She stood on the edge of the bedroom. The walls, floors, and light were grey. She was wearing her shoes. The room was cluttered. Some of the clutter was hers, natural to her. Her uniform lay crumpled vertically in a corner by the closet; she’d stepped directly out of it and into her party dress that night. The covers were pulled back on the bed. The sheets were unruffled and unstained. Only the pillows spoke: she had owned the same two since early undergrad, and she stacked them to sleep alone, spread them for a guest. They looked especially thin and silent, offered no apology to her where she stood in the doorway.
She nudged a foot into the room. The toe of her boot landed between a pair of tights and a wool sock. The tights were torn, but that didn’t mean anything; almost all of her tights were torn. Still, something about their twisted angles, the way they were tangled into each other, suggested they’d been the victims of something. Stop, she thought. It’s only because you know what happened. She tried to open her eyes wider. The walls were covered in drawings and poetry made by people who had been her friends. The colours now seemed ludicrously bold, broadcasting a goofy happiness that was too tempting to crush. The uniform was in the corner to her left. She stepped past it. On the floor by the edge of the bed was the necklace she’d been wearing that night. The clasp was broken. Two beads had come off. One was hiding in the shadows under the bed and one was halfway across the room. Her eyes flew from the abandoned bead to where, floating gently, a strip of frayed, gauzy material was snagged on a corner of her nightstand drawers. She climbed across the bed, drawn to it and not caring about her shoes on the furniture. Strips of translucent white fabric lifted gently from the floor and swirled around her head. She tried to fight them away as they surrounded her, nudging her and blocking her view. Then they settled back down to the ground, ballooning and dropping like baby spiders’ webs. On the other side of them, between her and the door, lay the shell of their progenitor, the torso of the see-through dress she’d been wearing that night.
Then it happened quickly. She remembered where everything was and moved fast to see it all: the lamp knocked from the nightstand, her underwear balled up by the leg of the bed, then dark and square and too concrete, his passport (she’d dropped it in a mailbox days later, hoping that it would find its way back to him so that she could continue pretending nothing had happened) and then she crouched down and looked under the bed, and as always, the corner of the bed frame was broken, the wood splintered, the slats halved. The mattress still drooped in this spot. Everything’s here, everything’s here. Breathlessly, she searched harder. She couldn’t move anything much; she lifted things and put them down again, cursing herself for never tidying up, she opened drawers and shifted stacks of books and touched the tights that sent pained shivers up her arms into her spine. She looked under the covers and then started craning her neck and searching impossible places: the ceiling, the full-length mirror (her own reflection), were they hanging from the curtain rod? Please please please. She could hear her alarm ringing. She shut it off and willed herself back. Again. Door, tights, beads. This time, the pieces of torn dress stayed in their place. There was the dress itself, but where were the sleeves? Where had they gone? The sleeves were loose and gauzy, like the rest of the dress, and they had elastics at the wrists so that night, when she’d been dancing, arms in the air, the dress had billowed around her and then swayed away without a care in the world and where had they gone? Had he taken them? The sleeves of her dress? As she slipped away, she thought she saw them outside the window, floating over the tops of smoky buildings far away.
this prose by Charlotte Joyce Kidd was inspired by the art of Alison Scarpulla