The Floating

by Brandon Hobson Read author interview March 15, 2004

His expression is suggestive but not threatening. You’re on your stomach, confined by the wrists, half undressed. He takes a moment to step back and look at you. This is your mother’s former boyfriend of two years. Your mother has left the state, but at seventeen you are able to pay rent by doing this sort of thing. Normally, everyone else pays up front, but he demands to pay afterwards, and it’s never been made clear why. It might be the intimidation factor. Yet you’ve gained a certain ability to confront your fear of him, to recognize it and remove yourself and rise from your body to watch from a point overhead at what happens. You call it “The Floating,” but others refer to this type of thing as an out of body experience. It never happens at any other moment, no matter how hard you try, not even when you get scared after watching something scary on late night television, or when you hear something rattle in the garbage outside your bedroom window. You think the whole process is difficult to describe in detail unless someone has experienced it the same way; after all, it happens only when you’re alone with him, when you contemplate your own demise and the room begins to dim. You wish your mother would just once return home to find you like this.

For a moment you try to imagine what he’s thinking. As he leans in you feel his hands on your back. Several times he’s told you this isn’t supposed to be humiliating. It might look to an outsider like he’s in the position of a massage therapist, but his hands aren’t moving or even applying pressure; you feel only his slight touch. And there’s no eye-contact, nothing ever spoken. His hands spread on your back and follow your spine as if they’re speaking for him.

At this point, floating can happen any minute. The trick here is to become fully aware of everything else surrounding you in order to be removed from your body. What is most interesting is sound: the noise the bed makes as he repositions himself; a dog barking from somewhere outside; the low hum of the ceiling fan above you. You think of nature, of trees and birds, an open field under a dark sky. Your point of focus is in fact a tree just outside the bedroom window, where some birds have gathered on branches. These birds, watching, are able to witness everything. They have a certain sadness about them, like photographs of a lost loved one. To understand such a sadness will give you wings, or maybe strange powers: invisibility or the gift of flight. The birds themselves fly away, silent. A ray of sunlight slants in through the tree’s branches and twinkles like brilliant, colored light. In Science class there was something about how sunlight reflects off puddles of rain for polarized light, vertically and horizontally. This light can appear in an instant, out of nowhere, and then disappear.

Your levitation unfolds much the same way: strangely abrupt, unannounced, radiant. It is the genius in this gift of ascension that makes you audience instead of victim. You see yourself remove from your body and slowly rise in an incessant silence like no other, floating and rising to suspend above what now appears to be merely a hallucination of an almost beastly act of violence.

The act thrust upon you is indescribable. His expression might now be a smile, suggesting either sadistic pleasure or hate. You hover, watching what happens. There is a structure to things, but no sentiment or reason. For a quick moment you see your body move, and then the room grows quiet.

It’s now only a matter of time. Outside the window, very slowly, children are being carried away by doves.

About the Author:

Brandon Hobson received his M.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Central Oklahoma. His work has appeared in print in The Southern Anthology 1996; Diagram: An Anthology (Edited by Ander Monson, Del Sol Press, 2003); Sleepingfish; and online in 3am Magazine, Word Riot, Surgery of Modern Warfare, Diagram, and 2River View. He has completed a novel and lives in Oklahoma with his dog.