SLEIGHT OF HAND
by Rebecca Lee
In the light between blinds, my eyes stare into the neighbor’s window. All I see is my reflection. Blue eyes, thin face, blond hair to my chest. I am waiting for the time when it is dark enough to turn off the lights so I can see into the other house.
He is the boy with brown eyes. I catch him staring at me from his garden, but he never says hello. God told him he was ugly and I wouldn’t want him watching. Now he’s obsessed with beauty. The 10th grade female teaching assistant with the little girl voice. Anime characters half human/half cat. Flutists with tiny, nimble fingers. These are the things that all boys want. Whether they want them or to be them, I can never figure it out.
My fingers have small silver rings that have been lodged there since I was 8. If I wanted to take them off, I’m not sure I could. Instead, I tap them against a glass surface whenever I’m annoyed. Their irritation seems quaint.
I like the ugly. The long noses and the obese flesh that stands out farther than it should. It’s imposing and hard to look away.
The boy next door looks away all the time. He hides in his house, not talking to anyone, but at night he will turn on his light. Illuminated by a golden space, his room sticks out as stark. There are a few action figures on a shelf behind his desk. There is a bed with Star Wars sheets despite the fact he is also 15. There is no art. There are no posters of bikini-clad women. Instead, he sits at his desk and draws.
This is a boy with one eyebrow, a mismatched jaw and acne. He is quiet, but his presence is known. He doesn’t chase after the pretty girls and I’ve never seen him lingering by my locker.
Boys tell me they want me, but they tell my friends the same thing. I watch them try to put down other girls so that they can be the deciders. I hate those boys, but I don’t say anything. I’m lucky to be considered beautiful.
On the bus, I watch as my neighbor sits down. He carries his drawing pad separate from his backpack. In profile, his pants hover just above his sneakers. His shirts are bizarrely pastel. When the other boys sit at the back of the bus, they throw things in hopes of hitting him. He stares out the window, letting his drawing book slip and I always think about taking it.
Drawings of beasts with multiple heads or three toed animals, I imagined. Maybe a half decomposed bird or a hand with varicose veins was sketched in detail for hours. I was certain he was fascinating in a way that others weren’t. I was sure his drawings would show me.
One afternoon on the bus ride home, the boy was pushed out of his seat. Clumsily grasping for whatever he could, there was nothing for him to hold on to. His backpack collapsed against the seat opposite him while his sketchbook fell to the floor.
On the very first page was a drawing of a spoon. Its shape was bulbous, yet slender. The boy tried to stand up, but fell down again. This time he landed in someone’s lap. I took the page and without even thinking, ripped it off the coil.
Except it didn’t come out. Not all the way. The page, now my loudest sound on the bus, ripped along jagged lines. The perfectly round head of the spoon was severed completely from its body. Only the length of a spoon, skinny, but headless, remained inside his book.
I shoved the book back toward his backpack and folded the spoon head into smaller and smaller squares.
From the light between my bedroom blinds, I wonder if he’s sketching my reflection or just another piece of silverware. The headless spoon, deformed and slighted, seems as useless as it is shiny.
About the Author:
Rebecca Lee has published in a variety of journals and magazines. Some of her publications include: Able Muse, Cleaver Magazine and Existere Journal. Her essay, The Rules of Engagement, was listed under notable essays in the latest version of The Best American Essays anthology.