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"Sound Holes", short story excerpt

Wednesday 3/25/20

She woke up, felt around her back, there they were, the holes, all five, just above her waist. Each was a different size corresponding to a different finger and the thumb. When they had first appeared they were raw, as if they’d been burned into her with a poker, one of those sticks men use in parks to pick up litter, heated in a brazier.


She didn’t wash that morning, knowing the water would sting, and put on her pants first, then her bra, her shirt, which fluttered over the five holes, making a sound as if someone, untrained, had sat down before a calliope.


When the holes would close she’d regret their absence, because after a while they did not sting, they did not get infected, but the spaces they contained were so dark that even when she stood in the bathroom, turned on the brightest light—there were three settings—and angled a hand mirror at the small of her back, she could only see surface, could not look inside of herself.


Had she been able to, she didn’t expect to have seen bone, organ, blood, or all the way through to her stomach, the inside layer of the skin over her stomach, because she understood these were not holes in the riddled-with-holes fashion, of being pierced, compromised.


“We all have those parts that make us most who we are,” she reasoned. You couldn’t tell by looking at someone. Maybe if they were a stellar athlete and you watched them compete. They’d have to be in motion for that, though, not simply standing in place, or lying in bed on their side, which is how she’d lie, probing the holes, wondering what they were for, of the opinion—sans the proof—that something more important was at play than novelty, arresting as novelty could be.


Her best friend could remember everything that was said in school, in the classroom, but sometimes she could look at you and forget your name, even if you had been her best friend for many years, as the two of them had been best friends.


“Doesn’t it scare you?” she had asked her friend after her friend had remembered her name. “No,” the friend answered. “It’s a pleasure to be reminded again, and it reminds me never to take you for granted. And that the unknown can become known. Which I find comforting. I like helpful nudges.”