flash fiction by Lauren Chartuk
She looked at me plainly, as I did her. She tried to smile. Instead she just bared her teeth. They were relatively straight. How are you? I barely saw her mouth move. I’m okay, all right, not bad… not great. I felt an involuntary shrug. She matched me, What have you been up to? The question hung in the close air between us. Not much, I answered as the rest of the soap rinsed off my hands. She nodded condescendingly, knowing the answer before she even asked. I watched as she tucked a reddish strand of hair behind her ear. I felt my hair tickle the side of my face. We looked blankly at each other. Her blue eyes studied me. They were big; almond shaped, with a deep swirling blue, fairly common eyes, nothing special. What do you plan to do?
The silence shattered, her question echoed in the small, acoustic room. What? Her inquiry caught me off guard. Well, I started, then stopped. In what sense? I thought. In the immediate scene, I plan to leave this stuffy room and make dinner. In my life… I stopped again, at a loss. I sighed and she raised a meticulously over-plucked eyebrow. I’m not sure, I confessed, opening the floodgate. I gazed at her contempt-filled expression. Her blue eyes narrowed to slivers, her mouth a twisted button of pink. Slowly her expression softened before adding, such is life. We both snorted, relishing our moment of uncertainty.
Who are you? Her eyes held a piercing intensity when she asked, and continued as she awaited an answer. I’m Flora, I replied confidently. How odd, I thought, that five letters define me. It doesn’t, her eyebrow arched. I sighed, knowing that the answer wouldn’t be that easy. Who am I really? I knew the question before she posed it. In the sense of the universe, I’m nothing. In the sense of my life, I’m everything. In the way of labels, I’m a female, a mainstream environmentalist, a quasi-anarchist, a nihilist and a human. There are 7.2 billion of me. She started laughing at me, laughing at the irony. There’s 7.2 billion of me but I feel so alone it’s petrifying. Her eyes squinted, her mouth spread across her face, her freckled nose scrunched–she ought not to laugh so much or she’ll get wrinkles. We both took a breath. Mine was short, empty; hers looked so full. I closed my eyes running my fingers through my reddish hair before flipping off the light and leaving the room. Closing the door, I set off to make dinner.