Pretty is as pretty does. I don't know why I'm thinking this.
I wonder if I'm still pretty. And how long this has been going on.
Sometimes I hear crying. A woman's voice, high and harsh. Singing, once in a while.
Many voices, babbling on and on. And mostly silence, out there in the velvety blackness.
Tired, that's what I am. I need rest. It's just like sleep, drifting off.
Some words make sense. Alice. Then I realize, that's my name. I am Alice.
There are scenes that stand out as clear as daylight. The Christmas carols we listened
to in the car, all the way home. This is corny, I said, but I was laughing at the same time.
Away In A Manger, sung by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir floated out of the radio and filled the
car with those radiant voices, singing as one.
It doesn't really hurt, just the echo of pain, far away. I can smell it just around
the corner, waiting for me.
Open your eyes, a voice says. Open those eyes of yours. Oh Alice, please open your eyes.
The scent of chlorine bleach, smelling like summers at the pool, life guarding. My
nose streaked with daubs of zinc cream, my limbs growing browner and browner as I stare at
the rectangle of shimmering blue all day. Smells like drinking iced tea, of the slices of
lemon floating on top of the glass.
Alice, listen to me, open your eyes.
That's right, we were shopping. Presents at Nordstrom's and Bloomies. A paisley
silk scarf for his grandmother. Fiestaware coffee mugs for Diane. A suede purse for my
mother. For the first time in ages we felt prosperous, even generous, armed with out Visa
cards. It is difficult to think of those gifts, now lying abandoned in the back seat.
Perhaps scattered in the dirty snow, garish against all that white.
Is it Christmas yet? What time? What day? How long has this been going on?
I do know a few things. My name is Alice and I am twenty-eight years old. Somehow
those facts please me.
Pretty is as pretty does. I think about my face, trying to remember its features.
The exact shade of my eyes, the curve of my upper lip. The tiny bump on the bridge of my
nose, I recall that, how I used to stare at the bathroom mirror for long minutes, wishing
the bump gone. What is my face like now? It could just be gone, nothing there. No face at
all. I don't know.
He calls me Alice in Wonderland. Ha ha, you think you are such a comedian! Yeah,
but you're a blonde and you wear headbands a lot and you just happen to be named Alice...
I push him away, half mad, half pleased. As if I asked to be named Alice.
Floating in the bathtub, warm and comfortable, lulled by the steam. I am here and
not here, above and below. I am in an in between place, waiting.
A cool hand surrounds my wrist. Skin like silk, so gentle.
A warmer hand, callused. I know that hand.
I dreamed about the beaches of Mexico a while ago. Nothing special or extraordinary
just empty beaches stretching on into the horizon and dry air. I was wearing a white bikini,
splashing around in the surf. Laughing at the way the wet sand squished between my toes. The
sun in my hair, warming me, bronzing me.
Many dreams. I am traveling everywhere, through time, through space. One minute I am
still in high school and I can't remember my locker combination and I'm late for a big Calculus
final. The thing I know, next I am eating tuna salad at my grandmother's house, and then her
kitchen becomes a café in Rome and I'm trying to order a cappuccino from the mustachioed
barista who doesn't understand my halting Italian.
I want to open my eyes, but they are so heavy.
On the way home I sat next to him, feeling so close and warm. We had been fighting
lately about little things, like the phone bill and getting the car washed. Christmas
changed things, just like it is supposed to. For the first time we went to a lot and
picked out a tree and strung it with tiny colored lights and popcorn. We hung stockings even
though there was no fireplace. Mistletoe hung in the archway leading into the living room and
snowflakes were taped up on the windowpanes. You could say we got into the spirit of things.
Maybe I'm not here at all. I'm just imagining this.
Another question, where is here?
It would be so simple to let go. Stop thinking, quit dreaming. Let is all fade into
twilight. Just stop.
The warm callused hand again. It nearly drives me mad with its familiarity.
The quiet is enough to reduce a person to tears. I strain for voices, for music,
but there is nothing anymore. Just emptiness and silence. The darkness closes in, pressing
on my face.
Alice I hear, and I think, that's me. I had forgotten.
We had the heat on high and I was sleepy. Outside, the air sparkled with crystalline
flakes of snow. Over the carols I whispered, I want to always remember this night. He smiled
and I closed my eyes, drifting off to the pure soprano voices of the choir.
Yes, I remember it all now.
It should have ended differently, as beautifully as it started, where we go home and
wrap the presents, drinking hot cocoa in the living room, listening to more Christmas music.
Go to bed glad we don't have to get up early for work in the morning and make love slowly in
the bluish light sneaking through the blinds. Fall asleep thinking of good things, of Christmas
dinners and decorating the tree and snow falling.
That is not what happened.
Metal. Things smashing, things screeching. He is screaming. Oh fuck oh fuck oh fuck
Alice are you okay Alice are you okay oh fuck oh fuck oh Alice. A sliver of pain and then
nothing. For a long time it is dark.
Pretty is as pretty does. Am I still pretty? Am I still me, am I still Alice? Or
have I become something else in this place?
It occurs to me that perhaps I am the only person left in the world.
I don't like this anymore. It hurts, pain that is beyond description. My legs. My
arms. My chest. A vise has clamped down on my skull and is squeezing tighter by the minute.
Pain, pure pain.
I don't float. I feel solid and too heavy. Thirsty, I want water, get me a nice
glass of water. I'd like an iced double skim latte, please. Diet Coke on ice, a margarita,
no ice. I have never been so dry.
Leave me alone. I am being poked and prodded, always touched and turned. Just let
me go back to sleep, unseen hands.
Alice, can you hear me? It's me, it's me.
Green tiles. That is what I see when my eyes open, through all the blinking. White
walls, far too bright and harsh for my eyes. I close my eyes again, relishing the dimness.
A voice says, I'm not sure she actually saw anything. I want to scream, yes I did!
I saw the wall!
Another thought. I am bored here, alone with my thoughts.
Christmas, is it over yet?
Alice, do it again. Open your eyes.
I want to see the snow falling.
The wall again, not as bright. It must be night. I am in a room, in a bed. Aha, I think.
It smells like alcohol, like bodies and sheets. A whisper, right near my ear. Alice, are you awake?
I blink a few times and the room is still here. Somehow I nod my head.
Copyright ©1997 Danielle Kluz