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jess ingrassellino, july 2019

Brushed off again. She’ll always be his second best, silver medal. First loser. “First loser” she chuckles out loud, in spite of herself. Pulls the Egyptian cotton sheet around her naked body. Soft, smooth, crisp fall air rushes in waves over her skin. Relief, for a moment, but she keeps turning over details of the last time she saw him.

“I’ll call him tomorrow.”

She’s lecturing herself now, head in hand. Bites her lower lip and considers her options. She doesn’t like the idea of telling anybody anything. Never did. Her jaw hurts. She’s grinding her teeth – front teeth when she’s awake, molars when she’s asleep – she stops herself and takes a deep breath, but can’t escape the anxiety.

They’ve been planning, halfheartedly, to be more serious. She wants it, he’s not sure. “Commitment-phobe,” she grumbles, tossing over again. Bright moon, muted by sheer pink curtains. Curtains flapping open, intermittently, with the breeze. She wants to be his only. Married. Before she was twenty-nine, it never felt important to consider a serious partner, much less marriage, family, or children. But tonight? Tonight, twenty-nine is ancient and life is horribly unpredictable. Unfair. Tonight, everything that’s never mattered matters, and everything that’s ever mattered feels like a waste.

On her dresser, her violin sits in its stand, untouched since she found out. Normally she practices daily, several hours a day. Lately, she wipes it gently with a soft cloth, leaves it out to try and coax herself out of her anxiety. Six months ago, he watched her prepare for auditions, and four months ago she’d learn she’d made the symphony. Now, she’s not sure about the trajectory. “If this is my time, how will I spend it? And what will make it matter?” She stares at ceiling, glancing back and forth between the shadows from tree limbs dancing and the moon creating them.

She will call him tomorrow. After work. She’ll call him, and tell him, because she’s already delayed too long. Now, though, the call weighs on her mind, creeping steadily into her body. Her legs twitch – the left leg, really. The rough patch of skin on her left heel hits her right shin bone as she tosses again, to face away from the moon and closing her eyes.

Jess Ingrassellino

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