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Sometimes I Shrivel Up at Night - Kathleen McGuire

I’ve been having trouble sleeping for a long time. Last night I looked over at the empty bed and I thought I saw Bailey’s shape. The sleep-illuminated baby face. The sloping shoulder. The fragrance of hydrangeas. I sometimes think I hear her cutting remarks. Even those I miss now. I’ve grown too large for my own self; I could use some cutting down but pruning never seems to help me grow; it makes me shrivel up.

Everywhere I go, there’s something that makes me shrivel up. College. I’m jaded but only because I feel so misunderstood and my lipstick shade so misinterpreted. Where are all the other kids wearing fringe booties? Nowhere. Where are all the kids that like music? Nowhere. I’d get kicked out if they knew what’s in my CD player. I’d have to go to student court and argue my case. Good thing the band broke up. We played at bars, and if I am even in a bar, I can get booted.

At my house I shrink too. I don’t wanna be vulnerable about my feelings. They watch my expressions, attaching invisible wires to my eyelids like a lie detector when they ask in plaintive voices, “How was it with Russell tonight?” I know they’re looking for a spike in heart rate, something negative to validate the opinion, the reason, that we should break up. But it’s good now. It’s good now. It’s fine. Just fine. No need to call in the dogs or file the reports. Dad believes me. I know it because he trusts me, and when people trust you, well, they don’t try to second-guess you or undermine you or talk you out of your own decisions; they let the chips fall where they fall. Mom doesn’t. She looks like a commercial for anxiety medication. I don’t remember her ever being this high strung. She was always the oak tree, not the weeping willow. Oh well.


Kathleen McGuire resides in St. Petersburg, FL with her husband and children. In addition to writing about her impressions of real, raw human experience, she is a songwriter and fronts an indie rock band, Team Callahan. She has most recently been published in Every Day Fiction and The Mustard Review.


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