CNF: She Could Leave Herself Behind if She Just Ran Fast Enough

by Meghan Phillips

Find me on the floor in the hallway that runs between the living room and the kitchen. Butt against the baseboard. Arms spread wide under my spider web cape from last Halloween. Fingers dug in the carpet. Legs scissoring back and forth across the yellowed wallpaper.

I should have left after he told me to shut-up. I thought he was teasing when he kneeled down, one leg on either side of my body, pinning me to the beanbag. He was smiling when he grabbed both my wrists in one big hand and smeared a piece of duct tape across my mouth with the other. My wrists still crushed above my head made it easier for him to bind them together with another strip of tape. After that, I couldn’t pretend he was teasing anymore, even though he was still smiling down at me.

Find me at the storm door, pining for the stuffed bear across the street, big enough to fill the bench outside The Teddy Bear Emporium. Through the filmy glass, I can see its eyes, big and shiny as quarters. I press my palms against the pane; imagine them buried in the bear’s soft fur. I call for Mom, for Dad, anyone who could help me cross the street. The pressing turns to pounding as my little fists punch a rhythm against the glass. I don’t remember my arm breaking through, or the shards sticking out of my flesh like tombstones, or the blood pooling into the armpit of my t-shirt. When I get home from the doctor, the bench is empty. The bear is gone.

I should have gone out into the rainy city that first Thanksgiving in Amsterdam instead sitting in the hotel room like I didn’t exist when he wasn’t there.

Find me in the front yard playing Mary, Queen of May. Each girl wraps the grubby bedsheet around her head and shoulders, fastens it down with a stretchy red headband. By the time I get to wear the veil and dandelion crown that complete the Mary outfit, the flowers are wilted and seeping bitter sap.

Meghan Phillips is the fiction editor for Third Point Press and regularly reviews books for Hippocampus Magazine. She writes flash fiction, some of which can be found in Maudlin House, Chicago Literati, Corium Magazine, and the Rocky Mountain Revival podcast. Meghan lives in Lancaster, PA, where she works in an archives and a public library.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “She Could Leave Herself Behind if She Just Ran Fast Enough”?

    This piece is a compressed version of a slightly longer flash memoir generated during a weekend workshop with Kathy Fish. Kathy prompted us to mine memories from different times in our lives (childhood, adolescence, adulthood) and then challenged us to weave those memories together. When asked to remember moments from my childhood, the three “find me” scenes came almost instantaneously. A time when I was lonely. A time when I was hurt. A time where I was probably both. The moments woven in from my early twenties feel like the same kind of memories, just a different kind of lonely, a different kind of hurt.
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