Work of Art by Sherri Levine

Gold coins on the counter, a single rolled cigarette, an open till. Outside, the sky looks like a clean, well swept room. There’s a spider crawling out of the clerk’s cherry slurpee, its long, spindly legs gripping the tip of the cup.  The clerk smacks her gum then tilts the cup on its side, shakes it like a frappé, until the spider can’t hold on anymore. It tumbles into the cherry slush, its skinny legs outstretched like a dead star.

I’m in line with a pair of Dukes of Hazzard sunglasses on sale for $12.99. Customers start to fill the store. A guy wearing unicorn pajama bottoms grabs a box of diapers, then reaches for a pack of Miller High Life. Two boys, in line, complain about being caught vaping in the school bathroom. A girl in a gray hoodie with pink pigtails rips open a can of Pringles with her teeth, her left hand pockets a single cherry pop tart. 

The bruise around my eye tingles. I hear when that happens, it means that it’s in the process of healing. My doctor told me that you can cause pain to your body just by thinking about it. When my sister was diagnosed with lung cancer, my stomach hurt all the time. I lost my appetite. She ate more than I did.

I bruise easily. The last bruise I got was on my other eye. It turned different colors—yellow, purple, then a lovely pinkish gray. “A work of art,” my sister took a picture of it last time she visited me. When she bent down to kiss me, I could barely feel her lips on my cheek. Like when the eye doctor blows air across your eyes, then says good job and tells you to relax. Like taking a deep breath, after not being able to breathe or swallow.

“Whenever I come to Portland, all we do is talk about our childhood,” she said on the phone. I can picture her inspecting her chin for white, pokey hairs. This afternoon, she will be sitting on my green velvet couch, showing me the latest pictures of her dogs. 

My eye is pulsing. I wonder if my bruise has gotten bigger, changed its shape, the way splotches of oil float in water, like rainbow puddles, the way sun hits gasoline on cement, the smell so strong, it gets you high.

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