I was calling to see if he wanted to buy a new DSL package, but like everyone else, he already had an adequate one. His name was Douglas. He told me he was a retired quilt designer and asked me out.
He didn’t seem to view the way we met as a negative. He didn’t seem to feel that being a middle-aged telemarketer sucked.
“You’re just as sweet in person as you are on the phone,” Douglas said when we met for real. Though my lips were droopy, I straightened them into a smile and glued them there.
“I’m going to be unemployed soon,” I admitted.
I went home and told my husband that an older man seemed to like me.
“Good for him,” he said. My husband was mostly packed. I liked singing in the apartment alone, and now I’d be able to do that more often.
That Tuesday, Douglas and I went to the Natural History museum. Inside the museum I told him that I was in the middle of an amicable divorce.
“You’re a person, with interesting moments,” he said, and hugged me softly. “I’d like to take you along with me.”
We walked past a model of a giant prehistoric chicken. It was huge, very confused looking. He took my face in his hands and kissed me. “Consider this oversized chicken,” he said. “Do you think he gave up?”
The next time I saw him, I met him at his apartment. That night he taught me how to sew up a wound. I expected something sexy, and here he was slicing little jagged letters into his calves and sewing his skin back together with needle and thread.
I could see, while he pinched the flaps together for stitching, that his skin had once been young. He told me that when people lose children, they often feel shell-shocked and lose their bearings.
“Zigzag openings can be stitched,” he said.
He handed me some cotton balls to blot my own gashes, which I realized were dripping. The shapes I had carved into my calves were the initials of the few men I had loved before I met my husband. I could remember how it felt to love them. The cotton balls were soft white bombs in my hands.
I kept thinking of our geriatric cat who had run away soon after our boy died. How much I had loved that cat too.
I’d always thought that bad luck came in threes. And this was my third date with Douglas. But it was great that he had such skillful fingers. If he hadn’t been able to patch me up, right then and there, I might never have believed I was curable.
Meg is an American flash fiction writer living in the North of England. She’s the author of five flash fiction collections, two novellas-in-flash, and an award-winning book of prose poetry. A recipient of San Francisco’s Blue Light Book Award, her work has been internationally anthologized in two recent Norton Anthologies, Best Small Fictions 2018, 2019, BIFFY50 2019, Wigleaf Top 50 and has been published in Smokelong Quarterly, Electric Literature, Craft, Tin House, Passages North, Wigleaf and McSweeney’s and numerous other international literary journals and anthologies. Meg currently serves as Flash Challenge Editor for Mslexia Magazine, Co-Founding Editor of Best Microfiction, 2020, and Festival Curator for Flash Fiction Festival.