a story by Eric Kenron

The bridge-boards are red under her feet. Hems of kimonos brush the surface of the wood. She is wearing a gown colored like forest pool, lily-covered at dusk. She is the demure center of attention. Her mouth is hidden: she is the archetype of discrete equipoise. She is silent; awaiting understanding. In that way, too, she is ideal. She is reflected in the river below as rippled blobs of color. I whisper a wish for her silent strength.

Paul’s arm slides around my waist and startles me, even though I know it’s him.

Today is our fifth anniversary. The gallery was my idea, so the restaurant is his choice. As we are being seated, I see how tired he is. I try to tamp down my ebullience to reduce the discrepancy between our moods. Instead I am daydreaming through dinner, laughing inside.

My imagination-laugh is elegant and feral, not anything like my real laugh. I will have a cat’s laugh. I will say: “When I met you, your words were honey and light. You were fascinating and beautiful and I loved your voice and face and the way you looked out to infinity. I even adored your vagueness, mistaking it for thoughtfulness. But since then you have recycled your words many times, and your face does not show your feelings. I have discovered firsthand how far away infinity is from me.”

He won’t have been listening, but I will make him pay attention the same way he has compelled me to silence so many times: with more words.
“You are shedding onto me the pieces of you that you despise, and those pieces have grown within me. I have allowed myself to incubate the poison that has come between us, believing first that it was mine, and then that it was something we shared. It is neither: it is yours, and I am going to give it back to you. Hold out your hands.”

I will press my fingernails into my abdomen, cutting the skin. I can push my
fingers, then my whole hand, through my skin and into the pit of my stomach, where I can feel the weight that has accumulated there. I grasp hold of it and pull it out. This is bloodless, but not without pain.

The lump which I pull out of myself I will drop into his open hands. He will sag under its weight. I will reach into my purse and pull out a small, golden bow—like they put on gift boxes in department stores—and affix it to the top.

“This is you. This is the reflection of yourself that you tried to create in me. This is how I will remember you.” Then I will turn away, and before he can muster an equivocation I will hail a cab. The driver will squeal the tires at my instruction.

© 2011; Eric Kenron