Learning About Opposites
Lena Bertone


She asks me what the opposite of in the middle is. She's desperate. Her little voice quivers. I repeat it to my friends. We marvel and laugh at the cleverness but she wants to know: what is the opposite of in the middle? If her vocabulary were more advanced, she would ask: what is the fucking opposite of in the middle? I don't know what to say. I think about a parallel universe invisible and adjacent to our own; the inside-out of a potato chip bag; turning a mirror around and looking into its back.


A crazy person gives my daughter a yellow ball he won at bingo. I use the word crazy all the time. It means everything and its opposite. It's very good, and very bad, very emphatic, and very bored. It's extreme no matter how I use it. The crazy person seems like a swell guy, with a soft, happy voice and appropriate questions like, how old is she? Has she started school? Isn't she a doll? They roll the ball around while another crazy person paces the ward with his iPod plugged into his head and his hands clenched into fists, catching my eye every time he passes the wired window.


All year I tried to forget the shitty things he'd done to me. It was excruciating at first, and then the rage and humiliation passed. After that, it wasn't even worth telling the funny, ridiculous story. Then, like magic, he forgot everything. Not just once, but every day, every hour. What happened? he asked me. What did I do? And I told him. I did that? he said. Yes, I said, you did. I can't believe I did that, he said. Well, I said, you did. Believe it: you did. Then he would ask again: What happened? I woke up this morning, but would you please tell me what happened? A year of his life had been erased. He remembered me; he remembered his daughter; he remembered an imaginary life in which he had been happy.

Lena Bertone has stories in or coming from Redivider, matchbook, Hayden's Ferry Review, NANO Fiction and others.

Detail of photo art on main page courtesy of Astromysticism.

w i g · l e a F               09-22-11                                [home]