Deborah Rocheleau’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Tin House Open Bar, 100 Word Story, Boston Literary Magazine, and Flights.
She liked to draw anatomical maps of her brain. Nothing scientific, really. She was never good with anatomy, but she clung to the outdated belief that emotions could be pinned like butterflies to certain gyres. Sketching at the kitchen table, she propped her cheek on her palm, fingers clinging starfish-like to her nose, her ear lobe, a streak of graying hair. Surely all these tangible parts of her being meant something. Flesh, no matter what the skeptics said, told stories.
Ragged hangnails. Ink-smudged nose. The fourth finger, third segment down. Her own was green. Did that mean envy? Certainly not for him. She stirred the dirty water in her paint rinse jar and tried to forget the feel of his fingers running through her hair, over her skull (the phrenologist!), searching for abnormalities.
No wonder he’d left.
In another hour, she’d finished the sketch, a rough jumble of gyres and eraser scraps. She began labeling the lobes—Fear, Curiosity, Awe—only estimates, of course, until she’d fine-tuned the equations. Later on, she’d color code it, trying to make sense of the overlapping boundaries. The fight-or-flight dichotomy. The happiness paradox. Love and hate would no doubt form a Venn diagram, intercepting over the stored memory of her husband’s face.
She worked late into the night, wrist cramping and tongue burnt bitter by the coffee. She’d win the Nobel Prize for her findings, though that thought didn’t keep her hunched over the paper, leaning ever closer to see as the light faded. She just needed to pin-point the location of hope, and she’d be an anesthesiologist and a scalpel away from never feeling disappointed again.