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Live Encounters Aotearoa New Zealand Poets & Writers April 2023
The Meeting, story by Alexandra Balm
When I entered the room, it was already full, though there was only one man in it. He stood by the window, half turned towards the door, his profile dark against the fading light. He was a tall man and he covered much of the window, through which I could see the tops of buildings across the road and the last floors with their cornices and arches. Concrete and glass, art deco, cream rococo. A seagull circled a tile roof slightly above our level. It could have been tracing a halo above the man’s head had this been 2D, a plane scene. But it was 3D and the man bigger than life.
We stood in silence as if he hadn’t heard me come in, although the lock had clicked on and off when the door opened and closed in the resounding quiet of the deserted building. He’d called the meeting, so he was expecting me, but gave no indication that he was aware of me being there.
Was he ignoring me?
I felt crushed. I had hoped we could talk and sort things out, and now he was giving me the silent treatment.
As if I was invisible, inaudible.
As if my presence meant nothing to him.
As if I did not exist at all – my person a quantity that can be easily ignored with no consequence whatsoever.
Can silence be as devastating as harsh words? Can ignoring someone hurt them as much as bullying?
My face felt suddenly moist. My left eye – always the left eye! The traitor! The right one always behaved. Or took longer. In the past few months, I had become the weeping queen of the fairy tales that I used to read as a child, the one who wept with one eye and laughed with the other.
© Alexandra Balm
Alexandra Balm is the pen name of Alexandra Dumitrescu, a first-generation Kiwi who teaches English in South Auckland. Alexandra came to Aotearoa New Zealand in 2006 to pursue a research degree at the University of Otago. In the seventeen years since, she completed a PhD on metamodernism in literature (Otago) and an MCW from AUT (2017), worked as a matron, warehouse labourer, examination supervisor, administrator, tutor, department coordinator, and eventually teacher. In the little spare time left by teaching, marking, and preparing classes, she writes poems, short stories, and literary studies.
At the start of the millennium, she proposed meta-modernism as a cultural paradigm and a period term. She received awards, fellowships, and scholarships from various universities and organisations at home and overseas. Her work was published in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, America, and Europe (Czech Republic, Greece, Romania). She taught at the Universities of Cluj (Romania) and Otago (Aotearoa New Zealand). In his 2014 memoir More Deaths Than One, Garry Forrester called her “the mother of metamodernism”.