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.