Since I’m currently torn between conflicts and thus not able to concentrate properly on any of them, I’m posting a piece of flash fiction in lieu of having anything to say. Except in a story.
The key word, in case there was any doubt, was “liminal.”
Tisha was looking thoughtful. That was nearly always trouble. Then she looked at me, and I knew that the trouble had arrived. “Why does no one use the word ‘liminal’ in normal conversation?”
Dinner was over. Dishes were done. Tisha’s focus was almost scary, but once we were finished with the mundanities of the day, then a brilliant mind has the chance to wander, and hers could wander further than most. There had been a time when such questions left me bewildered, but that was mostly because I had been both smitten and impertinent enough to want to understand the thought process going on behind those haunting green eyes. After a few years together, I had learned to just go with it. “I imagine there are people who do, yet I’m not surprised there isn’t more of it. You have to admit, it’s a fairly obscure word.”
“But why then? It’s so useful.”
I blinked. “Well, in the esoteric sense of useful….”
She dismissed that. “Rubbish. I’m not talking Schrodinger’s Cat, here, where you need to express whether the cat is in a state neither alive nor dead, but in a transitional non-state. I mean mundane things, like a bridge. Liminal is the best description for a bridge I’ve ever heard.”
“Because it’s neither one piece of land nor another?”
“Silly. Because it is by definition the transition from one place to another. Once you set foot or wheel on a bridge, you are literally in a liminal state, neither here nor there.”
“And that state doesn’t change until you reach one side or the other?”
“Exactly. And let’s not forget its cousin subliminal, which I’ll admit does get used more often, but only because it expresses a concept that is defined by the liminal root. Liminal in that sense meaning ‘barely at the doors of perception.’ Subliminal is something a part of your brain recognizes and acts on, even if the conscious mind has no idea why.”
“As in just below the liminal threshold, whereas a faintly red sky near sunrise is at the liminal threshold if you recognize that it’s red.”
“You got it. Now how about a dock? A transitional state between land and sea, or rather land and ship. Completely liminal.”
“Or a shading between the colors red and pink? Neither pink nor red?”
“Absolutely liminal. Or how else would you describe the state between one breath and the next? You’re probably going to take that breath, but if you didn’t then it’s not between one breath and the next, it’s between life and death.”
“Or a bottle that just needs to lose one more bubble of air before it sinks?”
She nodded. “Really, anything of that sort. See how useful it is?”
Tisha was looking thoughtful again. “Do we still have that bottle of zinfandel? I could go for a glass.”
“Me too. I’ll get it.”
Three repeats of “red” and one mention of bottle. Liminal? Very useful, but subliminal? Winner, hands down.
©2020 by Richard Parks. All Rights Reserved.