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.