Good morning, my little snowflakes. I hope you missed me while you were sleeping. Here is the next installment of your new favorite reading material:
The Stone Woman, pt. 2
by Lab Rockstar
Gail turned away from the window. A corner of her little yellow legal pad peeked from the side pocket of her duffel bag at the foot of the bed. I should write something, she thought. Gail sighed and rubbed her forehead. The sunlight hurt her eyes, but she pulled out the legal pad, found her pen, and wrote:
Isn’t it funny how people write stuff on gravestones like “She is sleeping”, or “He fell asleep on such a day”? Dead people aren’t sleeping.
Gail tossed the pad onto the bed. She looked at it for a moment, trying to think of something else to write, but she couldn’t. Gail turned away and went into the little windowless bathroom connected to her room to look at herself in the mirror. Her short hair stuck upward like a rooster’s comb, and her eyes had new lines on the lower lids. As she regarded her features, her mouth bent into a thin scowl.
“You look like a street person,” she said to her reflection.
The words stung unexpectedly. Hearing them aloud, Gail remembered Michael telling her, back when they started dating, that she looked like a “street person” when she wore his sweaters in public.
“They just don’t look good on you, Baby,” he had said. “And you have your own sweaters.”
“I like your sweaters,” Gail had replied. “They smell like you.” And the irony of it all, Gail thought, was that she had spent the first week after his death with her nose buried in his laundry until she had sniffed all of his scent out of those clothes.
Her vision grew blurred as she stood in the bathroom, looking down at her nightshirt. She turned on the hot water in the bathtub, watching the steam curl upward onto the low plaster ceiling. Keening softly along with the rush of the water, Gail pulled off the shirt and threw it on the floor. She looked up to the mirror again, where her cheekbones gleamed dewy and red. The room was foggy.
Never is a very long time, she thought. She wanted to write it down, but instead she rubbed her eyes and turned off the water.
The room grew quiet, and Gail stepped into the tub. The water was painfully hot, but she gritted her teeth and sat down. Her skin tightened from her lower back to her instep, but when it went numb, she slid the rest of the way into the water. It lapped at her ears and mouth.
Closing her eyes, she wished she had brought the field guide into the bath. She wouldn’t have read the text too much—she didn’t think she had a memory for that kind of thing anymore—but she would have liked to look at the pictures. Absently, Gail glanced down at her stomach, which, from her viewpoint, had sunk below the rise of her ribcage. Remembering the cover of the field guide, Gail thought about what it would be like to construct a carapace from little rocks and twigs, like a caddisfly larvae.
Gail touched her belly under the water. The skin felt rough and lumpy, like the surface of a garden flagstone. Her fingers found her belly button, which was soft, but all around was solid. If this was stone, she thought, I could live inside it like a caddisfly, or maybe a clam. She imagined the stone growing from her, rooted deeply in her muscle and bone, spreading unevenly across her waist in gnarled shoots like an asymmetrical starfish. She stared up at the swirling plaster on the ceiling until the random curving, rolling strokes led her eye to the green fly-fishing wallpaper. She followed it again and again. After a while, the repetitiveness irritated Gail, so she washed herself hastily and got out of the bath.
Slipping into jeans and a sweater, she dried her hair with a towel and combed it down. She wouldn’t bother with any makeup. She looked down at her feet, which were fading from red to dull white. They felt unwieldy and heavy when she lifted them. Perhaps, Gail speculated to herself, a transformation was beginning there, just under the skin. It was just a random thought at first, but when she touched the flesh at her waist again—yes, there was something solid where the soft pockets of fat had once been. Something is different, Gail thought, her eyes widening.