Filtering Grace

by Lavinia Ludlow

My favorite picture of Grace is the one of her on the toilet, when her legs balance on arched feet like a ballerina at the peak of her arabesque. A sea foam thong stretches thin as a rubber band between pigeon-toed calves that cascade in curves so intoxicating, the view would tempt anyone to reach between her knees. Even the most staunchly disciplined. Even me.

She's bent at the waist in a listless slouch and clutching a plastic champagne cup half full of a forth cranberry mimosa. Her fingers stagger like spiral steps around the flute, accented by the mall kiosk zirconia hanging off on her middle knuckle. Indolent eyes peer up at the shower curtain or the grout in between the neon white tiles, a stubborn filth I could never eradicate, not even with bleach pens and hours of tooth brush detail.

A deluge of light from the window blanches her of color. The anemic burgundy of her lips and mimosa, and the pastel of her thong barely defy the shadows. She appears a wash of pensive and withdrawn, two polarized states that I could never differentiate based on expression alone, but depending on the situation, I'd lean more toward one than the other: pensive when we were smitten and withdrawn when we were fighting.

Similarly, I tinker with the photo's aspects depending on the day: increasing the saturation when I'm missing her, decreasing the temperature when I'm self-flagellating, or balancing the tint when I feel her slipping from immediate memory. Some corrections are so minute that I see no difference and even if I could, I can't explain why something mattered enough to alter what she looked like that morning she left me.

Or maybe I left her. It's debatable just like the definition of infidelity between two women, and whether a particular act is unfaithful or “simply amiable” as she tried so hard to make me understand. Gone for months now, but I still deconstruct her image, minimizing one aspect to enhance another, like a pendulum in constant flux between color and grey scale, vibrant and faded, under exposed and over worshipped, but never without a halo of light.

She tries reconciling but I don't want to know her any other way than in this photo, that morning when we weren't smitten but weren't yet fighting, when she could be thinking any thought in her worldly mind and feeling any emotion in her volatile heart that for two years circulated blood through nimble fingers that reached into me in all the ways an army of cock could never reach. She was my first, my only, she broke me in then brought me down.

Alone now, I cycle through hundreds of variations of her image like a flip book narrating some abstract story. That's all she is now to me, an incoherent melange of tints, saturations, and contrasts, and somewhere between graceful and graceless is where I will remember her.

--originally published in Chicago Literati on 4-3-16: http://chicagoliterati.com/2016/04/03/filtering-grace-by-lavinia-ludlow/