June 20, 2016 by The Citron Review
by Babak Lakhomi
The woman in the closet has curly hair, cracked lips. She doesn’t speak our language. When I open the closet door, she stares at me, her small eyes smeared with sadness.
I don’t know how she has ended up here in this narrow closet.
I stay home for days when my girlfriend is sleeping at her own place, but the woman doesn’t leave the closet. I open the door and feed her pasta with a spoon. She eats greedily, her paleness gradually going away.
I hear the closet-woman’s muffled breathing the next time I have my girlfriend’s plump breasts cupped in my hands.
Are you here with me? my girlfriend asks as my lips press on her split part. You’re not here, she replies. She leaves bed, slams the bathroom door. I hear her opening the tap to splash water on her wet parts.
I wake up in the middle of the night and think about the closet-woman. I have given her a pillow, but is she comfortable in there? I plunge my face into my pillow and pull the sheet over my head, but I can’t go back to sleep. I tiptoe to the bathroom. I don’t flush so as not to wake her.
Sometimes she sings in the closet. What does she do the rest of the day? Alone in the darkness between my shirts and pants? I want to ask her to come and sit with me.
The next time I open the closet door, she is wearing one of my checkered shirts. She curls her fingers around my neck and puts her forehead on mine. Her hands are soft, tender, smelling of pine trees. I start to tremble. I want to press my lips on hers, but she pulls her head away to hide behind a blue shirt.
Afterwards, whenever I open the door, her food plate is untouched. She is crumpled in a corner, craning her neck, crying recklessly.
When I have nothing to do, I crawl inside the closet and sit beside her. If I stay for long, she sometimes puts her head on my shoulder and sheds her tears there. I want to do something to keep her from crying. I want to take her out, show her places, but she won’t leave the closet. I want to read her poems that she won’t understand.
When my girlfriend is at my place, I open the closet door as soon as she goes to the bathroom.
You’ve become distant, is everything alright? says my girlfriend.
I want to tell her about the woman in the closet, about the songs she sings, but I don’t know what she’ll say.
Babak Lakghomi is the author of Floating Notes (Tyrant Books, 2018). His fiction has appeared or forthcoming in NOON, Ninth Letter, New York Tyrant, Egress, and Green Mountains Review, among other places. Babak was born in Tehran, Iran, and currently lives and writes in Hamilton, Ontario.