Replica by Katie Kalisz
It takes a whole team of experts to handcraft a face from a skull. They get good at looking back and forth. Each muscle fiber must be layered properly over the replica skull. Smithsonian tells me there are artists whose work is to resurrect these strangers, ancient remains who anthropologists unearth. The end result is a figurine, a figure head, lighter without the brain.
Would I want that for you, if you are lost to me on some future day? I am not certain. I suppose it would be a comfort to see you lying in bed. I could pretend that you were sleeping more. Perhaps I would sleep better, as though you were still the one closest to the door, in the event of an intrusion, as though my being spared would be a comfort. Perhaps I would grow accustomed to the startle of seeing your homemade face in constant repose. It is incredible what we can learn to accept as normal. Now, 1 oz. bottles of shampoos and underwear sensors in airports. We do as they tell us, pouring potions into smaller and smaller bottles. We restrict our water use, our vocabulary, the number of children we decide to bear. Reasons abound. Logic overshadows other compasses.
Yes, a replica of your face is something I have decided to pursue. I will get used to you talking much less, and I will pretend that you are ill, that I am your caregiver atoning for the missteps I have made in our marriage. I will play the con through to the end. I will delude myself and the dog. You will become your best self, sleek and with just the right amount of color in your cheeks, a piece of art in our bed. You will be a good listener. You will be someone to talk to. I will be kinder than I have ever been, careful not to mar you. I will hang you from the curtain rods occasionally, loop a wire on the back of your shirt, so you can look out.
In fact, now that I’ve decided to go ahead, I wonder if I could afford several replicas of you. A collection. Your various moods, your living room face, your kitchen grimace, the smirk you wore coming up from the basement after the flood in 2013. I will curate you in death, become an expert on all of your muscle fibers. The exhibition will draw acclaim, travel to all of the places we never went together. Other people will finally read about us in their living rooms on Sunday mornings, sipping coffee with cream and nibbling on orange rolls.
Katie Kalisz is a Professor in the English department at Grand Rapids Community College, where she teaches composition and creative writing. She holds degrees from the University of Michigan, Loyola University of Chicago, and Queens University of Charlotte. She lives in Michigan with her husband and their three children. Her first book, Quiet Woman, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag.