She told me I was like a wound to her, that she wished someone could stitch me up. “You make me feel private and afraid.”
I hardly knew her. What had I done? Had she me confused with someone else? I thought back over all my wrongdoings (especially that thing with making men laugh) in the last few weeks, mainly the week in late July, the yearly mountain camp with the same old families. Well. As usual there were a lot of wrongdoing-type moments. She had been there with her husband—hen-pecked, funny, easy-going. I thought he was pretty swell, the way a woman can think a man is pretty swell in a pretty harmless way.
I’d laughed at his jokes, funny as hell. Admittedly, I did not try to stifle my mouth. I told it to do what it would.
I’d snuck a glance at his shoulders. He’d been lake-swimming, then drying himself, and one of his shoulders was peeling. I squinted. I said, “You’re peeling. You should cover that.”
He trailed me when I ran behind a tree during a group hike. I scolded him, “Get out, nosy. Can’t you tell I’m peeing?”
And then at dinner—he’d chosen the fish, and I could not stop staring at his baked potato. How would it taste with the butter hand-whipped to a peak?
And there was his geranium-colored lawn chair. I asked him where he got it. I stuck my hair behind my ear and made a goofy face. Nothing funny or interesting, and that was the part that was funny and interesting.
And didn’t he say something about the “classic willow” and walk toward it with his camera extended forward? I watched him the way you might watch a gazelle in Africa, with appreciation, his legs and ass really nice in a great family-type of way.
Of course there was the thing with his lips, kissing them in the lake the last night, when the others were looking for bullfrogs and talking about endangered species.
“You have some nerve,” he’d said, kissing my breasts.
Had I scared her, made her hate me, that last morning in the ladies’ facilities, when she was brushing her teeth? And I’d said, “This is a terrible, terrible mirror.” It was one of those things to say to another woman who looks like shit in the morning, the way I do, the way we all do. She let out a frantic chirp.
It was later that day, when she walked up to me and told me how sorry she felt for me and my family. And then she said the rest of it. I smiled.
I remember smiling.
Meg Pokrass is the author of five flash fiction collections, two novellas-in-flash, and is the recipient of the Blue LIght Book Award. Her work has been internationally anthologized in two Norton Anthology Readers, Best Small Fictions 2018 and 2019, the Wigleaf Top 50 List, and her work has appeared in over 350 literary magazines including Electric Literature, Craft, Literarian Center For Fiction, Tin House, Passages North, Wigleaf and Smokelong Quarterly. She currently serves as Flash Challenge Editor at Mslexia Magazine, Festival Curator for Flash Fiction Festival, U.K. (Bristol) Co-Editor of Best Microfiction, 2020, and Founding/Managing Editor of New Flash Fiction Review.