Men won’t return Margret’s calls. There was a time when hers was the face in that flicker before the bedroom light turned off. Now there is no beauty in the way her skin lies. Flesh forms her cheeks at irregular angles. It’s an unsightly shape, an unattractive shape, an unflattering shape. She has pockets of skin that won’t hold on. It falls from a chin-cliff like snowdrifts. Not dangling skin, but hills blister-hard in hues of flesh scrubbed blue. The sensation beneath Margret’s fingertips, when she closes her eyes, feels like something raw.
Children like to touch Margret. Children that are not really children at all, but genderless grins that whisper from the womb. They’re store-bought children in trees that never laugh, but keep watch from high, branched places. Children with plastic swords that never chase each other. Children that only turn their heads when father-mother eyes fall upon their soundless shoulders. Children with play-dirty clothes; children without debris beneath their fingernails. Children that stare from wagons pulled by children—twin heads with blonde curls that comb each other’s hair.
Margret’s work days consist of several pees. Every time she swings through the Ladies’ Room door, she examines the length of legs. Margret avoids entering a stall if she can’t see the feet. She feels safe between the shades of nylons—women with suitcases, dark trousers with designer creases. She used to prefer this time alone, but she considers now the safety in numbers of grown feet. Even when Margret checks stall after stall, a tiny face peeks: a child that scratches beneath the stall-room walls or a child with muddy paws that crawls under the napkin dispenser. The legs always appear from what looked like a vacant toilet seat neighbor.
The kinds of things that crawl from Margret’s skin always crawl back in. She covers her mattress with new sheets. She bought black this time. The whites, grays, and pinks sit in her trashcan. She curls under her covers, eyes dark with tiny lives—fingers behind dresses pressed in the closet, faces pale in the bureau mirror, and shadows like puppetry on her bedroom walls. She clenches her knees against her naked rolls of chest and belly. Margret has that feeling of vertigo, again. The smell corrodes the Stain-B-Gone in lemon scent. She feels her mattress secrets seep through the sheets. Even under the blackness, Margret feels the red soak against her skin.
This is a reprint of work originally published in Paper Darts.
Janae Green is a writer living in the Pacific Northwest, where she signs books at local Portland bookstores until she gets kicked out. Follow her @thenaeword on Twitter.