Saturday 24 June 2023

'Dreams of a Lizard' by Laila Miller

He’s at the end of the room, eyes lit up, waving hello. I’m researching bees, he says. You wonder how through the crowd can you hear him in your ear. He’s your dentist but he would make a good apiologist. You tell him about your thesis, on earthworms. You’re still writing it, which is true. The woman beside him has even, round teeth. He points to her nice teeth. Everyone talks about her nice teeth. She talks about her nice teeth. Then she bites an olive, a salami slice, a cheese cube, a cracked carrot, a toothpick. The Principal calls you to her office. Her office is beside the punch bowl. You don’t want to go. You’d rather not go. You have to. She slurps punch and you realise you haven’t seen her eat or drink before. She’s the Principal. She doesn’t eat or drink, she just is. She hands you a porcelain cup in the shape of an opera singer. You always were a good artist, she says. She’s confused you with your sister. Should you say who you are, or pretend you’re your sister? It’s your dream, so you say I’m me and not my sister and the Principal smiles in that knowing way that tells you that you don’t know who you are, and she does, and nothing you say is going to change her Principal mind. It’s my dream, dammit, you shout, I’m still writing my earthworms thesis, and your dentist places his index finger on his lips to shush you while the woman beside him smiles and her teeth are stuck with salami, and you’re sorry you ever admired them because they’re not like your teeth, polished smooth—you know this, because across them runs your tongue.

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