The Middle Ground by Ingrid Jendrzejewski
I want to live in Berlin and you want to live in Battle Creek, but because we are determined to try to make this thing between us work, we decide to look for a middle ground.
We are literal people, literal people who believe in the power of geography to shape hearts and minds, so we get out our maps and our compasses and we determine the exact midpoint between our two preferred locations. Our calculations place us in the middle of the North Atlantic, just south of Greenland.
Neither of us is particularly fond of fish, but then neither of us wants to be the first to back out of a compromise, so we pack up our stuff, invest in wetsuits and sunscreen, and charter a plane that takes us and our supplies out to sea. We set up camp on an abandoned oil rig, and even though we have international data plans for our phones, we don’t get any signal.
When the plane takes off with instructions not to return for us for a year, an uneasy silence descends. You find that you’ve forgotten to pack your novel and I think I may be feeling a little seasick. However, we both put on our game faces and pretend we’re having fun, that this is all some grand adventure, that everything will work out just fine.
We are surprised at just how unlike Berlin or Battle Creek this place is, but there’s nothing to be done about it; this is where we are, so we do our best to make do. You make love to me in German and I put snow chains on the tires of our jeep, even though we both know we won’t be driving anywhere anytime soon.
With no friends around, no wifi, no buildings and no bustle, we do eventually find ourselves drifting into each other, becoming an average of sorts. As the days pass, we forget which one of us can’t stand tinned lentils and who it was who once liked Barry Manilow.
And as we become each other, or rather, the same person, a strange amalgam, we also find that our environment is beginning to change. At first we think we are dreaming, but as time goes on, there is no denying it: where we once saw only blue and brine, we begin to make out the the silhouette of the Rathaus; where we once smelled only salt and scale, we begin to detect the distinctive odor of breakfast cereal. We wonder with the same mind whether, when the year is up, the pilot who is meant to come for us will be able to find anyone, whether she will be able to tell where it is in these layered cities that she is meant to land.
Ingrid Jendrzejewski grew up in Vincennes, Indiana, studied creative writing at the University of Evansville, then physics at the University of Cambridge. Her work has found homes in places like The Los Angeles Review, The Conium Review, Inktears, Flash Frontier, Vine Leaves, The Liars’ League, and The Mainichi. Last year, she won the Gigantic Sequins Flash Nonfiction Contest and the A Room of Her Own Foundation’s Orlando Prize for Flash Fiction; more recently, she received the Bath Flash Fiction Award. Links to Ingrid’s work can be found at www.ingridj.com and she occasionally tweets @LunchonTuesday.