Head on Fire - Image by @primuskov

Her fake smile is her most authentic trait. Fabricated with detail and nuance, precisely 85% of her tissue white teeth showing, it turns up the corner of her eyes, it adds sparkle to the pupils. Face front, never angled left or right, she snaps the smile on like one would a dislocated shoulder: swiftly and painfully. You knew it was genuine because she never used fakeness as a mask. There was nothing to mask. It isn’t a defence or offence, it simply is. She could also snap on a frown, a tear and an orgasm - for those types of people. Her mind reels with old-fashioned cogs, not like the new models, her body turning and moving much like clockwork, predictable and safe. 

Sometimes I see that she looks like me, except with crystal cocoa skin. She is the me I wish to be whenever I’m at my lowest, whenever I remember myself before the fire, whenever I can’t dance. It is fun watching her dance, fluid movements, creaking at the joints. I don’t let her oil them until she moves too slowly to help me. Then, and only then, do I let her do her maintenance. One day, I’ll be too tired or sick to care about her, and that’s good. I like the idea that we will both die here one day. 

“Tea,” I say, always surprised by the crack in my voice.

She crosses the little one bedroom, gently stepping over boxes and clothes. She takes the bread from the freezer and toasts it. She then places the toast on the plastic plate, pours hot tea from the already boiling kettle into a cup holding a Lemongrass Tea. She puts it all on a tray and brings it to me with a pat of warm butter. There can’t be much left, but I’ll enjoy it while it lasts. I don’t touch the tray until after she spreads the butter thinly on the bread because I don’t want my arms to touch hot oil again, not even in the gloves. 

She says nothing as she hands me my breakfast. There is no conversation here. No calls, no friends, no family and that’s how I like it. I had her bar the doors too, and the windows, save for the little slivers of light that creep in. When they brought her, she still had her speaker. My husband tried to talk to me through the speaker but why would I listen to him? I just told her to take the speaker out and crush it. It makes me laugh whenever I remember what I did. No one saw that coming, did they? That I’d have her take herself apart or block the doors? I have years of canned and frozen food, my books, my medicine, her company, why would I leave? Why? It’s ridiculous! They just want me to come out and pretend to be okay. I don’t pretend. I won’t. She’s the only real thing in my life. She never pretends. I’m just like her. There is nothing behind the facade. We just are.

When it gets dark, I like to ask her to dance. Sometimes I keep her spinning, spinning, spinning, a wind-up doll cranked up to the max, and watch the smile rotate into a frown into a tear into a frown and back to that snapped-on smile. It is calming, that lullaby. I often fall asleep on the couch watching her movement, mechanical, hypnotic spins, and hours later wake up to her still twisting around, smile, smile, smile. 

Whatever else, I got to hand it to her. She is always herself. 

NB: Previously posted here under another username that was corrupted. 

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