Growing up, Deborah S. Prespare lived in South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and Kenya due to her father’s Foreign Service career. She majored in economics and philosophy during her undergraduate studies at Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa. After graduating, she worked for the federal government in Washington, D.C., and pursued, on a part-time basis, her Master of Arts in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. She now works and lives in Brooklyn, New York. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Amarillo Bay, Blue Lake Review, Cadillac Cicatrix, Common Ground Review, Diner, Diverse Voices Quarterly, The Fiddleback, The MacGuffin, Marathon Literary Review, North Atlantic Review, Potomac Review,
Prospectus: A Literary Offering, Qwerty, Red Rock Review, and Rougarou.
As his brain calcified, memories of her fragmented and splintered like images perceived through a kaleidoscope. Sometimes he could sense endlessly repeating mirrored impressions of her; impressions too small, too obscure, too numerous to separate the true her from the simulacra of her shattered form.
On a good day, when the thick fog concealing his past dissipated, he could sometimes capture a momentary glimpse of her. The picture, though—the cohesion of the memory, a memory he knew had to be that of her face—always disintegrated into a variegated collage of lips, eyebrows, noses, and eyes; always fell to pieces with the slightest breath, the smallest hint of his wanting more.
And more was what he always wanted.
Frustrated, he would shake his head, beat the bed with his arms, like how he used to shake and beat the vending machine at the office when it failed to dispense for him what he expected. He could remember the vending machine, its rows of brightly packaged cookies, candy bars, and nuts that had greeted him countless times on his way in and out of the building.
But her—he couldn’t remember clearly.
“Mr. McCrane, you’ll want to stop now,” a faraway voice said.
A squeeze on his arm. More words floating. Pressure on his lips and then something in his mouth—a metallic clank against his two bottom teeth and then something...something thick, salty.
Peanut butter. The vending machine. When he was in a good mood, when he wanted to celebrate—a big sale closed, a new client hooked—he’d treat himself to a Planters Peanut Bar. He chewed now, remembering the sweet-salty flavor of his favorite snack. “Peanuts,” he mumbled.
“What now, Mr. McCrane? You’re not being fresh, are you?”
Peanuts. Good days. Her. “Fina,” he whispered.
“Who’s Fina, Mr. McCrane?”
Whose voice is that? He stared ahead into the thick fog. Who’s Fina? Her name...already slipping from him. Peanut butter. He pushed his tongue against the roof of his mouth to free the goop glued there.
“You have to eat, Mr. McCrane.”
A stroke against his chin. Another clank against his teeth. He managed to swallow, to take a shallow breath, and with his exhalation, he whispered her name again, “Fina.”
“Is Fina a friend? Don’t worry. I’m sure Fina will be visiting you soon.”
Her name. That’s it. He repeated it over and over—Fina, Fina. He couldn’t forget.
“Now, now. Everything’s okay, Mr. McCrane. Just relax.”
Another voice. Warm air against his cheek. “Dad, it’s me.”
Words drifting over him. “Do you know who Fina is?”
“No. Is that a person, you think?”
“Or does it mean something else? He’s been mumbling it all morning.”
Fina. How could I’ve forgotten Fina? The way she’d made him laugh. The way she’d made him cry.
“You need to eat more, Dad. The oatmeal—it is oatmeal, right?”
“Yes. I think so.”
“The oatmeal looks really good, Dad.”
“He’s been fussing all morning.”
“Dad, are you crying? There’s nothing to cry about. Here, give me the spoon. I’ll try.”
Something in his mouth. Peanuts. Salty. The smell of salt. Ocean. Seaside grass swaying. He remembered this. Sand under his feet. Laughter like chimes in the wind. Her out in the distance. A yellow sweater. Only the details, but not the whole of the moment, of her. “I can’t,” he said, trying to focus on her sweater. Yellow bleeding into the blue sea, the sea bleeding into the blue sky. “See,” he whispered.
Fingers wrapping around his. Are they hers?
“She’s gone,” he mumbled.
“Who’s gone, Dad?” one of the faraway voices asked.
Who? Who... Her name gone again, but the dense shadow of pain remained. Maybe it’s better this way, he thought. Not remembering. If he remembered, that shadow of an ache would leave the world of specters, would maybe squeeze his heart until it stopped. He let his head sink into the pillow, his shoulders relax. It’s better this way.
“That’s right, Mr. McCrane. You take a little nap.”
“I’ll see you later, Dad. You’ll call me if he doesn’t...”
The words floating above him faded as he neared the edge of sleep. He sighed, and in that moment, when he’d let her loose from the tangle of his wants, he saw her, all of her, and she was beautiful standing in the canned and jarred goods aisle inside Wilson’s Groceries, the small store in town that sold just the basics. She was visiting her sister, had stopped in for a couple of forgotten things—blueberry jam and tea. Her sister and brother-in-law were coffee drinkers. She preferred tea. Scottish breakfast if they had it. English if they didn’t. He was picking up his weekly stockpile of canned beef stew. She’d commented on the variety of goods in his basket, and with her teasing grin, the way her nose crinkled when she laughed, he’d never felt more at ease. He added a can of chicken soup to his collection, agreeing on the breadth of his pallet, making her laugh again. Standing there with her, in the narrow aisle lined with jars and cans, the smallness of his life—the town, his sales job, his bare-bones apartment, his clunker of a car—swelled into a realization that with her, his life could be immense.
With her. Fina.
“Sh-h-h, Mr. McCrane. Relax. Just take a deep breath.”
A breath. He hadn’t been able to breathe since her. How badly he wanted to breathe again. Shaking his head, he focused on that day—the day they first met—not caring about all that had come after, and as he focused, as he struggled to remember the pattern of freckles on her crinkled nose, she slipped from him again.