The Surrogate

The Surrogate
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Picture Credits: Tracy Lundgren

I’ve always wanted to go to one of those fancy-schmancy exhibition galleries, but because I can’t, a surrogate observer, in patent leather boots, colorless braids, and a patent leather jacket I always wanted to wear, is doing it for me.

People milling around here and there, admiring their own shadows, their attention fixates on each other’s conversations, the blonde waitress with free champagne, and the famous actress showing up last minute.

Light filters through the skylights above like the surprised wings of sparkling fireflies.

My surrogate observer goes straight to the paintings on display—three in total—the click-clack of her heels is swallowed by the muddle of discordant thought/desire burdens people wear like second skin.

Here’s what my surrogate is seeing with supposedly my eyes, but in actuality my husband Ken’s eyes— the result of years of emotional imprinting as some self-help book or another so elaborately explains.

Painting no.1:

A bisque doll…Anne-May doll…ancient doll… IT’S MY ANNE-MAY DOLL…dangling…NO, SHE’S FLOATING…from ugly-colored…balloon…disgusting red…THE COLOR OF MY INFLAMED INSIDES WHEN YOU FORCE YOURSELF IN… …only one good arm… holding on to the thread… grey clouds…weird light… not sunlight… YES IT IS SUNLIGHT…dead doll…disgusting balloon. 

Painting no.2:

That ugly doll…again… THAT’S MY ANNE-MAY….orange braids…THAT’S STRAWBERRY BLONDE…big red nose…FROM TOO MUCH CRYING…badly-drawn diamond tears…THATS SMEARED MASCARA YOU IDIOT…she’s a clown…I AM NOT…In a town of clowns…THEY ARE NOT CLOWNS…where no one sees her…she’s not funny…YOU DID THIS.

The Third Painting:

Dead doll…THAT’S ME ANNE-MAY…broken limbs…YOU CAN’T SEE THE BROKEN HEART…hanging…from a clothes line…all dirty…YOU ARE BLIND…reflected…in a mirror.

When the surrogate is finally home, we hold hands, conspire, and we do it.

When Ken wakes up the next day, he’s unduly pleased. The Barbie he’s always wanted is lying next to him.

I hold on to my balloon, happy too, for him.

About Riham Adly

Riham Adly is an Egyptian writer/blogger/translator. Her fiction has appeared in journals such as The Citron Review, Flash Frontier, FlashBack Fiction, Okay Donkey, Bending Genres, Afreada, Connotation Press, Spelk, The Cabinet of Heed, Vestal Review, Volney Road Review, Five:2:One, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Gingerbread House lit, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Anti-Heroin Chic, Danse Macabre and @Fewerthan500 among others. Her work have been nominated for Best of the Net and The Pushcart. She was recently shortlisted in the Arab-Lit Translation Prize. Riham lives with her family in Gizah, Egypt.

Riham Adly is an Egyptian writer/blogger/translator. Her fiction has appeared in journals such as The Citron Review, Flash Frontier, FlashBack Fiction, Okay Donkey, Bending Genres, Afreada, Connotation Press, Spelk, The Cabinet of Heed, Vestal Review, Volney Road Review, Five:2:One, Brilliant Flash Fiction, Gingerbread House lit, Writing in a Woman’s Voice, Anti-Heroin Chic, Danse Macabre and @Fewerthan500 among others. Her work have been nominated for Best of the Net and The Pushcart. She was recently shortlisted in the Arab-Lit Translation Prize. Riham lives with her family in Gizah, Egypt.

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