“Phantoms”
by Jac Jemc

I wondered if it was possible I’d been older once. When I turned 14, I felt sure I’d already lost my virginity, but I couldn’t remember specifics of even having kissed a boy. I felt experienced, but I didn’t remember enough to bother with all the courtship needed to be sure, so I just went on believing. I remember sitting on the lawn and trying to work my fingers into the earth, and getting my hands buried deep enough that my wrists felt cool within it, and I remember the effort it took to pull them up, and thinking for a second that these weren’t my hands. My hands had been different. I remember thinking they looked longer now, that the palms opened wider. I remember thinking I might never be the same. I stared up at the sun until I noticed the light burning my eyes, and I closed them, pulled my dirty hands to my face to find some darkness. When I opened my eyes again, everything looked clearer. I could see veins in my legs that were closer to the surface than they’d been before. The grass looked sharper. The dirt clumped in pillowy mounds around the holes in which I’d hidden my hands. I could feel a face right in front of my own, but I was alone, and I knew that if I wasn’t alone, it was just some other version of myself that was nearby. I remember feeling breath on my cheeks, and running inside, my muscles tight, the door taking too long to swing shut. I sat on my hands on the nice pastel floral couch and I massaged my memory, trying to remember how long I’d been outside, trying to remember when I’d last eaten. I looked for all of my answers in the world. I stood to look out the window. I memorized the empty garden and closed my eyes, trying to imagine I was seeing myself sitting out there. I tried to imagine I was both inside and outside, and I paced my memory like that alone for an unsure amount of time. I fell asleep on the living room carpet, and woke when my mother arrived home. She was shaking me. She thought I’d passed out. I woke confused. She looked at my hands and ushered me into the kitchen. She washed my fingers gently, with warm water and soap that smelled like tea, scrubbing my nails with the nailbrush she used after gardening. She put me to bed and in the morning there were no smudges on the sofa and the holes where I’d buried my hands in the yard had swallowed themselves.




Jac Jemc’s first novel, My Only Wife, will be released from Dzanc Books in April 2012. Jac is also the author of a chapbook of stories, These Strangers She’d Invited In, that sold out at Greying Ghost Press last year and the poetry editor of decomP Magazine. She blogs her rejections at jacjemc.com.