No Answer

by Helen Phillips

There are those who wish to know, and there are those who don’t wish to know. At first Tem made fun of me in that condescending way of his (a flick of my nipple, a grape tossed at my nose) when I claimed to be among the former; when he realized I meant it, he grew anxious, and when he realized I really did mean it, his anxiety morphed into terror. “Why?” he demanded tearfully in the middle of the night. “Why why why?” I couldn’t answer. I had no answer.


Helen Phillips is the author of five books, including, most recently, the novel The Need (Simon & Schuster, 2019; Chatto & Windus, 2019), which was long-listed for the National Book Award. These are the first six sentences of her short story "The Knowers."