Erase

by Lauren Becker

Originally published in Mud Luscious. Erase was recognized on the long shortlist for Wigleaf's Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions of 2008.

She turns red when she looks at me, hears my voice. Bright red, like she’s being cooked from the inside. Her body, formless, clothing arranged and rearranged.  She might attack. I know she is capable.

I met her at work. No eyelashes. Bald patches on her head. A compulsive disorder. Heavy. A hormonal condition. After 5 minutes, I didn’t notice.

We ate lunch together almost every day. Egg salad on sourdough, no tomatoes, for her. Turkey on wheat for me. She announced in an e-mail that we were no longer friends. I eat tuna on rye.

When she looks at me, not often, she looks like hate. She must know I won’t tell. There’s no one to tell.

I think she wants to take skewers and pull her secrets from my head in a performance of multiple lobotomies. She will barbecue them and feed them to her husband, who won’t know what he’s eating. He will think they are mushrooms.

Her husband, six and half feet, bony, perpetually dazed. He follows her like a newborn duck that imprints on the first living thing it sees. He woke up and saw her. He will not imprint elsewhere. 

A smear of mayonnaise near her lip, she told me he will leave. I wiped her face and told her she was wrong.

She asked me what it’s like to be pretty. I said I didn’t know. When she declared our estrangement, she accused me of calculated betrayal. I don’t remember what I said to her husband.

I don’t want her husband. I want one that pulls me at his will by my pretty hair. I told her. We told each other things. Her husband was her first.  The only boy I loved called me stupid and shut my arm in a car door. She knows that, nine years later, I think of him every night. Every morning.

I pretended not to see her pull out, then swallow her hair. I love her patchy scalp. I love that she is pregnant. I love that she hates her pregnancy.  

The girls at work offered to throw her a baby shower. She refused. She and her husband will certainly have an ugly, lanky child. She blames it already for making her uglier. I know her. She will turn her rage on him. 

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