Francine Witte ~ Blink

Lena was learn­ing not to blink. She had spent her whole life blink­ing and look at what she lost.

While her eyes were closed, even for that split sec­ond, hun­dreds of far-away peo­ple died, rivers over­flowed, and love, well, love dis­ap­pears before you can spell it.

She knew the risks involved with eyes always open. For exam­ple, an ele­phant could fly in. That’s what her moth­er threat­ened when­ev­er Lena yawned in pub­lic. An ele­phant could fly in. Of course, this nev­er hap­pened, but some­how the warn­ing stuck.

Learning not to blink took up most of Lena’s time. Somehow though, she man­aged to meet Ricardo. He was a police­man and this made her feel safe.

On their fifth date, Ricardo told her he loved her. “All of you, of course,” he said, “but espe­cial­ly your eyes. Because you nev­er blink, they are always, always there.”

Lena smiled and said, “well, you’re very hand­some. The more my eyes are open, the more I can look at you.”

This was how they spoke at first.

Months went by and things were dif­fer­ent. Gone were the long and pon­der­ous walks, the glow of the fire­place, the etc. of love.

I have trou­ble,” Ricardo said one April night, “with a woman watch­ing, always watching.”

From then on Lena spent lone­ly evenings watch­ing the fire crack­le and sput­ter down to ash. All sorts of things, Ricardo’s infi­deli­ties, bits of ele­phant, flew into her eyes. When a strange woman called ask­ing for Ricardo, Lena told her­self it was a wrong num­ber, a dif­fer­ent Ricardo.

One night, Ricardo said he no longer loved her. He said it in a hun­dred ways, and final­ly, she had to hear him.

How could this hap­pen?” Lena asked. “I was watch­ing you the entire time.”

You only thought you were,” Ricardo said.

Later that night, Ricardo gone and the ambu­lance men ban­dag­ing up her wrists and lay­ing her on a stretcher.

What made you do this?” the taller man asked.

Lena looked away and whis­pered, “Love, what else?”

The taller man said to his part­ner, “doesn’t sound like love to me.”

Not to me either,” his part­ner said.

The taller man leaned down and stroked Lena’s fore­head. “Now don’t go clos­ing your eyes on me. We’ll be at the hos­pi­tal soon.”

Lena looked up at this kind man, this heal­ing man. She felt safe again as he strapped her snug­ly to the stretch­er, took her hand as his part­ner went up front to dri­ve. “I’ll stay with you,” the taller man said. She let her­self exhale but closed her eyes like she hadn’t done in ages lest any­thing like an ele­phant or love were to some­how fly in.


Francine Witte’s poet­ry and fic­tion have appeared in Smokelong Quarterly, Wigleaf, Mid-American Review, and Passages North. Her lat­est books are Dressed All Wrong for This (Blue Light Press), The Way of the Wind (AdHoc fic­tion), and The Theory of Flesh (Kelsay Books). Her chap­book, The Cake, The Smoke, The Moon (flash fic­tion) will be pub­lished by ELJ September, 2021. She is flash fic­tion edi­tor for Flash Boulevard and The South Florida Poetry Journal. She lives in NYC.