Black and White Girl
Hang the black blouses on the line please. Black because the only colors she wears are black and white, and the whites must be bleached when they are ready because those are the rules of laundry and because the sheets and towels are also white and must be bleached when they are washed because those are the rules of towels and sheets.
The neighbor is out, smiling, on her knees in the dirt on the other side of the link fence, weeding flowers, ready to chat. Purple and fuchsia and violet spurt violently into life around her waist. Things seem different with the neighbor but it’s hard to tell for sure because when the black and white girl is inside, the neighbor girl is outside, and when the black and white girl is outside, the neighbor girl is nowhere.
He hangs the last of the black blouses on the line and looks over the back fence at the neighbor’s house where the siding is separating and white unpainted vinyl shows at the places where the pieces are joined together because the men who installed it didn’t paint it before putting it up, like you’re supposed to do. The white didn’t show at first. Nobody does anything right anymore when it comes to installing siding or being faithful to your wife.
The black and white girl is outside, arms full of damp, bland clothing.
Author Commentary for Black and White Girl
This piece began to come to life in a weekly creative writing workshop that I teach. We were working with a word count limitation and also with color or the absence of it—I had given out several colors (along with some other random words) on folded strips of paper to each student. One of mine was fuschia. I think the words “rule” and “laundry” were also on my paper, though I can’t remember exactly. At the time, a lot of my reading and thinking were concentrated on marriage and feminism, and I was also very frustrated that my new brown siding was beginning to show white spots in some of the places where it was joined together.
I’m fascinated by the futile search for permanence and perfection in so many (perhaps all) of our human pursuits. It seems that no matter how many times we are told that these things are hopeless, we stubbornly persist in thinking that it might work out for us. That somehow, we are different than everyone else in the world. That we can achieve everything we want to achieve (and that when we do achieve it, it will be and feel exactly the way that we always knew it would).
This piece doesn’t come out of any real experience of unfaithfulness—while my husband isn’t perfect, I’m convinced he is perfect for me and that I’d be miserable with anyone else. What it does express is the unexpected blandness that creeps into a relationship as time presses forward, and the potential excitement of possibility in the unknown—not the exotic and dangerous unknown, but the mundane unknown that exists right next door which presents itself as exotic because in the midst of the blandness you just can’t tell anymore.
About the writer:
Jessie Kramer is an English adjunct at Rochester College in Rochester Hills, Michigan, where she teaches creative writing and literature. She is currently at work on a collection of essays. Her poetry and flash have been published in small magazines and contests, including Flash Fiction Magazine.