First, it was wine and an assortment of cheeses. Then a walk through the park, the jasmine air slithering mildly between them. Later, on her porch, when a younger couple might have kissed in fleeting secrecy, she said, “Can I interest you in a tour of my museum?”
Yes, he said, and should he take off his shoes?
No need, she thought. Where we’re going, it’s hardly spotless.
It was dark in her metaphysical memory museum, the only jaundiced light emitted from the coned beams over the various display cases. She led the way entirely by touch and muscle memory.
She tapped her fingertips against the first glass case, while he clasped his hands behind his back, too afraid to touch. “Exhibit A,” she said, voice a practiced monotone, “a carnation, half-wilted.”
He bent down to read the bronze plaque, and she let him, already knowing the words, the story, by heart. It was given to her by her prom date, a boy who would become a man who would later cheat on her, leave her best friend pregnant, and skip town all in the space of a single moon orbit.
They moved on, weaving through the elevated glass cases, their steps echoing against the marble floor. “Exhibit B,” she said, coming to a stop before the next case. “A bullet, bloodied by the wrong target.”
Again, he bent down to read the plaque slowly, carefully, his lips mouthing the words. “Your kid brother,” he said, pained. “I’m sorry.”
“It’s been a long time,” she said. “The police never made an arrest. Said it was a lost cause, identifying the culprit in our neighborhood.”
The biggest case contained a vintage Singer sewing machine, dark and shiny despite its many years of use. He looked almost in awe of it, his fingers hovering above the glass. She nodded, and they stroked the glass on opposite sides, eyes locked together. When he didn’t read the plaque, she cleared her aching throat.
“I created many things with the help of this old girl. My own veil for weddings that never happened. Baby clothes for all my nieces and nephews, but never for my own miscarried cells.”
He gave a solemn nod, his fingers on the glass, stroking hers from afar.
They moved on.
“This is the last exhibit,” she said, her voice quivering now. “Not very glamorous, I’m afraid.”
When she didn’t go on, he read the plaque himself, whisper-soft. “A heart, badly battered.”
She clapped her hands twice, the lights coming on, the museum tucked back to its metaphysical plane in her hippocampus.
“This is what you’ll have to deal with,” she said, “if you want to be with me The museum, it cannot be demolished.” Not without ruining me along with it, she thought.
He smiled, and guided her hand to his chest. “I’m a bit dusty in here,” he said, “a bit bloody. If you would like to visit next time.”
She threw her head back and laughed. “I’d like that,” she said, her hand still on his marble-smooth chest.
They soon went their separate ways, with more tour plans, more museum dates in their agendas. And deep inside their metaphysical memory museums, the exhibits began stirring from their long slumber.
Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Flash Fiction Online, The Forge Literary,Daily Science Fiction, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, and other venues. Avra won the 2019 Bacopa Literary Review prize for fiction. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.