Bad Optics

By Sara Dobbie

    The new glasses are classic cat eye frames, black with tortoise shell temples. Andie arrives home, puts them on, and the world is immediately brighter; clear, crisp, bursting with life. She is walking around the back yard realizing how vibrant the flowers are, spots two squirrels sitting together in the highest branches of her neighbor’s walnut tree. She feels foolish, having wasted so much time muddling through a dim, blurry landscape. 

     Inside the house Andie wonders how they make her look, she’s always envied women who wear glasses and appear fashionable or intelligent. She walks into the bathroom to check her reflection in the mirror and her mouth opens in shock. Large letters scrawled across her forehead spell the word LIAR. She rubs her fingertips across the markings, but the letters don’t smudge or fade. She takes the glasses off, and the word disappears, but when she holds the lenses to her eyes, there they are, bold as a neon sign. 

     Andie is dumbfounded, and when her husband Cole arrives home from work, she expects him to react accordingly. She watches him approach, he smiles, he makes small talk. He tells her the glasses look good, that they suit her face. “You don’t think there is anything strange about them?” she asks. He does not, and she is left with confusing thoughts scurrying inside her head. 

     Maybe, she thinks, nobody can see the word except me. Maybe the glasses are magic. Or maybe I’m going insane. She had been on the brink of exhaustion lately, working long hours at the office and helping her sister with the kids on the weekends. She definitely feels overwhelmed, neglected, and a little bit angry. Perhaps all this emotional turmoil is burgeoning into full blown hallucinations. 

     In bed, Andie racks her brain for any forgotten prevarications. She has never been one to gloss over the truth, not even with little white lies. Andie is a good person, honest and hardworking. She dreams of an ominous judge in a wig bashing his gavel, she tosses and turns. The next morning, Cole asks her if she would mind picking up his drycleaning since he is going out for drinks with friends and won’t have time. “I don’t mind,” she says, and then it dawns on her. 

     “Are you all right?” he asks, and when she assures him that yes of course, she’s fine, she excuses herself to the bathroom to observe that the color of the letters has deepened to a hot pink like a newly sealed scar. 

     I AM a liar, she decides. I lie all the time. She splashes cold water on her face, moisturizes and applies foundation but the letters remain fixed on her forehead. At work, she is nervous that someone will notice her unusual condition, but everyone smiles, blind to her new reality. 

     She sits staring at her computer, perusing the depths of her depravity. She lied to her boss when she said she’d be happy to take on an extra project. She lied to the janitor when he asked her if she enjoyed the weekend. “It was lovely,” was what she said, but the truth is that Cole had come home extremely drunk, and they got into a massive argument because he had promised he would only be an hour or two and he had actually been gone for precisely five. 

     Andie breaks it down logically. The lies she tells don’t hurt anyone. In fact, she is telling them what they want to hear so they will feel happy, or at least somewhat satisfied. Andie’s lies justify their actions or smooth over their concerns. The only person she’s hurting with her outrageous falsity is herself.             

     Perhaps she is avoiding a fight or sparing someone’s feelings, but with each lie it’s like she’s picking up a stone and putting it in her pocket. One after the other, day by day, but now her pockets are overflowing and her back hurts from carrying too many things. 

    Cole is taking her out for dinner to make up for abandoning her on Saturday night. They are seated at a table covered in white linen; they are sipping at glasses of white wine. He is asking if she forgives him, and though her instinct is to say yes, she recalibrates. Her new glasses allow her to see her image reflected in the large mirror on the wall behind Cole and she decides to be completely honest.

     “No, I don’t forgive you.” Her hand flicks to her forehead, wondering if this feat of integrity has erased the incriminating brand. She looks at Cole, who never changes even when he promises to try. Who willfully lets her down and thinks he can fix it with a flower or a song, as though she is some cartoon wife.  

     The waiter passes behind Cole and a pitcher of water glints in the mirror, drawing Andie’s eyes back to her reflection, her brow clear, smooth, unblemished. 

     “I love you,” Cole says, leaning forward to take her hands. Andie opens her mouth to return the sentiment but remains silent. Trails her fingertips across her forehead. Adjusts her glasses.

                                                                *   *   *

Sara Dobbie is a Canadian writer from Southern Ontario. Her stories have appeared in Fictive Dream, JMWW, Sage Cigarettes, New World Writing, Bending Genres, Ghost Parachute, Ruminate Online, Trampset, Ellipsis Zine, and elsewhere. Her chapbook “Static Disruption” is available from Alien Buddha Press. Her collection “Flight Instinct” is available from ELJ Editions. Follow her on Twitter @sbdobbie, and on Instagram at @sbdobwrites.

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