Eva Eliav grew up in Toronto, Canada and received a degree in English Language and Literature from the University of Toronto. Since 1970, she has been living in Israel. Her prose and poetry have been published in a number of literary magazines both in Israel and abroad, including Stand (U.K), Room of One’s Own (Canada), ARC (Israel), Voices (Israel), Natural Bridge (U.S.), Quality Women's Fiction (U.S.), and online in The Apple Valley Review and Cyclamens and Swords. She is a contributor to Tel Aviv Stories, a new anthology of English writing in Israel. Her stories will be appearing in upcoming issues of The St. Ann’s Review and Horizon.
The following work is copyright © 2010. All rights reserved. No distribution or reprinting in any form whatsoever without written permission from the author.
Erica liked to have work done, nips and tucks. It was impossible to guess how old she was just from looking at her. You would have to know some history, some details.
We’d grown up together in a small American town, then met again, by chance, in the big city. The way we swooped at each other, squeezed each other’s hands, kissed and hugged, you’d think we’d once been close. Breathlessly, we caught up about our lives. Erica looked elegant and successful. Her face was smooth with a faint translucent glow like wax or soap. I admired her necklace, a rope of handcrafted silver.
“I’m a silversmith now,” she told me.
“I’m a teacher.”
“It’s not so hard,” I preened, secretly proud of doing such difficult work. At least, difficult for me, a shy person, obliged to be sociable and dynamic. “I’d love to make jewelry,” I said.
“Yes, it’s fun.” Erica played with her necklace. I noticed embedded grime around her nails. “But it ruins your hands.” She spread her fingers, gazing at them sadly.
A few months after we reconnected, Erica was in hospital for a week. A procedure to sculpt her chin had led to infection.
“Why do this?” I protested, perched beside her. “I wouldn’t rush to have an operation even if I really needed one.”
Erica shrugged. “Roberto will love this chin.” She tapped it lightly.
“I’ll bet he just loves you.”
She lifted a delicate eyebrow. “God, no,” she said.
When Erica felt better, we met for a celebratory meal. I’d never had sushi in a restaurant, afraid of the complex names, the confusing combinations, the choice of sauces. Erica was my guide. We toasted her chin with tiny cups of tea.
As we fixed our makeup after eating, Erica suddenly grimaced into her mirror, an etched silver circle she’d made herself.
“My cheeks don’t suit my chin,” she complained. She poked at her face with a finger, pushed the flesh to and fro like plasticine. “They look…too flat.”
“No, they look fine,” I said.
It did no good. A short while later, she was in hospital again. This time, I met Roberto. I was certain he’d be handsome, but he wasn’t. He was a gnome of a man, who looked his age.
“Why is she doing this?” he pleaded.
“I thought you’d know.”
He looked surprised. “No, not a clue,” he said.
“What about therapy?”
His mouth twisted. “She’s had it. Didn’t help.”
“A different therapist, maybe? This kind of thing has roots, tangled roots.”
His eyes drifted away. I let it go. Just mentioning therapy is a big deal for some men. They draw the line at an actual discussion.
“I’m going to have liposuction,” Erica told me. She cupped one breast. “My bosoms are fine, but the rest just doesn’t flow.”
That’s when I realized her bust had been fiddled with. Her breasts were high, lovely and convincing.
“Liposuction’s not so simple,” I cautioned her. “There can be complications.”
“No, sweetie,” she said, “it’s no big deal. We only live once, so we need to make it perfect. At least,” she conceded, “as perfect as we can.”
She had the procedure, and, thankfully, it went smoothly.
Then, one day, unexpected news.
“I’m having babies,” she said.
We were both well over forty. I stared at her belly.
“Assisted by technology,” she giggled.
“Well, congratulations,” I murmured. “When’s the happy event?”
“Five more months.” She shone with anticipation.
But, a month later, the great adventure ended. I sat by Erica’s bed. She looked unkempt, unwell. A large moonstone ring gleamed on her finger. She twisted it round and round, then took it off.
“My lucky ring,” she said. “Do you want this?”
“That’s all right,” I said, “you don’t have to…”
She pushed it into my hand. “Please take it,” she said. Her voice broke and I saw that she was crying. Tears dripped from her chin.
“I have a high pain threshold,” she said softly. “All this…” she gestured towards her face, her body, “it hasn’t been so hard. It’s been, you know, kind of a work in progress. It’s been…exciting.”
I nodded and took her hand.
“But I’m too old for kids,” she whispered. “It didn’t work.”
There was nothing I could say, so I was silent.
“It’s an illusion, isn’t it? All this power.”
“Maybe,” I said.
“We should have been born a hundred years from now.”
“They’ll have their problems, too.”
Erica wasn’t crying anymore. She was thoughtful. “I wonder how they’ll live, how they’ll imagine us…miserable yearning creatures who died young.”
“I don’t know,” I sighed. “Hard questions.”
Erica shrugged. “Death’s master in the house,” she said in a low voice. “He takes up so much space. We tiptoe around, pretending he isn’t there.”
She looked away, absently stroking one hand. “By the way, darling, I talked to the doctor this morning. I’m having my hands plumped up. It’s a new technique.” She pointed to a spot between bulging veins. “They use fat from your thighs and inject it here.”