Friday, June 17, 2011

Shirley's Novel "Leave. Stay" LUW First Chapter Contest 2nd Place Winner 2010

Grace Christian

I’m right here, to your left and a little in front of you. There. The woman staring blankly at the apples. You think I’m trying to decide between Jonagolds and Red Delicious. I pick up several apples, put them down again. It’s not that I can’t decide, it’s that I can’t remember why I’m here. I can’t connect the object with the word. The word with the task. Apple. You reach past me for the plastic bags so that you can choose your own produce and get back to your list of vital to-do’s. I used to do that too. Apple. I hear you huff a little, wishing I’d make it easier to get to the oranges, but you barely see me. I’m used to that. I’m easy to miss, even as disheveled as I am. Pajama pants, flannel-lined hoodie, flip flops. I think I combed my hair this morning, but it’s too much work to try to remember.

You see me again near the milk. Or, rather see right past me. I’m only partly here after all. My body’s here, hand on the gallon of 2%. Milk. But my thoughts, the part of me that really is me, whoever that is anymore, well it’s a thousand miles and months away. In my head is a rancid mix of sensory triggers: his cologne, her chocolate hair, a used condom in the back of the SUV I still drive, tears in my little girl’s eyes, Christmas morning alone, mortgage payments, apples, kisses, slamming doors. Milk.

I’m the woman you honk at who hasn’t noticed the light turn green. The woman whose clothes hang like thrift store garments on odd hangers due to the loss of weight that comes with the loss of appetite that comes with the loss of a life I thought I knew. I’m the woman whose bangs hang over glitter-trimmed glasses hiding red-rimmed eyes. The woman who sighs at the energy it takes to ignore the cell phone with its “Calling All Angels” ringtone blipped into a flashing voicemail icon. I’m the woman wearing mismatched socks, locking keys in the car. The woman not wearing lipstick on dry lips from which I’ve peeled layers of skin into scarlet splotches. The woman who shrugs and nods as you count out change because I haven’t heard a word you’ve said through the drive-up window. The woman who pays, but drives off without the Happy Meals. Who sits in the car in the driveway for 20 minutes until the porch light comes on and a boy who looks familiar walks to my window. “Mom. Mom. Mom!

You forgot milk.”