Kira Homsher "Your Fingers Tremble, But Your Nails Are Pretty"

You can feel it coming back, not that you mind. The need to bathe. The insistent urge to stand, dripping and thinning, on cold tiles. The compulsion to shiver before a mirror. If you hold your hand out beneath the sun, the width of each finger is roughly fifteen minutes closer to sundown. It helps to de-digitize time, to watch it literally slip between your fingers.

At three fingers to sundown, you walk to the nearest convenience store. The air is lilac and without temperature. You acknowledge only dogs and children, sidewalk and sky. A little girl stumbles in the wake of her mother’s phone call, struggling with a large pink umbrella. She senses your stare and sticks her tongue out: the rest of her face reveals neither mockery nor camaraderie. You mirror her expression and imagine that the two of you share a secret. She catches up with her mother and doesn’t look back.

The sun doesn’t set in your room today and you are relieved. You sweep the floor. You gather the electric blanket in your arms, thinking of bodies and eyelashes, and try to shut the doors. You fall asleep wishing your cute button nose was enough.

You wake up early, cram your warmest clothes into a backpack, and catch a train to the airport for a flight you booked last month. You are going to the Midwest to visit an old friend. It’s necessary to have these markers of time, so that you can nestle them between Before and After and consecrate your own chronology.

The weekend passes in a blur of nicotine, fried food, and quiet little asymmetries, but it’s better than measuring sunlight. Your friend relates a series of insights about her new job. The intensive security at the office, the hours of overtime she has worked. You tell her how proud you are and offer up deflective jokes about your own aimlessness. She takes you to her favorite bars and you spend money you don’t have on elaborately mixed drinks you can barely stomach. The night before the flight home, your friend starts to cry. She says you two don’t have anything in common anymore, that you might as well stop pretending. That things don’t feel the same. You feel obliged to argue, but your responses come out dreamy and compliant. You wish you could at least summon indignation. You want to tell her that she might’ve realized all this before you put a dent in your savings to come and see her—in the goddamn Midwest—but as you construct your argument, you realize that you don’t mind. Not really.

You come home to a distended cavity in the middle of your hardwood floor. There is nothing to sweep. You watch the sun through the window, losing fingers until the room is dark and you can shut your eyes.

You bike through the city as a little pig-tailed girl falls down staircases. You stop each time to call an ambulance. You rent an attic bedroom filled with stacks of knickknacks that you aren’t allowed to touch or put away. The boy you love tells you that you are always right and you nod. He tells you that you are evil and you nod. He lends you his keys and you drive his car, alone and unsteady.

You wake and the keys feel heavy in your pocket—you still have them. You think you should really take the car somewhere before he gets back. It looks lonely and pathetic, parked where he left it. It looks like evidence of absence and inhibition. You want to prove that you have not been stationary, that you have done more than count fingers.

At four fingers to sundown, you step out of the house with a box of knick-knacks from your attic bedroom. You unlock his car and set the box down in the back. The gears won’t shift to drive. You’re learning to embrace the simple answers when they present themselves to you, when the truth is somehow too bulky and too immaterial all at once.

The sun sets and you are still parked outside the house. You hold your palm up to the beam of the headlights. You want to use your hands for something other than waiting. Your fingers tremble, but your nails look pretty.

Bio: A Philadelphia native, Kira Homsher is currently an MFA candidate at Virginia Tech. She won Phoebe Journal's 2020 Nonfiction Contest and was short-listed for CRAFT's Flash Fiction contest. Her writing also appears or is forthcoming in SmokeLong Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Ghost City Review, and others. You can find her at kirahomsher.com

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