by Mary Grimm
I SAW YOU in a dream last night, which is the only place I’ll ever see you. You said that I didn’t know you, that I had never known you.
Back then, we existed on inside jokes, made up words, secret rituals. We planned to take over the world, for a certain value of that. You taught me to roll up my uniform skirt, roll a joint, roll my eyes in a flirtatious way.
We came together on the bus every morning with a burst of happiness. We met in the cafeteria every noon for the joy of discarding our packed lunches in favor of chips and candy. Your mother gave you stuffed dumplings, and mine, meatloaf sandwiches spread with their own grease. The city could have been fed by what we threw away.
We stole things sometimes. Do you still do that? I like to think of you in a store at the mall, your sly hands slipping something small and shiny into your pocket. I like to think of you laughing to yourself when a security guard nods at you, respectfully calling you ma’am. If only he knew your wild spirit.
I know some things about you. You lived on a farm for a while. You managed a campground. I’m sure you married more than once, for it’s not like you to be constant. You’ve surely stolen people from their lovers because you’ve always known how. Do you remember that boy with curly hair and a long jaw? You threw a shoe at him at a dance, which was a scandal at the time, then dated him for a month before you lost interest. I’ve forgiven you for him, in case you wondered.
If we could see each other one more time, what would you say? Would the touch of your hand on mine bring a prickle to my skin? Would my blood leap at your glance? Would it be safe between us now that we are old?
In the dream, I said to you, tell me a story. Show me my future in a tea cup. You didn’t speak, but your answer was No. You slid your hand from mine. You were already turning away, the turning that is years old.
I imagine you living in the wilderness, your house hidden in the trees of an endless forest. You leave saucers of milk for the animals who come by night to drink. You sing in the morning with the window open while you comb your hair, which is white and long. You braid it with flowers and make a broth from herbs that have been picked in the dark of the moon. You don’t lack for company because the forest is full of traps and lures to bring strangers to your door. You invite them in and feed them. They sleep in your bed until you release them days or weeks later. They are found wandering in the trees, having forgotten their names, although they remember yours.
Mary Grimm has had two books published, Left to Themselves (novel) and Stealing Time (story collection), and a number of flash pieces in places like Helen, The Citron Review, and Tiferet. Currently, she is working on a YA thriller. She teaches fiction writing at Case Western Reserve University.