Maybe still in the recovery room, I hear my Nana say, it’s okay honey, there are plenty of other fish in the sea.
Later, not in the recovery room, I’m feeling formal, a little hungry. So Swoon and I decide to go out for a fancy oyster dinner. We celebrate our blues. I like to pay, but Swoon wants to pay too, so in the end, he pays for us both.
Swoon’s my man part of me, a forever part of me, too. He’s always running away from me when I glance away. When I glance back there’s a shape not quite cohering with the other shapes. Like a painting over a painting. Except in this case, it’s more like an accident of colors and angles.
We draw straws to see who will get the good binoculars. I lose. I’m okay with that. I always forget to use them anyway, or forget to take them for when I might need them, say, for bird-watching, or to spy. Is that a new car?
Or, I have them with me when I hardly need them, like when I’m playing checkers (with Nana) or just listening to the radio or checking my phone messages.
Those well-meant words, the other fish, are swimming back, again.
The next day, Swoon and I go ahead and start boarding our Greyhound buses. Swoon’s is going north, mine is going west. The plan is to reconvene in exactly forty days and then compare.
We are more like snails than scientists, though. We never get all that far away from each other. Swoon has a cooked look, livery, a smell I want to escape. We can throw a stone at each other we are still so close.
Forty days go by and forty nights. When we meet again, Swoon and I have to decide about trading in our looking devices and our every night pizza for a quiet life. It will be the rust belt (my familiar belt).
Back in the hospital, it’s one of St. Francis’s, they let me keep a pet. I guess it means I have to be here for a while longer. Just a simple procedure, I’m okay. I have a window and keep searching for my man. I see a child looking up, humming, knowing.
“An Episode Between Houses and Jobs” was originally published in New World Writing, January, 2021
FEATURED IMAGE: Paul Klee, Les Rives du lac par temps de pluie, (The Seaside in the Rain). 1913m – watercolour on paper.
Valerie Fox’s books include The Rorschach Factory, The Glass Book, and Insomniatic. She has published in the Best Small Fictions anthology, and journals such as The Café Irreal, Cleaver, Juked, New Flash Fiction Review, Hanging Loose, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Ellipsis Zine. A story of hers appears in The Group of Seven Reimagined: Contemporary Stories Inspired by Historic Canadian Paintings. She lives in Lawrence, New Jersey (United States) and teaches at Drexel University in Philadelphia.