. grin. spend the lesson in a liquid daze, immersed in his music and the murmur of his voice. feel like a goddess with your daughter in the anteroom. when the lesson is over (“it goes so fast,” he says) listen to him while he explains the beauty of polyrhythms (“you’re too busy to think,” he says) and then thank him. try to make your words convey more. raise your eyes to his. leave unsure of what you’ve found;


x = x + 1;
}

do{

consider all possibilities. slowly come to recognize how well he and his wife complement each other, complete each other, just as you and your husband do. realize you could never be that person for him, nor he for you. pray that he does not leave her. contemplate the idea of a dalliance, but only if it will not be disruptive to either family. she has told you he is good at compartmentalizing. ask yourself if you can be too.


x = x + 1;
}

do{


practice with your son every day. let the music fill you. let the current flow. obsess over its intensity. let it torture you. seek its source in childhood, and the eyeball trauma with his son. feel it surge during arguments with your husband, and lovemaking too. suddenly comprehend with a sense of ice dumped over you that it is all in your imagination. he may find you attractive but he doesn’t contemplate it with the same depth and complexity as you. possibly he is even embarrassed by you. feel more ice considering how you’ve become a kind of stalker, interpreting everything he does in relation to you. recall that all the men you’ve ever loved were dumber than you. feel like an evil temptress. feel like eye candy. resolve to pinch your inner thigh hard every time you think of him. recall ‘psychological sublimation’ and feel resolute. recall ‘death in venice’ and ‘courtly love’ and feel comforted that nothing will ever come of it. feel sadness too. recognize the strain of sorrow in his music. realize how often this must happen to him. think, i am an artist, and he is an artist, and we occupy these deep spaces alone. think of him—no, the current itself—as your muse.


x = x + 1;
repeat;
}

}





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