You would be so surprised, I know, to learn the real reason I stayed with you far too long. One brisk October day a decade ago, walking up the steep slope of Eugenia Street, we passed a house with well-tended planter boxes. You glanced at the fuchsia nestled there and said, “Those flowers look like ballet dancers.” And indeed they did: the upside-down purple petals were tulle skirts; the drooping pistils were slender, elongated legs.
It was an off-the-cuff comment. Because you said it so casually, not looking for a reaction, I was charmed. I treasured it. It was like my grandmother’s china with the forget-me-nots that we never used—I was too afraid of breaking it—but displayed in the hutch she’d left me. Every few months I would wipe off the dust from those delicate saucers and tea cups with a soft cloth. And isn’t loving something a kind of use?
For years, I made excuses for you. I convinced myself that one remark exposed your otherwise hidden sensitivity, your capacity for love. At worst, I thought you were an unfortunate choice I must live with, like the avocado green we painted our house. I endured you for years, our bad marriage for years, based on that one lightly-flung simile.
So when I hear people bewail the potential of figurative language to do harm, that’s what I think of: you and me walking up precarious Eugenia Street, you admiring the fuchsia, and me, so young and dumb, admiring you.
Kim Magowan is the author of the short story collection How Far I’ve Come (2022), published by Gold Wake Press; the novel The Light Source (2019), published by 7.13 Books; and the short story collection Undoing (2018), which won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award. Her fiction has been published in Colorado Review, Craft Literary, The Gettysburg Review, Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, and many other journals. Her stories have been selected for Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s Top 50. She is the Editor-in-Chief and Fiction Editor of Pithead Chapel. www.kimmagowan.com.