Visualize it, the doctor said. See yourself picking up the phone. See yourself dialing.
When he closes his eyes he sees it not in color, not in flesh, but in woodcuts. Like in his grandmother’s book of fairy tales—the massive one, that needed an adult’s lap to support. The faces scraped too heavily from the grain of the block, the limbs always a bit too long.
You’re saying hello. You’re asking if you can speak to her.
There was a picture in the middle of the book that the pages always fell to when he pulled it off the table, too small and too cowed by grandmother’s parlor to hold on to it properly. A well, a woman. A girl mouthing moans as a horrid, squat creature tumbled from her lips. Another following.
She’s coming to the phone. You are calm. You are deciding what to say.
There were two girls went to the well to draw water. The first was a poor starveling, relict of a sweet consumptive mother too fondly remembered for the new wife’s taste. Her stepmother used her cruelly, yet she spoke only kind words to the beggar-woman who asked her to draw just one cup more. The woman kissed her cheek and each word was a pearl, a rose-petal, a diamond drop.
She’s saying hello. You are calm. You are calm.
The stepmother sent her own daughter next, to earn her mouthful of riches. This daughter was a pampered priss, far too proud of her own reflection on the surface of the well to speak prettily to the woman who waited there. Not a beggar, this time—a lady of furs and finery, surely with servants enough to draw her water and even to bring the cup to her lips. So the second girl said, with a toss of her head and a giggle. The lady kissed her other cheek and the next laugh brought forth a swarm of flies.
Visualize speaking. But even in his mind, he is too shy to open his mouth. He doesn’t want to know what’s kissed him.