I am riding my bike when I see them. The breeze slides
my dress strap off my shoulder and I am thinking of Richard
and the babysitter and what I will make for dinner.
There are two of them. Lesbians, that is. They are enormous.
They go into the diner so I follow. I slouch in my booth
and watch them in theirs. It is another planet, inhabited only
by them and their laughter. My feet are moving and I am
walking up to them. “Pardon,” I say. I even look one in the eye.
The other looks me up and down. This is how lesbians size up
other women to see if they are like them or not. I know this
and much more because I read Woman to Woman Magazine.
Next I ask if I can photograph them. I am not a photographer
but it is what comes out. I get to their apartment the next morning
and they are just coming up the stairs from being out all night.
When we get inside, they look at me as if for directions.
Watching them undress is like watching a set from a play get struck down.
This is the best part of anything that will happen, I think. I follow them
into the bathroom where, in silence, we run the water. We sit
until their fingers become pruny, and even then, we sit some more.
“What are you?” One of them asks me. “Cancer,” I say. “Leos,” they say
in unison. One of them pulls off her fake eyelashes. “So,” I say, “I guess
I should take your picture.” They get up, careful not to drip on the tiles.
Still in their towels, they agree on the stairwell. I lean against the hallway
wall and stare through the viewfinder. Their bodies are blurred. I click.
“How terrific,” I hear myself say, like a photographer might.
Last night I woke in the middle of a nightmare
where a friend was mocking me in front of a dinner party.
He was sitting at the head of the table. My friend had a smile
that looked as if each tooth were constructed out of sugar.
I knew that at any moment everything in the room could catch fire.
I had a proportionate amount of guests on each side of me.
It turns out no one could be trusted. I was the only one I could love
without being abandoned, and even this I wasn’t sure of.
When I awoke, I was not shaken the way one might expect.
I lay perfectly still and tried to remember it. All I had to go on
was a subtle feeling of shame. I stared at the ceiling.
Beams of light shone through the slats of the blind.
As I lay there I felt, not for the first time,
that I was not myself. I was feeling what it was like
to be inside my body, as if it were a lighthouse
and I could walk around inside it. I felt the edges of my body,
the space that filled it, its odd shape. I felt the depth
of my offshooting limbs and head. It was terrifying to be inhabited.
I fell back into sleep. The guests were frozen now. Spoons
were poised forever in front of mouths. Mashed potatoes
hung in between fork and plate like clouds. I ate in silence.
I felt the weight of my hand as I lifted a fork. I felt the presence
of my feet under the table. They slept like dogs. And I felt
someone staring out of my eyes at face after face after face,
all the jagged rocks and black waves the light falls upon.
Shira Erlichman is a poet, musician, and visual artist. A three time Pushcart Prize nominee, her work can be found in The Huffington Post, Buzzfeed Reader, PBS Poetry, The Massachusetts Review, Bitch, Psychology Tomorrow, and Winter Tangerine Review, among others. She was awarded a residency by the Millay Colony and the James Merrill Fellowship by the Vermont Studio Center. BUST Magazine premiered her new album Subtle Creature in October, calling it "a spectacular mystery."
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