by Francine Witte
HE DOESN’T KNOW it anymore. For some reason, it’s hunched over and wrinkled. JJ always figured someday there would be wrinkles. He even started a filler fund when he was twelve, stashing the apple money his mom was always sneaking into his pocket.
This isn’t JJ’s only life, of course. He had the one with Matilda, and then the one with Jane. And there’s the work life, the race car life, the I’ll-put-it-all-on-eleven life. But he thinks of this particular life now and again.
JJ tells his life to sit down, I want to catch up.
‘You left me at seventeen,’ his life says, ‘in search of who knows? Who cares?’
How come you’re all wrinkled, JJ wants to know, if I left you at seventeen?
‘I waited for you to come back,’ his life says, ‘After the flings. After the juts. You never did and somehow, I got older than you.’
JJ, not one for physics or philosophy, says instead, I still have the apple money. I was saving it, but we can use it to make you feel better.
‘I’m past that now,’ his life says, ‘I’m tired, it’s best you leave. In fact, I was getting ready to die when you came in.’
JJ, not one for confrontation, looks at this life he doesn’t know anymore. Watches it curl up in exactly the same fetal pose JJ would get into those nights Mom and Dad fought like cats, or those other nights when some girl broke his teenaged heart.
JJ’s life goes gauzy and ghosty right there in front of him, his voice little more than a tiny croak. ‘Hey remember that night of Susy Benton’s Sweet Sixteen, how her hair smelled like coconuts and we were afraid to breathe because it might make time move?’ his life says, knowing the end is almost here.
‘That was a pretty good night,’ both of them saying at once.
Francine Witte’s poetry and fiction have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, Passages North, and many others. Her books include Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press), The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fiction) and The Theory of Flesh. Her latest chapbook, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fiction) has just been published by ELJ Editions. She lives in NYC.