by D.P. Snyder
She’s curled up in a ball on the floor. The tiles press hard against her left hip and shoulder. Her head is on the bathroom rug. She waits. She breathes. She does not move. She would like to never move again. She feels where her bony right knee lies on top of the left one, both legs bent as they are when she sleeps. But she’s not sleeping now. She is alert and still like a small animal in hiding. Her fists are clenched and pressed against her chest. It’s been at least ten minutes since the door slammed and now the house is quiet again. She opens her eyes.
He left her there, where the fibers of the bathroom rug look like a hot pink forest. Is it made of acrylic? Nylon? She doesn’t know. She is sure it won’t last long even though she bought it just a few months ago. Her things never last for long. She looks at the binding along the edge where the cheap material and bad stitching are already fraying, breaking away. She thought it would make the bathroom nicer, that it would match the petal-pink wallboard that’s printed to look like real tiles. But it turns out that the rug is a bad match, and it looks worse than if she’d chosen a completely different color. The truth is, she bought it because it was the least ugly one at the dollar store. Her stomach clenches. She’s always forced to make choices like that. To decide which is the least ugly thing, which is the least bad option, which is the least sad thought she can have. She allows herself enough hopeful thoughts to get through the day and it doesn’t matter if they’re true or not. That’s why the bathroom rug.
She refocuses her eyes and looks at the base of the toilet. Faces should not be this close to toilets, she thinks. It’s an unnatural combination. But life forces strange unions. Macaroni and catsup. Cheekbone and fist. Him and her. She stares at the rusted screws that hold the toilet to the floor. Hairs, dust, lint, a few scraps of toilet paper stuck around the white porcelain base. The sour stink of mildew. There’s a gray crack on the corner of the pedestal that was there already when they rented this old, rundown house, when she was just happy that he had a job and they had enough saved for the down payment. She was proud of her “infinity-knot” promise ring even though it wasn’t the least bit like the diamond you’re supposed to get for an engagement. Still, it was a fresh start, wasn’t it? She stares at the toilet. Every Saturday she wipes it down and within days it’s dirty again. Rusty things can’t be cleaned. Broken things can’t be made beautiful. Broken is broken. Ugly is ugly. You ugly bitch, he shouts at her sometimes. You fucking cunt! It’s hard to care about things that don’t look nice even after you’ve taken the trouble to clean them. She shrinks a little more.
She can see behind the toilet where the worst of the crud is. She hates putting her hands back there when she cleans. It’s one of those places in the house that revolts her and is weirdly scary at the same time. That’s why she didn’t see it, his plastic hairbrush. That five-dollar object is why she is on the floor now. Because he couldn’t find it. Because he was running late for work. I can’t be late one more time or they’re going to fucking fire me! And he yelled where the FUCK is my hairbrush! And she didn’t know. Well, now she knows.
How did the brush get there? It was an accident. Like the dull pain she feels now in her head. Like her broken finger two months ago. Like her black eye last summer. All accidents. That’s what she says when she goes to the clinic, when there’s no choice because it hurts too much and she’s afraid that she might not be able to fix herself alone. She says accident and the doctor frowns, scrunching her eyebrows together, then gesturing at the poster on the wall that says, love doesn’t hurt. She knows that’s not true. Love does hurt. All the time. Why tell lies?
She closes her eyes. She doesn’t want to see the hairbrush hiding behind the toilet, the grime, the rusty screws, or the hot pink forest. How nice it would be if she could change herself into an object, just any old thing. Then she could lie here forever, not moving until someone came along to clean, to fix, and to make her like new.
D.P. Snyder is a writer and literary translator from Spanish. Her work appears in The Sewanee Review, Exile Quarterly, and Two Lines Journal, and she contributes to Reading in Translation anWorld Literature Today. Her story “La puerta secreta” was a finalist in the 2020 San Miguel Writers Conference International Short Story Competition. Her translation of “Meaty Pleasures” by Mexican writer Mónica Lavín was published by Katakana Editores in 2021. She lives in Hillsborough, NC.