To find links to all parts of the story, please visit Small Cuts: A Work In Progress. Here is what Genevieve is thinking….
I had trouble falling asleep but not for the usual reason. I had hope. There might be a light at the end of the tunnel and for once, it wasn’t an oncoming train. Maybe having James for a friend was just what I needed. Losing my job made my social isolation even more apparent. I felt less of a person because of it. It was more than just a blow to my confidence or self esteem, it was as if without this job, these duties, I was ceasing to exist. I anxiously awaited the day when I would wake up next to Ollie and he wouldn’t realize I was there.
In a sense, the same thing had happened with my girlfriends from school. Over time, as we moved forward with our careers and our marriages, moved from one place to another, and yes, gotten pregnant —or in my case, remained childless— I faded from the circle. I had dutifully attended the baby showers, listened to the women speak in a language I didn’t understand, watched them coo and sigh over tiny little shoes and socks, stuffed bears and miniature bedding and blankets. With each one, I began to be less and less of a presence. No longer was I asked to help with the planning or decoration. Next, I was seated further from the piles of presents, grouped with the distant family members only invited out of obligation. I would sneak out early and no one ever noticed. My exclusion from the ‘mother club’ rendered me invisible.
I longed to be significant to someone else and at the same time, resisted it. Without that validation, it was as if I was no one at all. I had struggled to find that importance in my own family —as the middle child, I was left to fend for myself mostly. My parents had been absorbed in my older brother and my younger sister to the point that I needed to misbehave in order to garner their attention. Frankly, I didn’t have it in me to rebel too terribly much and as a result, was largely ignored as a child. So I found myself identified as Allison’s sister, Craig’s sister, Josephine and Steven’s daughter and now, Oliver’s wife. Who was the woman I looked at in the mirror every morning? Genevieve might exist in the mirror but she did not reside within this flesh. She was a vague, ephemeral force that flitted in and out of existence as she was seen and defined by the rest of the people who intermittently stepped into the same space, the same time that the force happened to simultaneously occupy. When the moment passed, when they moved on, she was gone…
If I had a baby, if I bore a child, I would become ‘baby’s mother’ —even less of a woman, a being, a self, than I already struggled to be.
Where was I? James. Yes, I had lost my train of thought.
A friend —that was what I needed. An independent source of acknowledgement, substantiation, confirmation that I was legitimate, valid, solid, real. And important on a different level than I was accustomed to. Men and women interacted with each other so much differently than women did with other women. There would be no competition, no judgment, no comparison to an ideal I couldn’t possibly achieve. I believed that James had the potential to ‘see’ me and not as the Genevieve in the mirror. I finally drifted off to sleep with that thought in mind —James would bring me back to life.
By the morning, however, I began to doubt. I awoke to Oliver’s soft snoring in the half light of dawn. He was sleeping on his back, one arm thrown back over the top of his head. I reached over and laid my hand on his chest. He didn’t move, didn’t shift, didn’t break the rhythm of his breathing. I had no effect whatsoever. The specter that was Genevieve did not penetrate his dreams. What would the waking Oliver find? Was this the day Gen would fade away for good?
I pulled my robe on and slipped from the bedroom. It was 6:15 am —too early for anyone in the neighborhood to be up and about, save for the religious and maybe the dedicated athlete. I made coffee and stared out the window as it brewed. Across the roofs of the houses, a trio of vultures circled. A dead thing in the field below. Were they waiting for the predators to finish their meal before swooping in and gleaning from the corpse? Or was there a sort of protocol they followed for claiming the residue of a kill? I didn’t know. I stared at them on their invisible, mid-heaven carousel. I blinked. They were gone.
The coffee maker had shut itself off. I had lost time. It was nearly 9:00 according to the clock on the stove. The house was as silent as a tomb. I hurried back to the bedroom and found it deserted. The bathroom was warm and humid from the residual steam of the shower. Oliver’s towel was damp and the scent of his aftershave lingered on the air.
“Ollie?” I called, knowing there would be no answer.
“Oliver!” I shouted as I raced to the garage and confirmed what I already knew. His car was gone. He was gone. And I wondered if he forgotten to say goodbye or if he had finally forgotten about me altogether.
Header image ~ The Mirror’s Eye, by Meg Sorick