Mostly the problem was that I kept disappearing.  I’d be gulping a glass of water or roving through a revolving door or chatting with a man in a crowded bar and then I’d be gone.  Just for a moment really, but long enough.  I had to keep checking my reflection to make sure I was still there.

It was unclear what exactly had brought this on.  It could have been a number of things.  There were the superstitious possibilities — your black cats, your stepping on cracks — but more likely it was some fading sense of assumption.  Who could assume anything anymore?

It was those hesitant moments that seemed the worst.  Where I didn’t just disappear for other people, I disappeared for me too.

When I was gone other girls appeared in my place.  Younger girls, girls who knew things.  Girls who presumed to know things.  Girls who didn’t have any problems with assumptions.  Girls who didn’t hesitate.

They said “I” a lot.  They asserted that they were there.  They wore floral dresses and midrift tops and heels that were higher than mine.  I’d never even worn a midrift top.  I couldn’t pull that off.  My clothing was all regular length.  It was “office appropriate” or “business casual.”

My hesitations had gotten worse.  Did I ever really know anything?  Did my face and voice and hair and skin ever exist at all?

The seasons came and went and only old ladies at the park talked to me.  But did they even want to talk to me?  They seemed preoccupied with their pigeons and their romance novels.  Maybe even they were just trying to be nice.

The younger girls went out.  They danced.  They ordered drinks.  They said things like “I know how to take care of myself.”  They insisted.  They found men who simply praised their being.  They did not think about the old ladies with the pigeons.  They didn’t even see them.

Occasionally I’d meet a man and he’d tell me that he’d seen me somewhere before.  He was sure he’d seen me.  But maybe that had been an illusion, or maybe this was an illusion.  And maybe he’d go off with someone else, someone who really existed.  Who fully existed.  A girl who never worried about the unknown or what happens next because the future was something they could think about later.  In the future.  A girl who would assume there would be a future.  A girl who would assume anything at all.

 

Nicole Beckley

 

Nicole Beckley is a writer and performer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Fiction Southeast, New Limestone Review, Litro UK, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, 7×7, Tribeza, and The A.V. Club, as well as in many small theaters and on at least one public access channel. She’s at work on a linked story collection titled Perfect Miss. She holds a B.A. in Urban Studies and Communications from Stanford University.

%d bloggers like this: