by Darren Morris
The saddest thing I saw this week was on Facebook. It was a woman I hadn’t really known from high school. Right after we friended, she got cancer and struggled. That’s what all her posts started being about: I battled through another weekend. Special sayings. False confidence. Come and see me, she wrote. Thanks so much to old such and such. Pictures of the kids. Into remission. Stuff like that. Made it too hard to unfriend her, but I wanted to. So, you finally can tune it out, if they don’t change their profile pic too much. You train yourself to look for it and scroll on past. But this one changed her pic and posted all the time. Her name was Linda and I called her Lady Lazarus, just in my mind and maybe to one other friend. I don’t even really use Facebook. I just check up on what my kids are saying. They’re going through a bullying stage right now. They are super competitive, which is great, because this is America after all. But the one sleeps with a headless doll even though she has thirty others brand new, good as gold. I cry at things I’m supposed to, but today, I stopped and read Linda’s status update. It was the photo that stopped me. It was a woman, Linda, I guess, sitting in a tidy plank-framed, black-lacquered structure, a tiny room of her own, a cubby with a window in the door. The caption read: “Why did they ever stop making phone booths?” Sure enough, there was a symbol for an old-timey telephone on the half-opened door, and Linda peeking out. It was probably in the back of some old bar, the kind you find because you just need somewhere to stumble into, maybe straight from some doctor’s office. Or maybe you ducked in just to escape a sudden thunder burst. Looking at her and her simple happiness, it surprised me, but I could feel myself breaking open. Immediately I knew that I would live a long time, years would move through me and I would continue getting everything precisely wrong, feeling little or nothing—except for this.
Darren Morris’ story “The Weight of the World” won the Just Desserts Short-Short Fiction Prize from Passages North in 2011. He is the recipient of a Virginia Commission for the Arts fellowship, and his poems have been published in The American Poetry Review, The Southern Review, Hotel Amerika, 32 Poems, Raritan, Tongue: A Journal of Writing and Art, and others.