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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Microfiction: 429 words
By Gloria Frym

Could Have Been


The last time I saw her she could have been lying. We looked for her lost keys in the wet matted leaves and all we could see in the dark was yellow. We walked over the yellow to crunch on the keys but all that happened was yellow leaves. We retraced her steps with yellow leaves clinging to her suede boots. She kept zipping and unzipping compartments in her purse. Did she lose her keys or were they hiding in one of the many pockets in her raincoat? Was this a new form of flirtation? She had rejected my advances several times before. We sat in my car and took everything out of the many compartments of her purse. I felt the corners but unearthed nothing but mints which do not in any way feel like keys.

A light rain began to mist the windows and they began to steam up, though we weren’t breathing heavily. She seemed sincere, but you cannot both seem sincere and be sincere. The keys were of some importance, of course, but what if she had dragged me into this treasure hunt for no reason I could imagine? What if she really couldn’t find the keys? Of course I would drive her home, but how would she get inside? There wouldn’t be a happy ending in the end, just a kind of relief. One likes to trust a person to tell the truth, not to manipulate it.

Then she wanted to go back to the party, to check the bench where the purse had been. I offered to accompany her, but she said no. It began to pour. She returned with the keys, her lipstick slightly smudged. Her hair was drenched, a raindrop landed on her forehead. But she wasn’t happy enough. If she had the keys in her pants pocket all along, what were her motives? Did she plan to invite me in if I would have had to take her home? I should ask, but I’m busy reviewing the whole event, how it mimicked something between us, the pattern once established between two people that rarely changes, the lunging forward, as in need, and the pulling back when the need is satisfied. Did she really just find the keys on the bench? I shouldn’t give the incident a second thought. All is well, the keys are found, the woman goes home in her own car to her own house alone. And yet, I’m left holding the proverbial bag. The bag of doubt. You know how much that might weigh?

Gloria Frym
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

lives in Berkeley. Her most recent book is How Proust Ruined My Life & Other Essays (BlazeVOX, 2020). The True Patriot, a collection of prose, came out from Spuyten Duyvil in 2015. She is also the author of the short story collections, Distance No Object (City Lights Books) and How I Learned (Coffee House Press), as well as many volumes of poetry. Her book Homeless at Home received an American Book Award. She is professor in the MFA Writing Program and the Writing & Literature Program at California College of the Arts.

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

A Practice of Immersion: Gloria Frym on Reading, a review by Dale Martin Smith of How Proust Ruined My Life & Other Essays in Fence Digital (21 May 2021)

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