She knew a lie when she heard it. She imagined his lies erupting in
gasps, replacing the atmosphere. As she listened, she drew a circle on
her palm, feeling her fingernail, round and round, tracing a spot the
lies couldn’t touch. She watched him, his eyes intent on hers, his
fingers interlaced, resting in front of him. When he had finished lying,
she put her palms down and stood up, walked over to the door, and held
it open for him. She wanted to say some words that might end this, but
the air was too crowded, and her palm burned, so she said nothing as she
closed the door and opened every window.
Following behind him, a jagged pain ran up her leg like getting a shock
from putting the pointy end of a safety pin into the electrical socket
under the table of Aunt Connie’s house. The beach gave her no clue.
Whatever it was had left a penny-sized hole on the bottom of her foot,
taking off all seven layers of skin. It was beautiful; bright red muscle
with articulated white lines in parallel geometries, all set in a
perfect circle. It didn’t hurt. There was nothing there, just the smooth
dark stain left by salty foamy waves, peeling back and forth, back and
forth. So, she went on with her days and nights, months and years, and
wore all kinds of shoes, went barefoot, got pedicures, and all the
things. Various people in various situations regarding the foot told her
it should be hurting, aching, throbbing, smarting, burning, stinging,
raw, sore, tender, troublesome, and otherwise. Never happened.
Gemma had a headache. The kind which still feels like a vise even after
one or two or three extra aspirin on top of the four she had swallowed.
It had become a daily habit, and she knew she shouldn’t take so many,
but the pain in her head never stopped, only oscillating at a lower
register until the volume rose again. She didn’t know if the headache or
the salicylic acid let her hear things differently, so when he appeared
before her and slapped her face, she could only smile. And say Yes. It
was the first word she could think of, and it erupted, red, in a perfect