Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Unfinished, from 2009

Girl with Green Eyes

I’m browsing amongst handbags when the phone rings. Of course it’s Scott. No one else calls – I’ve trained all of them to email – and he’s the only one whose call I’d answer anyway.

“Who buys these things?” I say into the receiver by way of greeting, startling the woman next to me. Good. The people in this store need a wake-up call. “The uglier they are, the higher the price. And what’s up with the straps? Is there a secret that I don’t know about, a way to carry these things without holding them in the crook of your elbow so your arm goes numb and you lose all feeling, and, I don’t know, you die of arm paralysis?”

He says: “I got an email.”


My name is Elena, and I’m a catastrophist. If we were in one of these twelve-step meetings, you’d probably say, “Hi, Elena!” and then sip coffee from a styrofoam cup held by a jittery hand. But it’s just me, talking too loudly in a group of shopping strangers that is unsuccessfully trying to ignore me. My cheeks redden and I can feel my heartbeat throbbing in my temples.

“It’s from Joy,” he says.

I go to slump against the wall with relief and realize there is no nearby wall, only a gray-haired woman against whose shoulder I almost fall. I stumble and manage to stand up straight. She snorts and puts a fair distance between us.

Can’t say I blame her. I’m smart enough to know that I can get a little ... intense.

“Joy,” I say. “Joy. You scared the shit out of me. You know how I am. But you get me all riled up over Joy?”

Joy is my sister. She is my inverse. She is the part of the battery marked with a plus. I am the minus. Of course Scott got an email from Joy. Joy emails everyone. She wants to spread her ... Joy.

He says: “She told me she wants to fuck me.”


I’m not just a catastrophist. I’m also extremely possessive. Not to mention insecure. Do I even need to mention that? You know those two sisters skip together hand in hand, daisies in their hair.

Except how that would never be Joy and me. I don’t skip, and besides, the bitch would never be caught dead with a daisy near her carefully layered hair. The bitch has a thumb so black it’s purple.

I’m the gardener in the family. I know how to raise things. She just puts her boot in the soil and ... stomps.

“Fuck?” I say. My voice is no longer loud. I am leaning against a wall for real. I sound like a little girl whose favorite toy was co-opted on the playground, leaving her alone and aching.

I am six again. But this time with a wedding ring on my finger.

“Where are you?” Scott asks.

Saks, Macy’s, Gremlins? Is there a department store called Gremlins? Do they sell munchkin handbags with straps barely big enough to fit your wrist, let alone your shoulder?

“I don’t know,” I say, and wonder how permissible it is for a 33-year-old to suck her thumb.

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