Hillary Fifield ~ Nice to Meet You

I wake and search for my phone beneath my pil­low where I store it night­ly. Glare from the win­dow cov­ers the screen. I drop under the sheets, blan­ket, and duvet. I’m held as if embraced, but it’s only my hair that smells like skin and cot­ton.

My Instagram pho­to has twelve new likes.

My Facebook post has thir­ty-two likes and four peo­ple love it. Often, I will take a video from some­one else that I thought was fun­ny. I post it on my page and I receive just as many likes as the per­son I stole it from. Along with “lov­ing it” there is an angry face, a sad face, a shocked face, a laugh­ing hys­ter­i­cal­ly face.

 

My par­ents agreed to pay the rent on this small cot­tage. I have nev­er been fired before. When it hap­pened I could hard­ly hear my man­ag­er, and I couldn’t hear whether I formed a reply. She looked dis­ap­point­ed. I won­dered if her daugh­ters ever let her down or made her ashamed.

That night, I met some friends at the bar. They bought me a round of shots, and laughed about my mis­for­tune. I’m exact­ly the kind of girl who gets fired for steal­ing lip­stick.

That is so you, Janet!” They raised their glass­es and toast­ed my good luck. I’m a woman who can make mis­takes with­out severe con­se­quence. It’s like get­ting rein­tro­duced to myself. I pic­tured how I would look shak­ing my own hand. Later, in the bath­room I stood in front of the mir­ror and said, “Nice to meet you.”

 

This morn­ing, I stand in front of the bed­room mir­ror and slip a dress over my head. I take it off. I pair shorts and a tank top, and wrap a flan­nel around my waist. I remove them both. What does some­one like me wear?

I tug on a lacy romper. I am some­what sweaty and dis­ori­ent­ed, but this is mov­ing in the right direc­tion. I swipe mas­cara onto my lash­es and curl the ends of my hair with a round, scorch­ing hot iron. Twenty-one pic­tures lat­er, and three fil­ters after I am paler, blonder, dewier, I post this pho­to to Facebook. I dis­tract myself for a while. I lis­ten to music. I look for jobs as I paint my toes.

In twen­ty min­utes eleven peo­ple have liked my pho­to. I know all of these peo­ple, except for one: some man named, Tim. I don’t remem­ber Tim from high school and he isn’t a face I remem­ber from a par­ty, the bar, or a friend of a friend. He is excep­tion­al­ly tan with metic­u­lous facial hair. I scan his pro­file for pic­tures that would allow me to iden­ti­fy him, and I can’t. I have no idea who Tim is, but he likes my pic­ture. I study my pic­ture again: lacy romper, large eyes with long lash­es, and lips pout­ing and part­ed as if tak­ing a scared breath. I hard­ly rec­og­nize myself: the nose is too large at that angle, there is no con­tour where my cheek­bones are, and my freck­les have dis­ap­peared.

I scan through Tim’s pho­tos. He lives in a town by the beach an hour away. His mus­cles are mas­sive and look swollen in every pho­to. He wake­boards, and was born in 1981. Tim is four­teen years old­er than me.

I should send him a mes­sage. What’s the harm of it? Introduce myself. My friends’ toast comes to mind. It’s enough for me to write, “Hey.”

 

Later- that night I am at the sink. I live in a small neigh­bor­hood. It’s a devel­op­ment, where many of the homes look the same. There are nights when I return home drunk and near­ly step into the wrong house.

Through my win­dow I see a man, and from what I can tell he is much old­er. He is walk­ing by. I stop the flow of water from the faucet, take a drink. He stops and turns to me, smiles slight­ly and waves. Setting the glass down, I step out­side my front door onto my porch. I am above him and he is in the street. A breeze finds itself under my t-shirt.

 

I was once friends with the most pop­u­lar girl in school. I was thir­teen, and I wait­ed out­side before school to give her a bal­loon for her birth­day. It was rain­ing and the drops bead­ed and slid down the face of the bal­loon. Rain col­lect­ed on my rain­coat and slid down the back of my neck. As she stepped from her par­ents’ car, I felt a rush of some­thing. I waved my arms and the bal­loon. She smoth­ered me with a hug and my feet fum­bled in boots that didn’t fit me. They had filled with water. She gripped my arms with her own, her head lean­ing against my hood­ed one. My body was warm.

 

The man is still smil­ing. He doesn’t stop as I walk down the porch steps towards him. He looks frozen, the lines on his face carved. I come close enough to smell his cologne, see the col­or of his eyes. He holds a cig­a­rette. He scans my body slow­ly from head to foot and back up again.

 

~

Hillary Fifield is a stu­dent in New England College’s MFA pro­gram. This is her first pub­lished sto­ry.