I’d been wandering the mall for hours, so I visited the man at the Lost & Found. I’m missing my friend, I said.
You can see we don’t have any adult women here. He gestured toward the metal racks of gloves and hats. Someone’s walking cane. An umbrella stroller. Other than you, of course. He chuckled to himself. Harharhar.
She smells like oranges, and she has a mole above her lip she tries to cover with foundation. It’s too big for that, I said.
We once went skiing and she broke her leg, and I took her to the hospital. I stayed at her apartment after to make sure she didn’t trip on her rugs. I made Penne and helped put on her bootie.
I’d be happy to page her, he said. See if she’s still in the mall?
He wasn’t understanding me. I kissed her brother, I said, but he kissed me first. There was the time I drank too much gin and barfed in her snake plant, and the time I missed her missed her flamenco recital. I apologized, though. Every time.
Is she hard of hearing? We could send out one of the security guards to look for her.
I shook my head. I’ve sent her texts. I’ve called, but she’s blocked me on Facebook and Twitter and probably Insta too but I don’t even know if you can block people there.
What I really wanted to say, and for this stranger to really hear me, was that my friend’s silence was a flaying, that I felt as if even the air from the vent near his desk left bruises inside my body, and that I could not figure out how to turn back time.
Instead I stood there skinless, my useless phone in my hand, while the man blushed, embarrassed, finally realizing what I meant. He scooted his chair so he no longer faced me. Returned to his Sudoku.
Chelsea Voulgares lives just outside Chicago, where she is the Editor in Chief of Lost Balloon. Her work has appeared in journals such as Passages North, Electric Literature, Cheap Pop, and X‑R-A‑Y. You can find her online at www.chelseavoulgares.com or on Twitter @chelsvoulgares.