homework. It was me who would get take-out and rent movies when he needed a break. It was me who remembered to pay the electric bill when the lights went out or the space heater stopped whirring. It was me who moved so far from home because I believed in him, in us. And yet never, not once, did he say, “Thank you, Deirdre. I couldn’t have done it without you.” So I decided that day, graduation day, would be my thanks. Then we would be even.
It was hard to pull off. They turned me down for a pre-graduation brunch, so I’d had to do it the night before, at the bar where we were toasting Daniel and his friends from the program. I waited until the very end of the night, when tiny Vera was well past tipsy on white wine and a shot of rum and milk. They were getting ready to leave, and she wanted one more trip to the bathroom. I followed her, and as she washed her hands, I made eye contact in the mirror. She broke the gaze so quickly that I had to put my finger under her chin and tilt her eyes back up toward me.
Drunkenness is physiological, not mental. To keep Vera sedated in my body after the switch, I’d been drinking, too, and I’d also taken something else, something in a pill. It was kicking in as we came out of the bathroom, and with Vera’s tiny body and birdlike arms, I struggled to support my own slumping, larger one. Daniel rushed over and cursed. His anger surprised me.
My body came with us in a cab that detoured to my apartment. Daniel wheezed as he pulled me up the stairs, and Vera’s useless arms pushed from behind. Once there, he settled my body into bed. Vera’s hands got a glass of water to put on the nightstand, and when he wasn’t looking, those hands crushed up another pill, leaving it to dissolve. When my body woke up, water would be the first thing it craved and it would reach for the glass. The extra pills would give me the better part of the next day, easily, to stay in Vera.
It had felt so normal to go home with Daniel, as we’d done a thousand times before he’d ever heard Vera’s little giggle. It was easy to kiss him and fall into bed beside him and watch him pass out quickly from so much liquor and physical activity. I liked Vera’s small frame; it fit more naturally under his arm than my lankier body ever had. I could curl up against his side and be almost totally enveloped by him.
Graduation day itself was long and tedious — not exactly as I’d pictured. I clapped hard as he walked across the stage not only out of pride but also out of sheer joy that the event was coming to a close. At one point during the day I had tried to bait Annabelle into saying something about Deirdre, but she didn’t take it, saying instead that universal love and forgiveness trumped any ill will she may have once had against that poor soul. I wanted her to say more, but I also didn’t, so I let it go.
S.M. Knisely | 21