I am watching myself. From way over here.
Look at me. Ridiculous. I’m nothing but a bad Rom Com. I would walk out if I could.
This one’s name is Harry. Whatever. I’ll have to forget it soon enough.
You take my Mom, for example. She knew a good over when she saw it. First oof of another woman on my father’s collar and she was off like bam! Left the baked beans boiling in a pot.
Harry is giving me flowers. Look at me, softening, my shoulders relaxing, my sniffer going numb. I am watching how I don’t see him pull out his phone, texting texting. Who is he texting?
My mother told me not to look in the mirror. She said I wasn’t pretty and she didn’t want me telling this to myself every day. I asked her if I looked more like her or my father. You look like a heartache is all she said.
Soon after she said that, I saw myself in a store glass. It was only an outline, but enough to see that I didn’t look like a heartache, even though I wasn’t sure what that meant. I went inside the store. I bought my mother cigarettes like she asked and went home. I was going to tell her she was wrong about the heartache thing. I wanted to tell her. I would tell her. Someday I would watch myself tell her.
Even from here, I see how bored Harry is. I see myself sensing this and so I do what I always do. I ask and ask. He says nothing and nothing. I say I made blueberry pie. It’s your favorite, right? Harry going stabby and pushing the pie around the plate and then oops! Emergency. Gotta go, he says. Harry sells paper goods. I wonder what a paper emergency would be. The me I am watching is wondering that. The me over here knows better.
My Mom knew better. Not about my dad, though. Yes, she left him, left us, as soon as she saw the other woman on his collar but there was so much before. I saw it. Saw it when he drove me over to soccer practice and he leaned in too close to our coach, Miss Williams. And another time, and the time before that. My father never seeing how I was watching.
I watched my father die in the hospital. Car crash. Texting and took his eyes off the road. I called my mother to tell her. She had given me her number for emergencies. Your father’s death, she said, is not an emergency.
Harry is gone now. I look at the space he left behind. I look at how I smell the flowers and stroke the flowers waiting for them to come alive and give me love. I watch how patient I can be. I look at those flowers even as I wash the dishes, scrub blueberry off the dessert plates. I walk by the hallway mirror, quick glance at the tracks of mascara on my cheeks. Then even closer. I am watching myself watching myself. I hear my mother in my head, don’t look, don’t look, she is saying. I turn away and grab a bottle of wine.
It’s later that night and I watch myself sleeping. I look at the empty bottle of wine by my bed. I watch how I fell asleep in my clothes, my makeup still on. I look at how I’m clutching two of the carnations from the bouquet Harry left me. I get this way about the things men give me, that their touch is still on them, that their breath is still on them and how that is the only part of them I will ever really have.
My mother was right, I do look like a heartache.
I crawl into the bed next to myself. I listen to the drunken whisper of my own sleep. I crawl back into myself through a dream. A simple one about mothers and flowers and fathers and blueberry. When I wake in the morning, I won’t check my phone to see if Harry has called, but instead I will walk myself over to the mirror. I will look at myself now through my own eyes and when I start to shy from my reflection, I will turn my face forward, and hold it there if I have to in my own invisible hands.
Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and many others. Her latest books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press,) The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction,) and (The Theory of Flesh.) Her chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) will be published by ELJ September, 2021. She lives in NYC.
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