I’ve never cooked a piece of meat for a man.
I’ve never done anything that would mess up my nails, really. Hole digging, car pushing, hand sewing. It’s meant to say things about me, this. That I’ve got growing up to do and men are very much entitled to stop by, pick me up and weigh me in the cup of their hand, pinch my skin, then place me back on the shelf to ripen some more.
I’m not distressed by it. Sometimes though, when I look them in the face, the women in my family, I well know I’ve let them down. They’ve tried their very best with me, I’m sure, these nice pie baking – shirt collar ironing – grocery shopping ladies. They worked and worked my gooey insides and outsides to fit the right molds, until their knuckles went numb and and their fingernails filthy with bits of my skin. But I was hopeless, really I was. It wasn’t their fault. And it would have been terribly unfair, focusing so much of their efforts and energy on me when there were so many beautiful, docile, wife-material girls in our family who would have killed for a chance at their magic touch. So they put me out of their minds, these outstanding women, out of their minds and onto this shelf, for men to walk by.
In her free time, Mary was a witch.
You wouldn’t have known. Not in the morning, when nobody would be buying stockings for their girlfriends for a couple more hours and she’d be dozing, head in hands, elbows on counter, her eyes deceitfully wide open and her thoughts numb. Nor later in the day, when she’d be showing pricey undergarments to suit clad customers, lifting the silks up to her collarbones so that their uneducated eyes could see how well the colors complimented the skin. Nor at night, when she’d turn the pink window lights on, lock the door twice and walk down Uxbridge road towards her pink curtained one bedroom flat. But in her free time, Mary was a witch.
She could tell if you’d marry out of love by slowly moving her index finger along the lines in the palm of your hand. There was a life line and a heart line and they only intersected on the skins of a lucky few, everybody knew that. But she knew a million things more. Where you’d meet and what he’d love about you most, how to spice his stew and how to wriggle your body in bed, what your children’s names would be and whether they’d be good at arts or science.
Mary walked the streets piercing people’s skins with her witch eye rays. In her free time. She could tell who was growing liver tumors and who kept dirty magazine stashes under their beds, she could point them out, the screamers, the believers, the patiently waiting for life to pass them a winning hand. There were no such things as winning hands, she said. Not without assistance from a magical someone willing to read each and every tea leaf your lifetime of sipping would leave behind. I’d pass her my teacup and wait. Countless possibilities was not something I ever wanted for myself. I would rather know what was coming. I’d have a chance to prepare myself.
And if anything… A ring of salt around it, she said. To keep the evil out. I’d pour it around my bed, to fight bad dreams. Around the mailbox, against bad news. Around the doormat, against bad people. I’d walk around the flat, grains of salt crumbling under my feet, and feel safe.
Hi there. This is weird for me too. But here, have a bite. Or is it tea you want? A cigarette? A charger for your phone? I’ll bring them all and many more, just don’t you move. I’ll pour the salt around you and we’re done. Sure, you’ll grow old encircled like this, your palms will wrinkle even more, the life and heart lines drifting further and further apart. I’d bring you sandwiches and drinks and tell you beautiful things, like how your jeans make your bum look cute and a bit of grey on the temples has never made a man sexier. I’ll show you my new tattoos, sparrows and flowers and Latin quotes and never again another man’s name. You’ll smile that smile of yours and ask me in, it’s nice and cozy inside the circle, you’d say, there’s food and a smartphone we can play music on, come. And I’d just laugh.
642 Things to Write About is a book of writing prompts lovely V got me a couple of years back.