I Copied the Paintings

Caitlin Forst

I grabbed her leg on her way out the door at the end of our nights together.

She said, “Aren’t they worried about people finding out?”

I was six years old. I said, “What does that mean?”

“Do your parents care if people know they are dating other people?”

Roger died and mom said the car must’ve not even know what it hit. I found him with his face all mauled in the middle of the road. Dad threw his collar away.

I took scissors to my shirts, so they were small like hers. We leaned against each other, my head on her hip, and stared at ourselves in the mirror. She played French music I didn’t like and showed me pictures on the computer of abstract art. I asked her what abstract meant. “It means shapes that don’t occur in reality.” I copied the paintings by Kandinsky with colored pencils on the flipped pages of old bills. I asked her to write the word abstract at the top of the page, not comprehending the sounds the letters made next to each other.

She told me she used to live in London. She used to dance ballet. Her husband died.

“You have a husband? You’re not even old.”

“I don’t have a husband anymore. And I am old.”

I asked my mom why the babysitter was better at drawing than her, even though my mom was older.

This is when I stopped eating. Sliced turkey from the deli looked like my own skin. I was afraid I’d choke on any food I put in my mouth. Dad said, “Do you know what happens to little girls who don’t eat?” I was willing to know, and I asked him over and over again, but he wouldn’t tell me.

Caitlin Forst is the editor of a forthcoming autofiction anthology and is currently working on a novel.