“Recovery Period” by Sasha Graybosch, recommended by Electric Literature

recommendedreading:

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Issue No. 113

EDITOR’S NOTE

In Sasha Graybosch’s “Recovery Period,” a sardonic woman called Greer suffers from a degenerative eye disease. “Eyes going Greer?” her boyfriend Lucien asks, as if she is both the victim and the cause of the disease, a patient zero. Keratoconus, it’s called, causes the cornea to protrude into cone. A Google image search of the condition reveals bulging eyeballs like those of surprised cartoon characters, and it’s fitting somehow to picture Greer that way—disoriented and flabbergasted—when she learns of Lucien’s death:

“Lucien’s exit from Greer’s apartment and then her life was incomprehensible; it disrupted the logic she’d once trusted—a grid had been twisted into additional dimensions. His death curled backwards over his entrance, so that when she reached for the beginning, or the middle, she always came up with the end.”

“Recovery Period” is one of the most extraordinary and sophisticated depictions of grief I have read. The world, viewed through Greery eyes, becomes both a reflection and a projection of her unstable emotional state: “Abruptly the temperature plummeted and a stretch of freezing rain bound the earth’s surface to the sky, one grey layer compressed beneath another. The trees, unable to prepare, suffered.” That kind of resonance between the inner and outer worlds is what elevates “Recovery Period” from subtle observation to gobsmacking truth.

But it’s not all straightforward. The story’s pathos is complicated by mysterious postcards that arrive from nowhere, and phone calls that may or may not come from purgatory. Graybosch makes reference to the famous eye slicing in Buñuel’s Le Chien Andalou, and I am reminded of another film that is not for the squeamish: Michael Haneke’s Caché. In it, a couple receives videotapes in the mail of their house, of them sleeping. The film, like this story, never reveals who is behind the missives. Though there are clues, I prefer the interpretation that the videotapes exist independently of a maker, as ontological evidence of their subject. To be watched one must exist, and so when Greer’s mysterious pen pal writes, “Lick your lips as you chop vegetables tonight, lovely lonely lady, and I’ll know it’s a sign,” and inadvertently she does it, the gesture is more than just a communication. It’s a sign that she’s alive.

I could go on, but I’ve already spoiled enough. “Recovery Period” is a tremendous story; why don’t you see for yourself.  

Halimah Marcus
Editor-in-Chief, Recommended Reading

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Recovery Period

by Sasha Graybosch

Original Fiction

Recommended by Electric Literature

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Sight-wise, Greer had developed a high tolerance for disturbance. Buildings doubling, streetlights smearing into ribbons, cars in the fore twitching against cars in the back, one pigeon appearing as a flock—fine. She could walk. She could still collect the mail, pick up bagels, get about. She learned to sit in the front at the movies, blink longer, take breaks, take the bus. When the world shook and danced at her windows, and she didn’t feel much like dancing, she could pull the blinds, shut her eyes. And Lucien was beside her in the dark.

It began early in the morning after her thirty-fourth birthday, an occasion she commemorated with an all-night jigsaw puzzle. Greer settled the last piece into place and stood, bleary, ready for bed, and noticed, bleeding from the kitchen light and the microwave clock and the hallway lamp, luminous halos. She rubbed her eyes. Bright cores diffused into ghosts. Lucien stirred on the couch, where he’d been sleeping since midnight. “What is it?” he said.

The troubles with her eyes emerged slowly—a faint stretch at the edges of distant words, the occasional wiggle of movement she mistook for a bug. Her glasses lenses were weak, she assumed. Lack of sleep, she thought. The distortions came and went; she often convinced herself she was getting better. The body had a way of sorting itself out.

At times, though, even the television was too much. “Balls gone bad?” Lucien would say when Greer squinted at a commercial. Or, “Eyes going Greer?” Or, “Greery?”

“Very Greery,” she’d say, the screen glaring into a muddle. They would click the show off, push her glasses back and do things up close that didn’t require looking.

Greer had met Lucien on a blind date arranged by a mutual friend, a self-proclaimed matchmaker named George. Greer knew George through cooking club, and George knew Lucien from an addiction recovery support group. George said he had been jogging with his wife along the river when Lucien surfaced in his mind, and then Greer, one figure folding into another. “It was a moment of inspiration,” he told Greer on the phone.

Greer was skeptical. “You met this guy in rehab?”

“That was years ago. You won’t like him at first, so be prepared for that. But I think you’ll be great together. I see how people can fit. He is the trees and you are the forest. He is the spicy pepper and you are the milk. He’s a piece of smoking meat left to burn in a pot, and you’re like a wet towel, or a lid. But not in a bad way.”

Greer decided not to be offended. “Does he have any other issues I should know about?”

“He’s had to work through some things—haven’t we all,” George said, the last phrase like punctuation, “and he’s a good person. Great listener. Not bad looking. His parents are rich, but you can’t hold that against him. I know you’re not judgmental, or all that excitable—that’s why I thought of you. You’re an open spirit, even if it’s not easy to see at first. I already told him about how calm you were when Cynthia hacked her thumb cutting pineapple. How everyone was falling over themselves and you just wrapped her hand up in a kitchen towel, led her out to get stitches.”

Greer was flattered. She realized George thought of her as some kind of stoic, a protector. She’d never thought of herself that way, as the someone who was good for someone. She suddenly felt curious. Open.

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