by Marston Hefner
Everyone agreed in the neighborhood that she was the best. She was the beauty. How could she let everyone know she was nothing but a pile of shit? Oh well. Nothing, really. She did everything perfectly. Not a thing wrong with her. No conflicts. Oh, all the men loved her. Her boss especially. She was such a hard worker. How was it possible to still be beautiful at 40 years old? How was it possible when you had two children?
Everything coming easy to you entitled you to a few things. The first was praise. The second was recognition of your beauty. The third was a small but imprecise aching. That one was hungry for something one did not know of and that one wanted to reach this place by the end of one’s life. It was what caused people to fall in love. It was what caused people to go into the present moment. It was that insatiable itch that made her that much more interesting. That much more human. She cried at night. Did you know that? She cried when no one was looking because she was perfect and it was sad to be perfect in your imperfections. The itch could not be scratched.
She only knew there was something completely wrong. Eventually she cried in front of her husband in the marital bed who handled the situation terribly. Then she cried at the dinner table in front of her children. There were long bouts of silence in the household. She found it difficult to go and be productive. To go to work became a chore. It was just depression. Did that make her more perfect? More human? More down to earth? She was getting older. Her age was taking a toll. She started smoking cigarettes. She wanted to be closer to death, a desire for things to be finished. Here. This is your life. Did it make you proud to be beautiful?
What was it that pained her? Why was she crying now in the bathroom? The only light on in the house. Her husband asleep. Her children breathing light steps in their dreams. The more she asked the less clear it was. She wanted sleep. No. She wanted death. No. She wanted fame. No. She wanted rest. No. She wanted everything. Yes. Everything in the world handed to her. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Limitless growth wasn’t the answer. She needed a stopping point. Someone to tell her this is enough. Point to her children. This is enough. Point to her husband. This is enough. Point to her house. This is enough. All of it is enough.
The twins in the bed did not stir. Perhaps they could go to her eyelids while she slept, place their fingers gently on them and announce that everything was OK. There was no need to cry anymore. Everything that would happen would happen. Everything that did not happen was meant to be. All that we wanted was part of being human. The hunger never goes away. The children knew hunger. They wanted A’s. They wanted to be the best at the sports they played. They knew it. Knew it in their skin. In their genes. They were never happy either. They would touch her eyelids and tell her to rest. Rest for a week. Childhood is not like dreaming they’d say. Go into a coma. Bang your head against the porcelain sink accidentally and forget all you know. Forget everyone. And rest. Just rest.
There was a man going down river in a canoe. It was his yearly summer outing. Even though the canoe had gone far, even though its owner had worked his arms to reach what was almost the end, a natural anomaly occurred and stopped him from ever completing the course. A wind pushed his canoe back through all the river he had waded. Back over the rocks and waterfalls. It was the opposite of a miracle. He reached the end which was the beginning, went on the sandy shore, bent down at the foot of the river and screamed.