Helen Keller Lives by Leonora Desar
I am not special either. Maybe this is why she chose me. She said, you are going to help convince them that I’m real. We go to protests. Rallies. There are groups of these people, people who say that her existence was a lie. They carry signs and picket—Helen Helen go to hell. She rolls her eyes. How can I go to hell if I didn’t even exist? These people have no logic—they are nothing—but still Helen needs them. She needs them to believe. She says, look at me—I’m here. I hold her hand. The crowds don’t even see us. Come on, she says—throw something at my face. One guy says, I’ll throw this sign at you if you pay me twenty dollars?
Another guy says, but you can speak. This is true—since Helen died she can speak, smell, hear. She misses being blind. She walks around with her eyes shut. She researches the strongest, fiercest earplugs—lies naked in the tub for hours. She says this is where she gets the closest. To what? I say. To silence. I try to listen for it but I can only hear the neighbors, if anything the world gets louder. Helen tells me to count to ten. To shut my eyes. I picture a world of blackness—I picture a world where everything has been taken, but I have this extra thing.
Back in the day, I tried being a Serious Literary Writer. This involved using big words (“waterfalling” was a favorite), flowery prose, and writing things that my mother didn’t understand. These days I STILL write stuff that my mother doesn’t understand, but (hopefully) with less stilted prose. I admire this about Meg’s writing—not the mom part, the unstilted part. The way she does the funny-sad thing, combining humor with a deeper tenderness.
Leonora Desar’s writing has appeared in places such as New South, No Tokens, The Cincinnati Review, Black Warrior Review, and Columbia Journal, where she was chosen as a finalist by Ottessa Moshfegh. Her work has been selected for The Best Small Fictions 2019, the Wigleaf Top 50 (2019 and 2020), and Best Microfiction 2019, 2020, and 2021. She won third place in SmokeLong Quarterly‘s 2020 Award for Flash Fiction and River Styx‘s 2018 microfiction contest, and was a runner-up/finalist in Quarter After Eight‘s Robert J. DeMott Short Prose Contest, judged by Stuart Dybek, and Crazyhorse’s Crazyshorts! contest. She is fiction editor of Pidgeonholes and writes a column for New Flash Fiction Review—Dear Leo.