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Vulnerability, Now and Then 

Soramimi Hanarejima

After she gets in the car, we look at each other, and I can tell from her reaction to my reaction that she needs a minute. I keep quiet and turn away from her dour expression, lips still pursed even though my eyebrows are no longer raised at her semi-transparent state. 


"Yes, I’m nervous,” she says to acknowledge the obvious. “Which is ridiculous because I’m overqualified for this position and confident in my interviewing skills. I should be past this by now.” 


No one is ever past their evolutionary heritage, but there’s no way I’m going to say that right now.  


"I feel like I’m back in middle school. Remember how this would happen all the time? Like when I had to recite a poem for literature class or ugh, work in a project group with someone I had a crush on.”  


"I remember,” I answer, succinctly summing up my knowledge of how anything that seemed remotely threatening would turn her translucent. 


I want to tell her she’s always looked good that way—like this—airy and kind of magical. But that’s unlikely to help. 


"I can’t go in like this,” she continues. “The hiring manager will know how easy it is for everyone to tell when I’m feeling vulnerable. Even if he takes me at my word that this doesn’t happen often, he’s going to worry that it’ll happen at some inopportune, high-stakes moment. 


“And now I’m back to wishing I never got this from Mom’s side of the family. Which is a terrible feeling to have because without this, there may never have been that side of the family. And I am grateful that our distant ancestors could camouflage themselves in those jungles full of predators. That must have made their lives so much easier, but it hasn’t made my life any easier.” 


She takes a deep breath then says, “I guess what I really wish is that I could just be proud of this part of our family history without worrying about how other people react to it.”  


I turn toward her to give her some supportive eye contact, but I’ve barely gotten a glimpse of her when I’m startled that I can no longer see through her. The stoop of the apartment building outside the passenger-side window is completely obscured by her face in profile. 


“Look in the mirror,” I blurt.  


She folds down the sun visor and adjusts the angle of the mirror on the back of it.  


"Whoa, how did that happen?” she murmurs.  


"You went from being nervous to being proud.”  


"You think it’s that simple?” 


"I don’t see what else it could be. Keep going with the appreciation, and let’s see what happens.” 


I start the car and pull away from the sidewalk. We’ll get to the interview well before it starts. She always budgets plenty of time for getting from one place to another, so she has plenty of time to be grateful.  

Soramimi Hanarejima is the author of the neuropunk story collection Literary Devices For Coping. Soramimi’s recent work appears in Pulp Literature, Reed Magazine, and Outlook Springs

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