Getting Out
A Short Story by Alice Clark
Written using the suggestion "Slavery"
Originally featured on 06-23-2009
As part of our series "The Summer of Our Hopes and Fears"

One day she found a purple playground ball sitting on her balcony. Clouds and pale purple swirls. It was labeled so it could be returned, apartment 304. She picked up it and pushed the vinyl to her cheek.

“The only thing that anyone ever really wants is to undo their childhood,” she said. I told her that that was beautiful. Clear, and eloquent. And she said that people had said that before, and I told her the concept, yes, but not in those smooth words.

She went on to say that people had been swearing for a very long time and that there was no fear in it for her anymore. That she did it whenever she pleased and that she was pissed that there was no way out, no way to quit her life, other than suicide, and that that was a cruel option in its unknown. Like a game, a dare, to see if we would take it. She said she was born angry, that she didn’t choose this, to be born, and that she hated her mother for it.

The years, she said that she liked to waste them by sitting mostly, with empty thoughts and doing no work. As if to prove something to God. That we would be pawns, instead of servants and she was also afraid of being doomed to hell because of her defiance.

Some evenings she’d hum and said that there was beauty in the way that old people play the piano and the gradual, yet growing obsession with sunsets as one ages. As if orange becomes more important. She was the girl who couldn’t sleep and liked to drink thick creamed chocolate and slow her heart and use the time like currency. Urging it to be used up. Spending waking moments with boldness, but not enough to be a quitter.

She fussed about the way her mother would create homes for her when she was small, with specific smells of rugs and the oils of skin. The way that her mother would envelope her in them and she had no chance of truly getting out, because they had been born into her skin. Her mother was a giver of cocoa and she swore at her for it.

She dressed in babushka’s some days and dull prints on others. That of a lazy Kmart designer. Nothing too young or fast.

Her mother would hand her books, with stories she had written earlier on her daughter’s mind, in the baby time before her consciousness, and she couldn’t get them out, whether good or bad, and she said that it was painful to have her notes played, for the story to be conjured in her against her will.

She was supposed to get a job, because there was always something to do, but she wanted to be a dull woman in yellow, who faded slowly in plainness. She worked in hospice, because she was unusually good at holding hands on their way to chilling and was at peace with stilted breaths, because they didn’t move so fast.

She saw a dancer in the darkness one night, at a restaurant with a jazz band in the background with fog on the ground and she thought she would always remember and she did. The way it rode on her skin. Too much alive there.

When she was done talking, I watched her sit. She threw the ball over the balcony. Willing to let another choose their own inertia, unsmothered by her poisoned words.

She stood and raised her wrists above her head, undersides toward heaven and asked to be lifted up.

Read More By Alice Clark

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Portland Fiction Project

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