The Lady in the Liquor Store
I saw her at the clinic first,
trying not to see me. Perhaps,
like me, trying not to be there,
where they don’t hesitate to blurt
out which bit of your wiring sizzled,
which chip blew. Someone has moved
into the empty house next door,
except that it’s not next door. It’s
downstairs, the attic, the basement.
A bat got in at dusk. Even
it doesn’t like it here, hangs up
behind a curtain or bright mirror.
Maybe if you don’t breathe, it will
do what you want it to, not say
anything, pretend it isn’t
frightened, small, here, a living thing.
Hello again, I said. She smiled,
fist locked on the neck of a bottle.
Review by Massimo Fantuzzi
An extremely touching composition on the reality of living with a diagnosis (chip/wiring may suggest something related to a malfunction of the nervous system, but the specifics are of secondary importance, especially during a pandemic).
“Except that it’s not next door”: an illness that dresses your clothes, eats your food, dwells in your home. “A bat got in at dusk”: in my view, the best use and best-articulated allegory of this issue. “A bat got in at dusk”: says everything there is to say and more.
Pictured squatting in some dark corner of our home, dangling upside down while we try to come up with solutions to interact with it, it’s the feeling of being medically labelled. Directly or indirectly, we’ve all met it before. “Hello again,” it’s here, belongs to us, defines our humanity. Hello again: we must recognize one another for what we are, hello again, and accept illness as part of life.
Review by Calvin Jolley
In “The Lady in the Liquor Store,” Mitchell uses a chance encounter to explore the vulnerabilities of place and time. His description of a bat—“frightened, small, here, a living thing”—might also serve to describe the woman in the liquor store, or the narrator himself, or at some time or another, any of us.