She is a girl you know from the stories you have read. Her role in them is peripheral—the sister of a husband or the mother of a friend. And yet she is important still. Her purpose is to fill space, to make the story world seem real. Though her name changes from book to book, her face does not. It is the face with which you fill in the blanks, the face evoked without description. If ever you want to see her, you need only close your eyes or lift a book and watch.
This time you find her picnicking. You remember her accompanied, but cannot recall by whom. She sits on a woolen blanket, her legs stretched out in front of her. There is an after-drip of sugary fruit clinging to her lips. Beside her, an ocher bowl holds naked cherry pits.
She looks sad for reasons you do not know. Perhaps because her lover has left. You try to picture him and fail. You try to remember his name and fail again. You begin to doubt yourself. Perhaps you misread. Perhaps it was not a lover with whom she was, but a love. Yes, that sounds familiar. A love.
But a love of what?
You contemplate this as you watch her spit another pit into the bowl.
That must be it, you think. A love of cherries.
And then your attention fades and your mind begins to drift. Back to a distant time when you were younger. There is a park with a swing set of rusted metal, a slide the shape and color of a tongue. And there she sits, younger also, cloaked in blue wool, atop the tongue. She smiles at you. Her cheeks are pink, her eyes alight. She slides to the bottom. She squints and circles you. She asks you your name and why it is you look so…
She smells of lilac, reminds you of a doll you once found in the attic of your grandmother’s house, of the tremendous fights your parents used to have there. And the night of the fireworks, the fourth of July. Your grandmother staring out of the window with eyes so brown and vacuous they look black, while your father mistakenly tips a vase to the floor. The detonation a thunderclap. And there you are, staring at your leg. At the impossible piece of porcelain sticking straight out of you. The stream of blood is cherry red and reminds you of a girl you read about once. An unimportant girl. A girl who loved cherries…