Lady in the Street – Victoria Griffin
Lady in the Street
I’ve wanted to tell you something. I’ve been holding it in and winding it up like a toy so that it marches around my insides, trampling my stomach and poking holes in my lungs. (By now they probably look like Daddy’s did right before he died, like rotten Swiss cheese.) I’ve wanted to tell you so long, I feel like the words are raised on my skin showing through for everyone to see. I can’t keep them anymore. I don’t want them. There is enough of me for the world to see and scrape and judge. So I’m writing to give them back to you:
Fuck you! Fuck you fuck you FUCK YOU.
Did you know what you were doing to me? When you slipped out in the middle of the night? You took my bottle and my heart and left your ghost walking the halls. You took Daddy’s strength and left his carcass and his cigarettes.
Now I wander around Chicago because it’s not Georgia, because you’re not here. But I’m not really here either. I don’t have a life, I don’t have anything. I work temporary jobs as a secretary, and I sleep with men who buy me fruity drinks on the weekends. I look at picture frames in the store and know I don’t have a damn picture to fill them.
I can’t look at myself in the mirror before the foundation and blush and eyeliner and mascara. I can’t look until I’ve made myself into a clown to laugh at.
I see a woman on the street sometimes, long gray hair and shoes too small for her feet. I don’t know who she is, but the way she looks at me makes me see myself. Her eyes are soft. They caress my face like a child petting a kitten.
She’s the reason I’m writing to you.
Because when I see her on the sidewalk, when she looks at me instead of passing with her head down like everyone else, I become very aware that I’m wearing red high heels from the night before and that I smell of men’s body wash. I feel a magnifying glass hovering over me. The sun burns.
I see her in the rain, no umbrella, her gray hair plastered to her skull. I see her in the winter, no coat, no boots, skin dark as if it were July. I want to ask who she is, but how can I when I can’t even ask myself why I screwed the bartender the night before?
This letter is addressed to you, but I’m sending it for me. I’m sending it so that I can forget about what I’m not. I’m sending it so that I can speak to the gray-haired lady in the street.
Sincerely, fuck you,
The Daughter You Could Have Had
Two weeks later, an envelope marked
Return to Sender
Victoria Griffin: After graduating from Campbell University’s English and softball programs, Victoria returned to East Tennessee, where she works as a freelance editor. If she’s not at her laptop or lost in a book, you can find her on a lakeside run or napping in a hammock. Her short fiction is forthcoming in A Journey of Words from Scout Media, Incandescent Mind from Sadie Girl Press, and Death & Pestilence from Sands Press, among others. Find her at VictoriaGriffin.net