By Sol Fjelstad
You’re seventeen, alone on your couch, you just got a text from your mother, who’s crying in the other room. Because your father’s died in a car crash on the way home. But she didn’t knock because you’ve never been close. And the last time she came into your room you yelled at her until she left you alone.
You can feel the news infiltrate your mind. Crawling up your neck like a black widow spider, searching for your ear where it’ll slip into your head and push its legs into the creases of your brain. Where it will start to spin webs that itch. You want it to stop. So you grasp at your neck, but it runs, and, just barely, it makes it to your ear, so in a moment of terror your wrap your hand around the right side of your face and you pull. Until your ear is bleeding on the floor in front of you. But you can still hear it. And like a swarm of song birds singing at midnight, it’s beautiful but it scares you. It’s happiness.
You start laughing. You tell yourself it’s how you deal with sorrow but you’re wrong. You hold your hands up to your eyes to hide yourself from judgement. But you can feel your reflection staring at you. Then your pinky slips and accidentally touches your head wound and it stings.
The next day, at school, you’re fine. You’re coping. Stoic, even. Okay, you’re content. Dealing with what the world throws at you, emotional inertia and all that, you’re just good at it. Okay fine. You’re happy, dammit. And you say nothing. But everyone finds out. From your classmate whose father sometimes worked with your father. And people run, walk, sprint to console you, but before they do they stop. They look at you. And they ask you why you’re smiling. And you tell them it’s just how your face rests.
Walking home a strange man stalks in front of you. He’s wearing a black suit and bright clown makeup. He’s smiling so much your eyes hurt looking at him. But he’s in your way. So you walk up to him. You stop. In front of him. And you stare deep into his shoulders. Then he holds out his hands, and despite yourself, you hold out your hands to meet his. Then you realize. Someone just left a mirror in the middle of the sidewalk. You run your fingers along the side of his hand and it feels like… glass. And for some reason this surprises you.
You realize you’re staring at your own happiness. And it’s everything you ever wanted. You want to take a hatchet to his head. At the same time you can hear your poor dad screaming, “Not now! Don’t be happy now!” But he’s beautiful, he’s enchanting, but he’s unusual, and that makes you uncomfortable. He kneels down and smiles at you and he’s marvelous, but he’s menacing. Then he hugs you. And you feel comforted.
He whispers, “It’s okay to be happy.” You want to push him back and scream, tell him to come back when you’ve earned him. But before you open your mouth his head shakes. And he kisses you.