Sometimes things just work out, don't they? This month, the pieces I received for open prompt all deal with the inner workings of the mind — its wishes, doubts, fits and reflections. Enjoy.
Looking For Love in the Hall of Mirrors
by Nick Kirincic
I don’t like her as much on Friday nights. She dresses fancier, and puts on too much makeup, and laughs too hard at things I know she doesn’t think are funny. Her hair is puffier, and her voice is tuned up an octave, as if she were reading the news or selling something on a shopping network. She dances to songs I know she thinks are terrible, slinking her body around to imply a sexuality I know she doesn’t possess, walking a constant plank in shoes I know she’s not comfortable in. She’s nice to people I know she doesn’t like and ignores people that I know she likes and performs for an audience that I know she abhors.
I like her more on nights like last Monday. We sat in the corner booth at Mac’s, the half dozen other patrons lined up at the bar, necks craned, hypnotized by the game. Her hair was pulled back into a simple ponytail, no doubt tied shortly before leaving to meet me with the absent-minded swiftness all women had, a simple act that always seemed to catch my eye, their fingers working like a guitarist during a solo. She wore a gray hooded sweatshirt, the sleeves bunched up at her elbows, and apologized in the event that she smelled (she hadn’t showered after the gym).
We filled glasses from a scuffed plastic pitcher of Natural Light and she played Billy Joel on the jukebox. The cracks that had begun to spread prematurely under her eyes weren’t caulked with makeup, and her lashes were like pencil lines, void of the goop that made them look like spider legs. She made self-deprecating jokes, but not the ones she makes on Fridays, the put-on kind that made her sound cool in a backhanded way, and somewhere during her third beer, she started talking about exes, but not in the weary, jaded way she does on Fridays. Her stories and recollections informed a little on how the pigtailed third grader with braces had come to be in front of me, no less bewildered and afraid. On Fridays, she acts as if she were born into the world as a 24-year old, seen-it-all sexpot beyond the silliness of love, gin and tonic in hand.
When I went to the bathroom she had written me a note on my drink napkin, capping it off with a crude cartoon heart, an act that her Friday counterpart would react to with an eye roll and a fabricated gag, a finger pointed in her mouth.
“OK,” she had said towards the tail end of our second pitcher, clasping my wrist, trying for the second time to recompose herself from the type of laughter that induces voluntary face twitches. “You can’t tell anyone…so growing up, Melanie’s dad had this camcorder, one of those, like, heavy, clunky ones. And we used to decorate her basement with all of these gold streamers and strip lighting we’d found, and then we’d record ourselves lip syncing to ABBA songs.”
“No, it’s not,” she said, her voice muffled by the cotton sleeve she’d buried her face in. She sat there motionless for a moment before breaking back out into fits of laughter. When she raised her head she was sniffling and had to wipe her eyes with her sleeves. “We couldn’t sing, and we’d put on her mom’s makeup … we bought one of those, like, rhinestone applicator things and just covered a bunch of t-shirts. It was an unfinished basement … there was choreography … I need to go home and burn those tapes.” She laughed again, but this time more in control, putting a hand to her chin and shaking her head. It looked as if she was figuring something out about herself.
On our way back to her place, we locked arms, skipping and high kicking in near-unison down the street, oblivious to passersby as we belted out Scandinavian pop songs with all we could muster.
“WATERLOO! COULDN’T ESCAPE IF I WANTED TO! WATERLOO!”
Lying in bed that night, the beer-soaked breeze from her nostrils rustling my chest hair, I felt like I knew her, and we slipped our fingers together, and when I kissed her forehead it didn’t taste like makeup. On Fridays, I find myself licking my lips trying to get the chalky taste out of my mouth, and I’m not so sure.
On Fridays, amongst the crowd, she swats my hand away when I try to hold hers.
Nick Kirincic graduated from Miami University (the one in Ohio) and currently resides in Chicago. His work has appeared in The Cleveland Plain Dealer and McSweeney's. He thinks Nicolas Cage is simultaneously the best and worst actor of his generation. To learn more about Nick, visit his blog.