flash nonfiction

The Code by Laurie Guerin

The Code | Laurie Guerin

You forced yourself to go to this party. You figured external noise would be a welcome respite from the internal dialogue that has played on repeat since the night you found out your husband had been cheating. I mean, you knew he had a rich fantasy life. You knew he objectified women- always had. You were one of them early on, back when being objectified seemed a worthy goal.  There had been more to the marriage, of course, but the bottom line is you gave your heart to a man whose heart belonged to longing. 

The hosts are good friends. The party is outside in their garden. There are tables of food and open bottles of wine. There are fairy lights strung through trees. There’s a fountain with carp. When they rise to the surface of the water their mouths look like empty eye sockets opening and closing. You read somewhere that all goldfish have what it takes to become carp, but they only grow as large as their environment allows. You wonder if these were once aspirational goldfish. You remember when goldfish were ten cents each. You could buy them at the pet store and take them home in a little plastic bag. You bought a dollar’s worth, filled mason jars with fresh water and divvied the fish up into two families. You set the jars side-by-side so the fish could watch their neighbors. Every day at school you imagined returning home to tiny, finned babies, the mason jars and the fish multiplying into an empire. 

One of the guests at the party throws a penny into the fountain. You overhear him telling his date to make a wish.  Glasses chime, delicate as a chorus of seashells, and someone proposes a toast. You climb up on the wide, tiled rim of the fountain. From this vantage point you check out the penny thrower. His hair is parted on the side, like a pastor’s, comb tracks line up nice and even. You’re pretty sure that whoever throws the penny is the one who should make the wish. You wouldn’t want to be with a guy who changed the rules just like that and threw the penny for you. A woman in a yellow sundress holds her glass high and says the usual things about the night being lovely and the hosts being generous. You reach into your pocket and pull out a coin. You close your eyes, taking your time to think of a wish. You remember when you were a kid and thought you’d cracked the magic code when you made all your wishes for more wishes.  In this moment you realize the code must have cracked you because your life has been a series of endless wishes.  Upon realizing this, a person with initiative would make a wish to stop wishing and start doing. You are not that person. You wish to be happier than you are now.  You throw the coin, open your eyes and watch as sightless mouths rise to the surface of the water and blink.

About the Author:

Laurie Guerin is a spoken word artist who has performed her original  works on stage throughout the San Francisco Bay Area. She has co produced  two live storytelling series, Word Up and Tell Me More in Santa Cruz,  California. A student of Roxan McDonald’s, she has also studied with Danusha Lameris, Ellen Bass and most recently Pam Houston. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama and more recently in Prometheus Dreaming and she is  currently working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays.