Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Guest Writer: Grey Johnson

Staying True to Her

Not all of her extra weight came off after the baby, and it made me want to slip up behind her and circle her chubby waist with my arms. I feel protective when I look at her in her swimsuit. The cut of it stirs me up, it makes me want to kneel and plead, to worship her legs, even with their bits of cottage cheese. Maybe I should have knelt and pleaded before the baby, to keep things the same, but I wasn’t given the chance. Seeing that she is busy at the kitchen counter, I decide to let my arms hang quiet and still empty, so they can't interrupt her. My arms are not becoming accustomed to this, even now.

We used to lie on the sofa and watch TV together, head to toe. Sometimes we even ate from the same plate. Picking up the last bite, and pushing against my lips, she liked to command me to eat it. I like that, more so now than then, because it doesn‘t happen anymore. One summer we spent so much time on yard work that we sweat-stained the seats in my truck, and I had to sell it because we couldn't get the smell out. Whenever we pruned or planted, we didn’t talk at all, and the quiet was never heavy.

Then came her baby fever, which was unimaginable to me after all our time together. And just before the baby came, she moved an hour away from me with her husband. The distance to her became far enough away for it to be a pain in the ass to visit, but close enough to feel guilty for not doing it. I didn’t see her get big because I didn’t really want to, and I tried to knit a blanket even though I never finished it. I still wonder why they moved, wanting to know whose idea it was first. Probably hers.

Today we are taking her little boy to the beach with Grandma. Snacks are packed, and she absently places my towel in her bag without telling me. She loans me a travel bottle that matches hers. I am thrilled by these small gestures, and I feel embarrassed by my hope for some secret importance in them. Whenever we go anywhere, she always drives, and when her mother rides with us in the car, I volunteer to sit in the back seat with him. So now my role is to laugh and talk with a little boy as he points out the window, naming everything that passes. His favorite place is the mini-golf spot with the pirate ship. She says he likes to play there, pretending to shoot down helpless ships and steal their treasures.

You know you are lonely in the back seat of a car when the only conversation you can produce consists of one loud question and one pitiful response. My question to the front is, "Have you seen Avatar?" My companions put aside their dread, and tell the truth by saying no. I am compelled to enlighten them about the many excellent characteristics of the movie, the most important one being that Avatar is not hype. “Really, it is so much more than you might expect, not hype at all,” I spout. When I finish, I need a drink from the travel bottle I borrowed, but I have to get her little boy to show me how to do it. He sweetly shows me the button, how to push it, and says “See?” with perfect concern for me. I watch his dirty Crocs thump the back of the driver’s seat and wonder if it is still annoying or whether she has just become accustomed to it.

When we get to the beach, he rejoices in the water. She grasps his hand and he jumps fearlessly through the waves. I watch him with great interest, as I always do, for his strength and spirit are a beautiful reflection of hers. Their eyes and hair were crafted from the same precious stuff. That fact makes looking at him a challenge to my heart. Each time he crawls in my lap, and I brush against his skin, I am reminded that it is probably the closest contact I will ever have with her. Whenever we three are together, I think that this will be the day that I learn to accept things as they are. But as they play in the surf before me right now, I can barely meet her eyes and return her smile. But I do smile, when I pretend that what once was mine has never gone.


© Grey Johnson 2010

Grey Johnson lives in a small town in northeastern South Carolina. Her garden is very important to her, and so are her dogs. She reads and knits rectangles, but seldom knows what to do with them. She doesn’t have a blog or website, but writes some on the Six Sentence Social Network.

20 comments:

  1. Have read this at a gallop Grey and am now dizzy with the changes of mental direction you've put me through - setting up one expectation only to dissolve it and replace it with another. Love the whole tone of the piece too. I will return for a more leisurely browse next week. Well done

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  2. Forest Gump has a cousin. I wonder how he manages to earn a living and replace his truck because the old one stinks from "yard work". Unable to take charge of his own desires and seize the flesh, he is dominated by his lover and by the child they produce who, since he cannot open the cap on a bottle, does the job for him. Interesting portrait of a wimp.

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  3. This is so intimate, so personal and so very well crafted. Many levels of fine story telling here, the opening paragraph is a gem as is all that follows. Superb story telling here Grey, well done.

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  4. The path the character follows is given depth by a deft touch in the writing, creating that dull, aching pain. One can sense the closeness and the distance. Great tale.
    Adam B

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  5. This lovely pie tastes so much better as a whole. The slices you gave on 6S were heartwarming, but this is how it was meant to be served. Brava, milady.

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  6. You manage to find the smallest details and show us skillfully how they fit in the greater puzzle of the human condition. Reading you in a longer format was such a pleasure and the rhythm was richly soothing. This is a love story told from an uncomfortable distance. Well done.

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  7. Grey, I loved how this flows, and the raw emotion that makes me want to take in everything as fast as possible. Great job.

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  8. Hope I have this right- the voice is a female best friend (lover?) who misses her relationship with her friend, thinking what could be if she were hers. Beautifully conveyed.

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  9. I do not see a male protagonist in this, as Mr. McNiff did. I see a woman in love and missing another woman whose need for a child and nuclear family took her away. I felt lonely in that back seat, having to lean forward and shout about a movie. There is no percentage in falling in love, I swear it!

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  10. Grey- This is superb writing! I was immediately grabbed, taken in, and kept in awe as I read on. I will admit some confusion about the main character, but tend to agree with those who feel she is the best friend or potential female lover. What force and strength in female friendships! Said so truly and so well here. Bravo!

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  11. If nuance is an artform, you've earned a spot in the Louvre. This oozes poignancy, throughout.

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  12. There is a whole lot of heart and many conflicting emotions conveyed through this internal monologue and these everyday descriptions; well done

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  13. This is as good a story of loss as I've ever read.

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  14. What a charmer of a story! I know it's sad in spots as the narrator tells of the feeling of loss and prior happiness, but the last paragraph standing on its own comprises one of the most perfect flash fictions I've read. If you're reading this comment, go back and look at that last paragraph, and tell me you don't agree. Grey Johnson is a super writer.

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  15. I really have enjoyed this story. The separation of a woman with baby as the two bond rings true. And I'm jealous 'cause I like people who like the chubbiness of Mom's after the baby born.

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  16. I completely agree with Michael that the last paragraph could stand alone as a piece. The whole work is exquisite and descriptive as always.

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  17. You've done wonders with this peice. Your descriptions were spot on and allowed me to watch this play out like a movie. Great work.

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  18. This is an absolutely beautifully written story, Grey, the mechanics, the pace, everything. Flawless.

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