Alice – Vincent Poturica

Alice who can’t decide if she will continue pasting pictures to the pictures already wallpapering the insides of her camper. Alice who is driving back to Prescott from Moab where she rock climbed for two weeks, her hands now powerful with calluses, her blond hair even blonder—almost white—the presence of so many colors, which is how she feels. Alice who cuts the pictures from newspapers and magazines she shoplifts discreetly from gas stations and chain bookstores, returning them with a page or two missing and their still-smooth pages concealing her theft. Alice who just pasted a picture of an elephant with enormous ears, which she imagines detaching from the elephant’s head and conjoining and flapping away like an antennae-less butterfly. Alice who sleeps in the van with only pictures staring back. Alice who stops to use the restroom at a city park about a quarter mile from one of the Provo exits. Alice who feels mostly all right. Alice who has worked hard to feel this way, having once spent six months with her ex-husband Marcos staring at a bluish black wall inside a cabin at the edge of a homestead in northern Montana, their gazes leaving the wall only when they ate, slept, or relieved themselves—all because they were attempting to lose their attachment to self. Alice who stared with such determination at that picture-less wall while spiders wove their webs in its corners. Alice who stared for so long that, when one day she allowed herself to look in the bathroom mirror, she no longer recognized her features. Alice who saw her blond hair framing the face of a stranger who might have passed for her if seen from a distance, but who—when studying its likeness in the glass—was clearly an imposter. Alice who studied the face of her impersonator with hands newly affixed to her before examining the arms, the legs, the feet, and the fingers, begging Marcos to tell her how she came to occupy this alien body. Alice who refused explain to Marcos how she knew her body wasn’t hers or to “stare at that fucking wall another minute.” Alice who carefully investigated every inch of her skin until Marcos went away. Alice who tried to ignore the awful feeling that she inhabited someone else by watching the spiders until their webs extended almost to her bed. Alice who left the cabin door open when she drove away. Alice who thought about removing herself from this stranger by driving off a cliff like Thelma and Louise, two women from a film that didn’t feel so fictional to her then. Alice who briefly believed that the accident might jar her consciousness loose, giving it the freedom to wander until she found her missing body, her real body. Alice who stopped her van at a red bluff outside Taos and looked at a picture of Odie, the first picture she’d taped to the dashboard, Odie the brown-eared beagle, Garfield the Cat’s maligned friend from her favorite comic strip. Alice who had always identified with Odie because, when she was younger, she’d always been given a bad time for being too optimistic. Alice who turned off the engine when she remembered this more hopeful version of herself from her youth. Alice who took off her shoes and sat outside. Alice who watched this stranger’s skin begin to pink, even in the camper’s shade. Alice who suddenly became grateful that, whoever’s skin it was, it still was, as present as the pair of lizards sunning themselves on the red rocks near the precipice, as perfectly indifferent as the desert sand between the stranger’s toes, as permanent, at least momentarily, as Odie’s dumb joy. Alice who needed more pictures like Odie’s to remind her of who she’d been and who she could become. Alice who returned to the van and drove away from the edge. Alice who now thinks that the elephant, with its ears that she hopes are capable of flight, was right to fill the camper’s last picture-less space. Alice who feels comforted by the pictures parading down the camper’s walls, pictures that are parts of her, just as the voice that narrates her thoughts is a part of her, even though she inhabits this foreign body, just as she imagines the world to be parts, fragments of an even larger, incomplete entity that she believes is slowly becoming whole. Alice who wants to be whole. Alice who, after using the relatively immaculate public bathroom, probably the most pristine public restroom she’s ever encountered, looks at the manicured paths of this municipal park. Alice who decides to take a walk in this well-ordered place before continuing her drive. Alice who, while she strolls, reflects that the town of Provo is home to Brigham Young University and not only prohibits alcoholic beverages, but also caffeinated ones. Alice who admires these ascetic aspects of Mormonism, but presumes herself to be in disagreement with its other tenets, which she admittedly knows little about. Alice who spots a large sycamore with a sizable hole in its trunk. Alice who realizes she is walking very fast. Alice who trails her fingers around the circumference of the tree’s opening, which seems unusually big even for an enormous family of squirrels. Alice who hoists herself into its darkness and hugs her knees. Alice who presses her cheek against the damp wood. Alice who hears bird sounds, bug sounds, the sounds of too many thoughts. Alice who watches a father and a son kick a blue ball. Alice who watches a girl strum a guitar in the grass. Alice who watches a bum search a trashcan until he pulls out a newspaper, crowded with images, that he begins to read. Alice who doesn’t read the news anymore and feels guilty for scavenging its pages for pictures and not keeping up with this world that keeps going, this life that won’t stop.

Vincent Poturica

Vincent Poturica’s writing appears in New England ReviewSalamanderNew Ohio Review, and other journals. He lives with his wife and kids in rural Northern California, where he teaches at Mendocino College.

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