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Flare by Marcia Aldrich

He hadn’t told her. He had put his mouth on hers, and he hadn’t told
her. He had put his tongue inside her mouth, keeping it there, and he
hadn’t told her. At first a small bump in the middle of her upper lip. At

first a mild crescendo, nothing more, in the middle of her upper lip. At
first a slightly fuller lip, a crescendo, not unattractive, nothing more.
Then, the bump grew, it grew into a large sore, a loud crescendo in the
middle of her upper lip. More than full looking. The bump was growing
hard and tight with what he hadn’t told her, it was growing into a large
sore. She was cleaning the large sore tight with what he hadn’t told her;
her tongue was diligently working the crescendo, darting completely to
the sore in the middle of her upper lip. She was tonguing it, learning
the touch of what he hadn’t told her. The sore was growing, ready to pop.
She had a sore the size of a cherry tomato growing on her upper lip. She
was growing a cherry tomato on her upper lip, ready to burst. She was
trying to talk but the cherry tomato was getting in the way. She was
slurring, she was slow sliding into language. She was still trying to
talk when the sore began popping. Not just one clean swift pop. The sore
that was finally ready to pop began popping. It was popping
extravagantly as if there was no end to its popping. It could go on
popping all day. At first a liquid something like nail polish remover but
not nail polish remover began to ooze. It began oozing out of the sore.
Air made it burn like his mouth on hers. She wanted to put her mouth in
snow. There was burning and there was wanting to put her mouth in snow
but there was no snow.


She thought, That’s the last of it. The sore would disappear now. She
was home and the sore was multiplying. It was filling up again and
spreading even though it had popped. Why didn’t it snow, a huge blizzard,

snow covering the whole world. She wanted to open the door and put her
mouth in snow. It was October. The sore was spreading to all the corners
of her mouth, opening like fiery tulips in the fleshy flaps of her mouth.
They were erupting on the roof of her mouth, a field like the one they
had rolled in — Indian paintbrush on fire. They were not disappearing.
She stood at the mirror looking at her sores. She did not show her sores
to others. Rashes on arms or legs are not pleasant nor desirable. But
they are different than sores on the lip. Rashes on arms do not arouse
suspicion or shame. Sores on intimate places spread, invite suspicion,
even shame. Sores spreading on other places make something private
public. There are places that speak us and there are sores on these
places. Her body was turning on her, turning on itself.


She went to the doctor and said, Look at my mouth, it is turning on
itself. The doctor said a word that surprised her, a word she never
associated with herself. There was nothing to be done. Once the sore
begins, there is nothing to be done. There never is, the doctor said,
there never is anything to be done. She opened her mouth, but no sound
was coming out. Unexpectedly a sore will appear for the rest of your


Inside her mouth she could no longer see where the sores had flowered.
They had burst and disappeared. The sore on her upper lip had
disappeared, but there was a scar, a crescendo of tissue, where what he
hadn’t told her lived.

Marcia Aldrich