Living in Reverse



She has forgotten her children’s names, so she calls them sweetie and pumpkin and darling. She has forgotten her own name, too.

Tucked within its wide rooms, the house harbors nooks for little bodies to curl up in and lots of furniture for children to slip behind or underneath. She wonders how many others there are, hiding dusty-haired in dark corners. None of them look a thing alike. She isn’t certain they are all hers, but she has no one to ask. The man has gone. (He was warm, under the sheets; she remembers that much.)

She makes the children line up, the smaller ones holding the hands of the bigger ones, and takes each one’s photograph with a Polaroid camera.

What’s your name, honey?”

I don’t know.”

Well, what name do you like?”

Butter.”

That’s not really a name. What about Anne?”

I don’t want to be Anne.”

Cindy? Lisa?”

The girl settles on the name June, so the woman writes “June” on the bottom of the photo and tapes it to the wall. Soon the living room walls are crowded with photos. But in time the children forget the names they have chosen and don’t answer when she calls. They grow tall, their hair flops in their eyes, they resemble their photographs less and less. She wants them all to live in reverse, become smaller, younger, and slip back inside her womb. She can picture them there, shrinking, splitting into eggs and sperm that drift apart in the labyrinth of fleshy tubes. And then there would be the man, inside her again. Perhaps he would say her name, longingly, and she would remember it.


Copyright 2008 by Kate Blakinger