Use acetone-soaked cotton balls to remove chipped nail polish. Mollify him with mirroring-language: Yes. He is afraid to go outdoors. His panic erases him for days. Marvel at the proud little birds outside your window; How do any of us survive the month of February? Press your cheek against the cool glass.
Crouch on the bristling carpet to find grandmother’s pearl earrings. Perhaps your memories of a bad childhood are wound into the nests of hair and dust beneath the dresser. But you are not looking for those.
Tell him you spend a lot of energy not living the past. Tell him it was different for you.
Use navy thread and a gleaming needle to mend a ruffled sweater. He says he thinks he could flee to Bolivia, away from your poisonous family and all of American culture.
Ask him if he has a passport. Disconnect the edge of thread from its spool with your teeth. You know he will not leave.
In the bathroom examine the lines around your eyes. You cannot compose your features into a face that looks twenty-five again, when these phone calls began. You share similarities: sadness on cloudy days, guilt for nothing in particular, uneasiness with people.
When you listen next Wednesday, walk outside—no matter the cold—and imagine a sun strong enough to sear away his past.
About the Author: Katherine Gehan has an MFA from Emerson College and is Senior Fiction Editor at Our Stories. She has had work published in 971 MENU, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Used Furniture Review, Muddy River Poetry Review, and Inwood Indiana. She thinks it's disgusting when her kid puts maraschino cherries and sour gummy worms on his fro-yo.
Story Song: "Holding On" by Utah Phillips and Ani DiFranco