In this city it is the measure of a lady's face that matters. Not the lift of her shoulders or the length of her legs. Only the distance between cheek and jaw and the spacing of the eyes determines a lady's success. There are no river taxis in this city and we must assort ourselves on the damp benches, pull fragile looking-glasses from handbags, and take measure of our gaze while casting envious glances at the circling river birds always overhead. At night many of the women use a husband's ties to bind their faces painfully tight. So much pain . . . . I must keep my thoughts quiet for it is impossible to live on the wrong side here. Surely more attention should be paid to a woman's breasts, or a well turned ankle, or sleek thigh. Many are aware of this truth I feel sure, but today all the society columns and even whispered gossip must never mention any feature but the face. I keep my plans of escape well-hidden and only take them out at night to write detailed instructions to my future self. Meanwhile I carry a camera in the large pocket of my sweater and take surreptitious photos of the pain in the eyes of the ladies. When I am free and living in another city I will show these photos to my own daughter and she will hurry to the window and cast her love out over the beautiful city with no rivers only wide streets with pristine sidewalks full of contented faces smiling like wildflowers on a hillside, a city in which countenances are free to take their own shape and people who should hang shall be hung.
John Riley lives in North Carolina, where he works in educational publishing. His fiction and poetry have appeared in several print and electronic journals, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Connotation Press, Willows Wept Review, Loch Raven Review, Dead Mule, and Blue Five Notebook. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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