by Heather Bartos
She was perfect in every way, polished, poised and precise. It hadn’t been hard to do. She just watched what losers did and did the opposite. Her favorite word was no, repeated to herself over and over again.
“Oh, I wish I had your discipline,” people would say.
“Oh, I wish I had your focus,” people would say.
She hadn’t planned on becoming perfect, only on improving herself. But then things went too far.
Nobody had warned her about the medical side effects of becoming perfect. She became taller—head and shoulders above them all—and the only position that felt comfortable was looking down at others. Her head swelled, just a little bit. Her feet did not touch the ground. The eyes in the back of her head, meant to watch her competition to make sure they were not gaining ground, were disorienting. The constant sounds of applause and cheering ringing in her ears made it hard to listen.
There was also the odd thing that was happening with her wedding picture. She was getting bigger. Her husband was getting smaller and smaller. He now looked like a child of eight or nine, masquerading in his tuxedo and bow tie, while she looked like a babysitter towering over him.
But oh, the sheer perfection of other things made these inconveniences worth bearing. She had rock-hard, chiseled abs and upper arms that looked like they had been carved from marble. She never gained an ounce. She never had an ache or a pain anywhere.
She never had a bad hair day.
She never made a mistake.
And so, when she tripped, it came as a complete surprise and shock. She looked down and saw that a little brick wall, maybe a foot high, had sprung up around her feet. When she shifted, it shifted with her. She tried stepping around it or over it and found that she could not.
Every time she moved forward, she stubbed her toes. If she forgot the wall was there, and took a giant step, she tripped over it and landed with scraped knees and stinging elbows.
What is this? she thought, wounded and wondering. Although she had not had so much as a twinge of pain since she became perfect, she could feel these missteps that shredded her pride as well as her skin. After several attempts to step over the wall or step through it, she sat down, defeated.
And because her brain was perfect, it did not take long to think of a solution.
She would just not walk anymore. She would only sit. The wall couldn’t trip her if she didn’t move forward.
This must be a good solution. It was accompanied by loud clapping and cheering.
And underneath the cheering and clapping, she could hear a voice:
This will make you perfect.
The voice startled her, because all she was used to hearing was cheering and clapping. Hearing voices couldn’t indicate perfection.
Then she heard another voice, the voice of her husband, who was shrinking, who was losing his stature.
You think you’re perfect, don’t you?
You don’t apologize for anything, because you think you’re perfect.
She recognized the words from an old argument. She did not see him, but she extended her hand. Even though she had perfect vision, things that were close to her remained hard to see.
She could feel his hand in hers, solid and warm.
He’s going to help me over the wall, she thought. That’s it. It’s some kind of symbol. Or maybe a metaphor?
She waited for him to lift or pull her forward, but he did not. His hand remained in hers, warm and steady.
Because her brain was superior, being perfect, it did not take her long to realize what she was supposed to do.
She was supposed to lead him, bring him closer. But that would mean that he was able to step over the wall to get to her, and that would also mean he was on the perfect side, like she was. It would mean that his head would swell, and that he would have trouble hearing through the applause and the cheering, and that his feet would no longer touch the ground.
It might also mean perfect biceps, and rock-hard abs chiseled like marble, and perfect hair. And the thought of those perfect biceps was enough to make up her mind.
She tugged at his hand, just a little, and he glided over the wall.
He won’t be able to stay here, she thought. He was too…human. He could not say no enough to stay perfect. He could become perfect, but not through anything he did or said or didn’t do or say.
And that thought filled her with anger and rage, at how unfair it was that he just became perfect, without any effort, after all she had tried so hard to achieve. She dropped his hand.
Others appeared on the opposite side of the wall. She helped them over, one by one, and they shone in the light, although she had trouble seeing them since they were so close. Her mother, her father, her siblings. People she knew and did not know. People she did not like. People she felt sorry for. They were all there now beside her.
After she helped the last one, she heard the voice again: Enough. You have done enough.
She took a step forward. The wall around her feet was gone. She did not trip. There was nothing separating or dividing them anymore.
Her eyes filled with tears. What makes me special now?
That cheering and applause ringing in her ears stopped. Her husband was eye to eye with her again, just as tall as he was supposed to be. She wasn’t looking down at anyone. Her feet were on the ground.
And holding her hands were all the hands of the people she had helped over the wall.
About the author:
Heather Bartos lives near Portland, Oregon, and writes fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Her writing has been published in Miniskirt Magazine, Fatal Flaw Literary Magazine, Stoneboat Literary Journal, Porcupine Literary, You Might Need To Hear This, The Dillydoun Review, The Closed Eye Open, and The Bluebird Word. She also has upcoming flash fiction in Scapegoat Review and Drunk Monkeys.