One wouldn’t think my hands would sweat the way they do walking adjacent to you, with your khakis, too short and wrinkled, but here we are. Since day two of the retreat, your various states of beard have complicated my hair and makeup routine, my mind equally untidy. By day eight, we wander through the Carnegie Museum. Stand for photos under moose. Stare at fossils. Lives preserved in amber. Hooves dug from ice. Hulking jawbones. Wings cast in plaster and reassembled with unknowable screws and fishing line, hanging above our heads. We are long married to other people. My elbow grazes yours. I move toward the Goya room filled with his later drawings. The syphilis drawings. Where his smudgy grays mash the faces of those he loved. Where bodies are distorted and grotesque. Where she props him up, mouth agape, and the sword lay below, having killed her own bright star.
Beth Gilstrap is the winner of the 2019 Red Hen Press Women’s Prose Prize for her second full-length collection Deadheading & Other Stories (forthcoming 2021). She is also the author of I Am Barbarella: Stories (2015) from Twelve Winters Press and No Man’s Wild Laura (2016) from Hyacinth Girl Press. She serves as Fiction Editor at Little Fiction | Big Truths and a reader at Creative Nonfiction.