Well? I need a cigarette. What did she say? I need your lighter—mine’s going through an existential crisis. Quit stalling. She said no. What? She said no, that I just needed to date more girls—and I better not start acting “fruity.” Fruity? Christ. Right. I laughed, told her no one says “fruity” anymore, and she slapped me. She said she had no problem kicking me out, forgetting about me. No grandson of hers was gonna be a joke, a queer.
I watch people, hearing clips of words and voices and connect them. They coast by me, by each other, as if on an invisible track, and for a few seconds, they’ll intersect with each other. But it’s like meeting in Act III of a play, and the first two have come and gone. I don’t have an act. My track is just in a triangle—work, here, home. Even if I’ll never know the real conversations, imagining these lives and the track narratives—it’s what keeps me going.
These days, I just go to the park on Sundays after mass. After Ralph’s heart gave out last year, I would come and sit here and wish he were there with me. No, these days, I sit and leave a spot for him. I trace each blade of grass, each one till I lose count. Every week it takes less and less time for me to lose that number, and I wonder if that’s Ralph. If he’s showing me the way I can see however long I have left. And I smile.
“I feel your hands, sometimes even your lips, on me but I don’t know them. The weight of you in bed—I don’t recognize it. You come home—you think I’m asleep—and I see you, how the streetlight paints those dark bands across your face in the window. You don’t look at me, even right now. That’s nothing new to me. I’ve memorized every pore, every eyelash, but I don’t know them anymore. I’m through. I can’t live with a stranger.”
Michelle Romero is a native of Lake Charles, Louisiana. She is currently a Master of Fine Arts candidate at McNeese State University. She has had microfiction appear on 50-Word Stories and presented her short story for the Sigma Tau Delta 2016 convention.