Femme Fatale


I open my eyes very slowly, as if emerging from a storm cellar after the tornado. A cluster of people peers down at me. A young woman carefully tucks her purse beneath my head. I see her lips are moving and am reminded of the adult voices in a Peanuts cartoon. I try to laugh but this alarms the crowd gathered around me. The young woman shakes her head and gently pushes my chest to keep me supine. With closed eyes, the deprivation of sight enhances my hearing. Children laughing, rhythmic chanting from the Hari Krishnas, the chug of a small train. Central Park. 

I remember now, standing in line to buy a lemonade. A handsome young man talking. Flattered. It’s been so long since a man talked to me. Stupid. Stupid cow. I flirted. I preened. Stupid. He snatched my bag! Why hadn’t I just let go? What a hideous scene. How I flapped about, screeching; like an old hen protesting the axe. He shoved me with such force. The fall. I shudder from the humility of it all. 

The young woman mistakes my embarrassment; I hear her now telling the others I might be having a stroke. Stupid, I’m so stupid. Open your eyes so they won’t think you’re dying. Open your eyes; don’t replay that odious incident in your mind again and again. The graceless fall. Your glasses flying off. The thud of your head upon the cement. 

Stupid. You were a mark. The man, boy really, sensed your loneliness, smelled it like a cheap cologne. Pathetic. How carefully you had chosen your outfit, applied your lipstick for a stroll in the park on this first sparkling summer day. For what, for what, you silly old woman? If anyone notices you these days, it’s not for a good reason. God, the embarrassment. I could die from it! I had giggled, so flattered by his attention. Open your eyes, the poor girl thinks you’re dying! She’s begging the EMTs to hurry!

 I wish I was dead. Open your eyes; let them know that regrettably your raggedy old hide is still alive! Open your eyes, openyour, op, op, o… 

Very grateful to The Bookends Review for selecting this flash for publication August 2022. This piece began in a winter Flash workshop with Retreat West and I cannot recommend their courses highly enough.

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