We are ridiculously excited to be publishing Catherine Lacey’s debut novel, Nobody Is Ever Missing, next summer. And we’re very happy to get a taste of Catherine’s gorgeous and haunting storytelling over at Electric Literature’s Recommended Reading. Thanks to The Atlas Review for picking Catherine’s story, “The Healing Center.” Read why the editor-in-chief picked it: “The Healing Center” by Catherine Lacey had a mystical effect on me when I read it for The Atlas Review’s first issue almost a year ago. Each new reading of this story is like entering a room full of brilliant lamps and baubles. Lacey is able to cleanly combine the banal with the epiphanic, leaving us with a detached sincerity. From this place of detachment, she pivots with ease between humor and pathos. The image of porridge cooked to soot on the stovetop, the unreconciled dialogue of heart as machine and metaphor, the “airplanes of soon” looming over relationships are moments so eidetic we might find in our own porridge eating and unreconciled dialogues a similar banality, a similar epiphany.
“The Healing Center” begins with the two women gazing into a single mirror. Sylvia, the other woman, is described as voluptuous and desirable; the narrator presumably does not posses these traits. Rather, she describes her body only once in the story as bland, manufactured: “the color pantyhose companies mean when they say nude.” While Sylvia inspires “earth-shaking want” in people, it is also presumed that the narrator does not. The story is at times a meditation on Sylvia’s dreamy abandon and at other times an admittance of the narrator’s ongoing failures to communicate with her own body, with doctors, with the one-foot-out-the-door Sylvia.
The two meet at an acupuncturist’s office, Sylvia the receptionist and the narrator as patient. This initial character dynamic brings a wealth of information to the story about the stability and control, both desired and denied.
In less than two pages, Lacey delivers in cool, laconic language the empty sounds of a household, the feedback loop of a relationship turned sour, and an understanding of the loneliness of being a female body. There are countless stories in which a couple may settle their scores and inevitably part ways, and this piece is no exception to that fact. However, the mind behind “The Healing Center” is so sharp, exacting, and pleasantly unusual, we come to experience the universally familiar as a charming, inconclusive mania.
Editor-in-Chief, The Atlas Review
Read “The Healing Center” here.