“Ships In The Night”

I love a traditionally told story as much as the next reader, but as a writer, I enjoy bending the rules of storytelling structure. Playing with perspective, time, and internal thoughts versus dialogue in helping us to access characters and their motivations.

I wanted this story to not only follow Lalita and Sanjay in separate places on the day that both plan to end their marriage, albeit in dramatically different ways, but I wanted their realities to be conveyed in the manner in which they uniquely experience them. As we, the readers, occupy both of their distinct spaces in the narrative, we find ourselves as limited as they are in their failing efforts to understand each other.

Lalita needed to exist only in terms of life as it is lived inside her mind and her interaction with the setting, her physical surroundings, while Sanjay exists only in terms of his dialogue and physical interaction with Donna, the gawking outsider to the dissolution of his relationship. Donna is the reason I didn’t want an omniscient narrator because I like that her intentions remain unknown, but her words and actions allow us to speculate as to what they might be. With Lalita, in order to occupy her thoughts and feelings, we are treated to a much more intimate close third than we are with Sanjay. We struggle to empathize with him as easily, since we get to hear him talk about his side, rather than inhabit his body and feel with him. This is another way of viewing the widening chasm in their marriage. She believes he’s incapable of feeling and he believes she’s incapable of living. Both are right and wrong to varying degrees, as is the case in almost all floundering relationships, particularly those that are ripped apart by tragedy like this couple.

Such grief can divide or unite and the closing notes in section VII are meant to open and explore the question of if Sanjay and Lalita remain divided, or if each of their final thoughts and actions can bring them back to one another, in this world or another, after the story ends.

In terms of the imagery revolving around the banks of the Delaware River, as eerie as it was for me given what Lalita is there to do, I needed to choose a spot where I had actually sat many a time, only once in the dead of winter, at Washington’s Crossing, near my childhood home. Even though I no longer reside in Pennsylvania, that place and its beauty will always live in my bones and stories of mine tend to come to life much more when set there. For me, the river is as much a character in this story as the people. 

I was thrilled when Chris gave this piece a home at Fiction Southeast.

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About Anna Vangala Jones

Anna Vangala Jones’s fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in The MacGuffin, Kartika Review, The Airgonaut, and The Fem. Her stories have earned honorable mention at Glimmer Train and placed as finalist and semi-finalist at Gigantic Sequins, American Short Fiction, and Ruminate. She will be pursuing her MFA in Fiction at Antioch University Los Angeles. Visit her online at annavangalajones.wordpress.com and find her on Twitter @anniejo_17.