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From a Distance

What You See Isn’t Always What is There

by Michelle Reale

1. Scene outside: sunshine, blue sky mixed with clouds, a slight breeze. Aunt Bea puts a pie with lattice-like crust on a windowsill to cool sort of a day. The key is to find the things that comfort. Walk the perimeter of the house outside, commune with trees, give a nod to the daffodils poking up through the ground cover, the very ones that had been covered with snow just a week before. Kick a stone down the driveway, look carefree. Save checking the mail for a bit later. Smile and wave at the neighbor with two children even after the young boy throws a tennis ball at you. Yawn to keep the corners of your mouth from twitching.

Stand back a bit: look at your house the way others see it: immaculate lawn, neat curtains drape gleaming windows, pineapple brass door knocker: Welcome! Listen to the silence. There are never enough children around, they are signs of life. Grass to grow, which will mean more lawnmowers. But it is not your neighbor cutting the grass. It is a man he has hired. Still, you will wave. He will laugh at you when he gets into the truck. Driving away, he’ll say to the other guy: “That bitch was hot for me!” Careful now, not too eager. A smile can always be misconstrued. Alone. O.K., but alone. Not as it should be. Lawnmowers predominate. The hum is a comfort. Rain, when it occurs, will allow the grass to grow. More lawnmowers. The men who move them across lawns. Heavy sigh.

2. Fear paralyzes in a thousand different ways. Split yourself in half and pretend. Everyone is doing it! Laugh when you want to cry, smile when you want to frown. Try to remember not to throw yourself at the mercy of strangers and yell “help me”. They will not believe you. Steady now. Just keep going. Let your job become the refuge from your home. Bye-bye gleaming windows, immaculate lawn, brass pineapple door knocker. Work as sanctuary. Work so you don’t lose your mind.

3. Count the spaces between the ordinary, everyday objects. Objects. The word rolls around your mouth like something steady and true, until your “objects” have been rummaged through because he might be looking for “evidence” of something you did. The strange thing is, you never thought of doing anything until now. Then he will no longer let his toothbrush touch yours, and he leaves your hair clinging to the bar of soap he won’t use. You poison everything you touch. He will shop for and eat the food that he buys with the money that he makes. You really should be grateful for a roof over your head, you silly girl. You always did want so much. Too much.

4. Leave before being left again. You think you heard that in a song once.

5. Too late. It doesn’t matter if it was real or imagined. The last time anyone saw you, really saw you, was as you walked down your driveway, seemingly numbed by the drone of the lawnmowers. The lawnmower men laughed: “Nutty as fruitcake!” They jumped lightly and high-fived each other. You protected your eyes with your hands and you seemed to be looking at something far away. What or who it was is anyone’s guess.

Copyright © 2007 by Michelle Reale

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