I’m not here. Leave a message.
“Hey, it’s Griffin. I got your message. Just wanted to check on you, you know, see if you were okay. I’ll stop by later if you want. Just call.”
Miho’s eyes remained fixed on the photo perched on her mahogany coffee table. Beneath the photo was a coffee mug stain. It was an expensive coffee table. More than Miho had ever spent on a piece of ornamental furniture - her treat to herself.
He just didn’t think to use a coaster. He didn’t think it would matter; the cup wasn’t that hot.
Miho had ignored the acidic burn in her stomach when she first saw that her precious coffee table had been branded by the careless unconcern of her guest. Because she liked him, she swallowed the venom building in her gut and smiled. Now she had his picture to always remind her. It was his idea. ‘I’d rather you see the photo and think of the good things, than see the coffee ring and think of the bad’.
Thank god forgiveness didn’t always cost $2500.
Miho pulled her gaze from the photo to the wall. Her eyes were swollen, red, empty. Her vision blurred, but it didn’t matter; she knew the wall well. Several original oil paintings hung in a feng-shuie fashion over the metallic, striped wallpaper. They used to give her comfort.
She often got lost in the details of the color - wishing she could understand the depth of each masterpiece - but settling for the satisfaction in knowing that they were hers, and only hers. Originals.
One was slanted, perched to fall at the slightest vibration. It had slipped from its position when she threw the vase at the wall. Small splinters stuck in the wallpaper, covered in porcelain dust from the impact. All that remained of her mother’s antique heirloom were the shards scattered on the hardwood floors. Miho didn’t care. She didn’t like the vase anyway.
But if she didn’t fix the painting, it would fall. The canvas would rip on the glass below and destroy the false, elegant depiction of her as seen by her dear Griffin. She adored his paintings. Even through the abstract brushwork he managed to capture her best features. Her almond shaped eyes, brown with gold flecks; her jet-black hair falling out of the loose knot she always tied it in; her milky skin blending with the coral of the sea shell he painted in her tiny hand. He called the painting “Miho’s Bliss”. She loved the painting. She used to - but now it was just a reminder.
Rolling to her side, Miho felt a wave of nausea coupled with a floating sensation. She wanted nothing more than to give into the numbness; let her feet release the ground to be forever carried by the cool current of the wind. The air in her apartment was stale, full of potpourri and wine. It sickened her.
With what strength she could muster, Miho forced her legs to carry her limp body toward the wall of paintings. She stumbled, knocking into an end table.
This one looked mahogany, but it was fake - pressed wood stained to match her coffee table - $59.95 and not a single imperfection, except the wine splashed on the surface. It would wipe up with a paper towel. She knew. She had spilled many glasses of wine on that table, and it never stained or tarnished the cheap, waxy surface.
Miho focused on the painting, not noticing the sting of slashed skin as glass crunched under her bare feet.
She slipped, falling into the wall, taking the painting down with her. Two Mihos - falling from bliss into the pile of one shattered heirloom. More cuts and bruises, but nothing serious. The porcelain was thick. It jabbed at her thighs etching greetings into her limbs, but nothing more.
Miho cradled the painting in her lap, staring at her own blurred, whimsical face. She fingered the hardened paint, tracing the lines and grooves imprinted within its texture. The painting felt more alive than she did. Jealousy contracted her hands into fists.
“This is not me. But this is who he loved!”
Swimming in her porcelain sea, Miho wrapped her hand around a large piece of the shattered vase and plunged it deep into the hard, oily flesh of the canvas. Thrashing like a disoriented child in the dark, she slashed the painting deep enough to cut her own flesh that lay beneath the frame board.
Blood clung to the threads of the canvas, seeping its way through the woven blanket on which her image lived, locked in a moment of splendor for all time - until now. She felt no bliss. Her soul was empty. It had been ripped away like the now tattered remnants of the picture. Blood seeped from the gashes on her legs and hands.
“This is me,” she sobbed, for the first time letting tears flow freely down her cheeks.
She tore at her hair, pulling handfuls of strands out by the roots, laying them softly on the canvas.
“This is my bliss,” she cried, cutting chunks of glossy black hair with the edge of her porcelain dagger.
She sliced her cheek as she swiped at her hair. Tears stung the open wound, dripping scarlet death onto her green, satin skirt that was already spattered and stained with blood and wine.
Miho hated herself. She did not blame Griffin. He wanted the picture perfect Ningyo who Miho pretended to be - but Miho was not perfect. Perfection died when her mother died. Wine became her companion of choice. Griffin didn’t matter. He was only sweet; Miho craved fermentation.
Wine became her lover, spilling its lust down her throat, easing her care, kissing away the pain. But Miho didn’t want wine anymore. She wanted Griffin, but Griffin was gone. How long, she could not remember.
Her body ached - for love, for life, for perfection.
She stared at her mahogany coffee table once more. “I, too, am stained.”
Miho looked at her broken portrait. “I don’t have a picture big enough to cover my stains,” she whispered, wiping splotches of blood from the few pieces of the canvas that remained intact. “I need a new beginning.”
Miho lay down among the shattered pieces of glass, blanketing herself with her portrait.
Her body wrenched with a stab of pain, but the throbbing dulled as blood ran freely from her wrist. Time passed slowly; Miho welcomed the sensations that death presented to her. Again, she felt like she was floating, but this time, it was easier to let go of the ground. This time, she was ready to be one with the wind.
She heard knocking; a key turned in the lock. Griffin’s sweet voice echoed in her ears; it didn’t matter that he was screaming. The open door brought with it the scent of rain. Griffin ran to her side, bringing the breeze. He picked her up and held her close. The breeze, too, wrapped its arms around her and carried her away - away to another place, another chance, another life - a new beginning.