He didn’t cry when he was born. The edges of his fingers looked like weeds, his face a deep purple. The doctor said “I’m sorry to inform you…” but his tiny chest stirred after all, so the room choked in blue balloons and teddy bears shouting IT’S A BOY. “I saw him hugging a tree!” / “Look, mum, I’m a parking meter. How cool is that?” / “I told him to write about his best friend and he wrote about his bedroom door. You should see an expert now that he’s young!” / “Mum, I’m a mailbox. Stick a letter into my mouth, I won’t swallow it, I swear.” Most doctors claimed it was a psychological thing, but his mum blamed herself for playing Statues with him all the time, for dressing him up as an ancient Greek column every carnival. His dad blamed the house, too fucking small, restricting Philip’s movements. His brother just called him a retard (and later, a brick). One time, a love-struck classmate, deeply hurt by his passive refusal to win her over some muscular guy, told him his heart was made of stone, something which Philip took as a compliment. During the holidays, he would turn himself into a Xmas tree and twinkle like a star. Most guests found him entertaining, although they did panic once, when he started peeing on their legs, but Philip repeated he always wanted to be Fontana di Trevi. When he turned eighteen, he asked his parents – he said he was joking – whether there was a way to literally turn into an object. Mummification was the closest he found on the internet but he had to actually die. Getting cryogenically frozen was not a good option either, he never wished to be discovered by future civilizations and just melt in front of them. He was tired, tired of feeling, feeling was too painful, words, too. He never understood how people could hide so much of themselves, pressure themselves to be totally different people every single minute, every single day. Better an object, he thought, hugging a book tight, better, better an object.
Maria A. Ioannou is a writer from Cyprus. She has published two short fiction collections (Emerging Writer State Prize 2012). Her short fiction ‘Pillars’ was a Best Small Fictions nominee and her work was longlisted in the Smokelong Quarterly Grand Micro Contest and the Bath Flash Fiction Award 2021. www.maria-alpha-ioannou.com.