I was told a story once, when I was small, in which a little girl, like me, tries to make her way back to the world she came from by finding the right person to kill. Her brother told her this lie and she considered her options for the best weapon. Poison. A candlestick. A push into traffic. She chose a knife. The lie her brother told her was not that the right person didn’t exist, but that this was the only way to return home.
My grandpa told me the story sometime in winter, years ago. He only brought it up a second time in frantic mutters he struggled to reach for — his mind washed to nothing by age, struggling to muster a single word: “Knife. Knife. Knife.” I only realized after he died that he was referring to the story.
Now, I’m not so naive to think the girl from the story had only one person who was the right person. Many people could’ve been the right person for her. I never got an end to that story. Did she find the right person? Did she kill him with her knife? Did the Earth open up and swallow her? She probably lived her whole life without knowing the other way she could return home would be to die herself, by her own hand or by the hand of the right person, her right person.
I hadn’t thought of that story in years. But, here I am, stalking my person in Whole Foods, in plain sight by the apples and pears, watching her sort through the onions like her life is its own center. I know this kind of woman. I was this kind of woman once. I was young and trim and beautiful. This woman, my person, with her black leggings and her olive puffer jacket — she is acting too casual not to know she is my person. I have seen her before in commercials for contact lenses or endometriosis. She has long hair, but it was short in the commercials. In the commercials her bangs were severe. Now, her hair is pulled back in a lazy bun like all her cares and worries can just be scrunched together and tied away from her life, carried without any weight at all. She probably has three first names as a name. Amy Lee Sue or Mary Kate Austin. A family name. She says that to people when they comment on her name. “It’s a family name. My grandmother’s.”
I resent the way she shops. She pulls cans away from the shelves without looking at them. She’s not interested in their ingredients. She doesn’t have to be. Her body is perfect. My person would have a perfect body free of scars or scrapes. She was told she could be a model when she was younger. She was a Lagerfeld girl. She travelled to Milan and Berlin. She had affairs with photographers. She could have an abortion and not have to pay for it or get her brothers to make the father pay for it. She was probably an only child and had wealthy parents from old money. No, they were self-made and that gave her the confidence to do anything she wanted to do and never apologize or ask permission.
My son would love her. She’s probably already seduced my son. The modeling world spat her back to her home town and everyone recognized her as the girl in those commercials for contact lenses or endometriosis. She would be checking out her groceries and my son would make a snide joke about contact lenses or endometriosis and she’d be impressed by his tepidness. She hasn’t been treated as a nobody since she left LA and came back here. But, even here she is a somebody. She is my person.
My son wouldn’t be fooled by her. She could take him to Japan and show him Kabuki renditions of Theseus and the Minotaur and they’d drink expensive sake and she’d get drunk and be sloppy and my son would scoff at her and sleep with her out of pity.
I know I can’t let her make her way home. She is already spinning her web to poison my family. She is buying salmon. She probably scores the skin of it with a knife and salts the interior of the fillets and fries the skin crispy. She probably knows the difference between a paring knife and steak knife. Maybe she doesn’t know she is my person. Maybe she believes she can go through the world and savor everything sweet and choose to taste her bitter moments from boredom or curiosity. She’ll never marry. If she does, it’ll be on her own terms. Her parents will pay for the wedding and all of her friends and family will be right next to her for every step and stutter and everything in her boring life will be perfect forever.
Some people find their purpose here is something simple like serving a god or being a good parent. They never are betrayed. Or if they are, they know their worth from the start and have sharp objects to slice away any ties. A mermaid in a fish net. These are the people I thought I should be looking for and I never wanted to believe it could be just one person, but here she is, right now, standing in front of me. I can look into her eyes and finger the knife in my pocket and press my thumb against the edge where the heel meets the bolster and feel myself boil.
“I’m not your person,” she says and I flush. “You need to stop following me. I’m out there. Just somewhere else,” and suddenly she was more sparkling to me than in her commercials. My person. A person who knows her worth in my world.
“There isn’t anyone else for me,” I say and she walks away, eyeing me sideways. She knows this means we’re tied for life. I won’t kill her. I need her right here by my side for the rest of our lives. If she were someone else’s person, she must stay alive. Home is crowded and no one else deserves to find it but me.
I watch her drive out of the parking lot and onto the interstate through my rearview mirror. I hold my knife in my hand and feel ashamed. I let my grip loose and place the knife on my lap as I drive down the main street of town under the blinking lights, passed the bars and churches, passed all the people milling about and around each other, never asking why.
Nathan Stormer lives in Chicago and has had work published by Funny Looking Dog Quarterly, Hooligan Magazine, and first page. Occasional comics can be found on Instagram @nathantylerstormer.