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Flash Fiction: She Turns Out The Lights

She Turns Out the Lights

She can’t remember what it’s called when you have to pee all the time or if it’s the same disease as the one where you crave water and candy. She must go to the bathroom a hundred times a day. She goes more at work than at home. It might be something.

Her office has a little window in the door. Other people have put cartoons or pictures over their windows to keep folks from looking in. She wants to cover hers, but doesn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings.

On Saturday her ex-husband calls. His wife is away, shopping. She drives to his house, and they take off their clothes and get into his new bed. They hold hands. He bites her collarbone. It is different than all the years before when they were still married, and she had to be clean and ready. He talks in her ear now, and that’s something new. She always leaves well before the wife comes home, even though he says they have time to watch a movie or sit in the sun in the back yard.

He says he still loves her. More than his wife, who he wants to make jealous. He thought telling her these things might make her happy.

Sometimes all she can think about is food and how tired she always is and how she eats more when she’s tired. She eats with the office door closed and looks up recipes on the internet for the weekend, when she can spend a whole day in her kitchen trying out new combinations. When they were married her husband would make everything from scratch. Pizza dough, potato soups, cakes that didn’t come in a box. One summer their garden was overloaded with tomatoes and he took a few, making catsup with the Joy of Cooking as a guide.

She rides the train to work in the mornings, watching the commuters in the parking lots at the stops. They leave their cars with their food wrappers and pairs of sunglasses and baby seats inside. She wonders about them, if some of them, like her, come home to a dark apartment. Do they turn on lights and expect someone to be there frying onions in the kitchen? The news on the radio, the summer night coming through the windows? She doesn’t know what’s happening.

At work in the evenings, she’s finished her list of to-dos early. All the morning shift is going home, shutting down their computers, feeling their pockets for train passes and keys. She’s always the last to leave. She unplugs the coffee maker and locks the doors to their building.

She leans back in her chair the way she used to in high school, balancing on the back legs, her knees on her desk. Her head rests against the cool of the window, the city is behind her. She can smell her shampoo, can feel a lock of hair balancing on her shoulder and curling up to touch her neck. She brings the ends of it to her mouth and sucks the taste away.

—lydia copeland

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