When You Picture Me, Make Me Something Stranger
There’s a woman in a hat and she’s walking up to a house. Whatever hat you’re imagining, throw it out and replace it with something more interesting. If it has a brim, make it a fez. If it's casual, make it a pope hat with gold trim and tails. It doesn’t matter which, just that there’s a woman in a hat, but it’s not the hat you expect.
I said she’s walking up to a house and that’s true, but it’s not her house. Maybe it once was, maybe it will be, but right now it isn’t. And right now is when she’s heaving her bag up the walk. (Are you picturing a suitcase? Make it a rucksack, or a shopping bag full of bones.)
Anyway, the walk is a very lonely place, as you’ve probably guessed because she’s heaving this heavy bag by herself. (Context clues are still good for something.) But it’s not the loneliness she notices here on the bricks out in front of the house that’s not hers.
It’s the awkwardness of heaving yourself toward the door of someone else’s house while juggling a rucksack or a bag of bones and trying to keep your fez or your pope hat on your head as the wind picks up and still look casual while you do it.
It’s the laugh on your lips that says “my hat is so interesting, certainly someone will open that door.”
It’s the lightless gaze of the windows.
And all while you rehearse what you’ll say when they answer, who to trust with this bag, how you’re going to ask this impossible thing of a house, of a person, of a body that is not yours.
Kate Needham is a flash fiction writer who loves everything fantastic and speculative. Originally from Kansas City (MO!), she is currently working toward her PhD at Yale where she researches, writes, teaches first-year composition and neglects her houseplants. She is on Twitter at @katenedwed and kateneedham.com.
This painting is attributed to Gertrude Abercrombie, but is possibly a fraud. The work is part of an investigation into art market hoaxes. Learn more here.
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