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…
Or perhaps you are mistaken. Perhaps you are confusing stories. It’s all such a mess now. The fictions so lost and tangled with the histories that you are not even sure if it was you with the porcelain shard or some crippled protagonist. And you cannot remember whether the girl that boy remembered was the same girl you read about now. Or even if that boy was you.
And so you read on. To fill the gaps in your own memory.
You watch her as she plucks the blades of grass and dresses her knees with them. You watch her yawn. Her eyes close and her body shivers. You watch her, and you try to parse the real from the fake, the memory from the history, but your interest is waning. You can only watch a girl eat cherries for so long. You beg drama, intrigue. You beg a twist. There is a voice inside of you telling you that there must be more, and it is a voice that speaks with the authority of every story you have ever heard, or read, or watched before.
A thought comes to you slowly.
Maybe she will cry.
Maybe she will cry for the lover who does not exist.
And then, by some miracle of words, she is crying. You watch her as she brushes back the tears, a wilting hand against a wilting eye. Salty drops and saccharine drip swirling down cheeks burned pink with anguish and frustration. Anguish and frustration and,perhaps,you think, desire. And perhaps you think you can fix it. If only you could touch her. If only you could tell her that everything is alright, that you are here now and that her story is complete.
That voice inside of you is welling up, wanting more. Pushing you deeper and deeper into the narrative with a single question: what will happen next? Because, of course, something will happen. Something always happens. This much you know. This much you have been trained to know. A girl cannot go on eating cherries forever. And so you push. Maybe there will be a breeze. Yes. And it will brush back her hair, reveal the soft oval of her face.
And then there is a breeze.
And sunlight—golden sunlight.
And so it is. Cresting over the tops of the trees. Filtering down in long shafts.
And, oh, if only if you could touch her. Because the tears are still dripping, the pain is still alive. You can feel it in her. The loneliness, the desperation.
If only you could touch her.
You will touch her.
It is so much more than a thought now. It is a feeling. It is a taste. It is the salt of perspiration on your lips. The ache of your calves. The ache of your calves from the countless hours that you have spent squatting, watching, waiting. Yes, you have been waiting, in the dirt, from the periphery, among the trees.
You are crouched in the dirt.
The mealy sod is sliding between your naked toes.
You stand, stretch, stare. Shake out your legs. Lick the salt from your lips.
You move slowly, carefully, peeling back the spiny branches. You tread softly, the grass cool and damp beneath your feet. She is crying still, whimpering softly, her oval face tucked into the crux of her elbow to muffle the sound, to dry the tears. And so she does not notice you until you are already upon her.
Her head snaps back as your foot crashes through the ocher bowl. You feel no pain as the wood snaps and splinters, feel no pain as a sharp shard slices through your foot.
You drink her in. In this moment, her body is electric. Every joint rigid. Every synapse firing. Her blue eyes splitting black lashes, splitting them wide not in desperation or loneliness as you had imagined, but in fear. And it is this fear that fuels you. This silly girl, alone and in tears, too far lost to another man’s love to know you and your infinite beauty, your infinite power. You will show her what her story is meant to be.
You fall upon her, pin her hands back with one giant palm, one larger than life palm. And you press her body flat with your own. You do not feel her tender curves turn to whittled bone as you grab her, do not feel her body writhe as you arrest her hips. You do not feel her nails peel away your skin as you peel away her clothes, do not feel her feel you inside of her. And the voice that has been compelling you is fading. Drowned in the torrent of your own desire.
The leaves grow less green, the light less warm. Flavor is lost, scent gone. All you can hear is the rushing in your ears. The rushing of wind and spite and lingering desire and that voice that was once so strong, now little more than a whisper. It tells you that that something that must happen is happening. And that this thing that you are doing for this girl, this lost, lonely, unimportant girl, should not be tainted with guilt or shame, because it is a gift. You have given her what she has always wanted. Brought her forth from the shadows. You have made her her own story. This silent story girl. Look what you have done for her.