Black Framed

Artwork by D'Arcy Quan-McGimpsey.

There’s something blurry to her left. And to her right. And in front of her, and below her, and all around her. It’s less than helpful imagery to work with.

The cracked patterns and spray paint on the brick wall surrounding her are the clearest objects she can place with her vision deprived. Lila huffs in frustration, her breath mingling with the thick, metallic summer air.

Despite her efforts, Lila’s glasses have the tendency to go on adventures – without her face attached to them. She’s a modern day Velma from Scooby Doo, though she always shrugs humourlessly at the frequent comparison. . She never liked cartoons growing up.

The last thing she’s willing  to do is crawl and risk dirtying herself further. The concrete ground is caked with grime and what look like crushed paper coffee cups and scraps of trash that mice and birds are likely to drag away into their respective living quarters later.

She strategically maneuvers around the blurry objects obstructing her path. Distinct colours and vague textures are muted beneath the film of fogginess: blue wrinkles, white folds, red irregularities. She gazes down at the flimsy ballet flats she’s wearing and rethinks her poor choice in shoes for the day.

The mantra of her childhood glitches in her memory. A broken record, stern and stoic, the voice of her father warns her ad infinitum. She hears it like she’s standing at the mouth of a long tunnel as  it echoes down to her from the opposite end: “Lose them again and you’re grounded. Your mother and I paid a lot for them.” She’d been smaller than the other children growing up, scrawny and prone to being stepped on or shoved aside. She didn’t have many friends back then. Some things never change.

Lila wipes the sweat from her forehead and feels the wisps of hair that have fallen out of her carefully crafted ponytail, now matted to the sides of her face and down the nape of her neck. It’s a humid day; one much too miserably hot and stuffy to be outside in a claustrophobic back alley playing hide and seek. She tugs on the front of her blouse to air it out, when her wrist bumps up against something plastic.

She stills. A beat passes. She knows exactly what to expect as she looks down at her chest.

“Of course,” she mutters. The simple black framed glasses are nestled on the inside of her shirt, one of the temples clipped to her neckline. Precisely where they always are when they go missing.

Lila rolls her eyes at her own naivety and puts the glasses on, hating the uncomfortable way the bridge sits and sticks to her sweaty skin. Vision finally restored, she gets a clear and solid look at the graffitied brick wall in front of her, the rusty dumpster pushed against it, the four lifeless and bloodied bodies splayed on the ground. She’s gotten the tiniest pin drops of blood on her trousers, but they’re only part of an undercover uniform that will be burned later. No use crying over spilt blood on clothes that aren’t even hers. And as quickly as her agitation arrives, the adjust of her glasses restores her stillness.

She spots her phone that must have fallen out of her pocket during the scuffle a few feet away from nameless and faceless body number one. She steps over the wreckage to retrieve it, careful not to land in any of the blood. It’s then that she remembers the gun with the suppressor attached to it in her hand, having turned into a numb weight in her fingers with her attention fixated on finding what she had lost.

Lila checks the time on her phone. She’s ahead of schedule, as usual. Blood seeps through the dress shirts of the corporate bodies, pooling into the grooves in the concrete. She doesn’t give them a second glance.

She slips her phone into the back pocket of her trousers and pushes her glasses up the bridge of her nose, already sliding down her sweat slicked face.

“Duh,” she scoffs under her breath. “Right under my nose.”