Curl into yourself, avoid going
outside because you hate the cold.
Spend your mornings in thrift stores
hunting for old paintings and model ships
to nest into your new apartment. Run away
to North Carolina to see the boy you’ve decided
you love. Run away to Pittsburgh,
then New York City over New Years
to see this same boy. Get an inch long splinter
in the back of your thigh sliding
across a wooden bench in Brooklyn.
In March realize it’s still there.
Stay restless. Stay sad. Grow suicide plans
inside of your suicide plants, like
ivy climbing around a trellis.
Get a job again, finally. Spend all of your
afternoons listening to the ramblings
of an autistic boy — retellings of cartoon
scripts. Keep going to the job even on the days
when you would rather do anything else. Keep
taking the medications the kind doctor prescribed.
Stay stubborn. Make new plans. Apply to three universities —
on both coasts and in between. Plan to be happy.
Call your mom on the phone out of boredom
every single day. Grow plants in your apartment —
start tomato seeds, strawberry plants, African violets,
oregano, basil, cilantro, winter savory. Plan to cook
with the herb leaves but never do. Continue Reading »
Shae strummed her guitar angrily in a fit of frustration. She’d been working on the once promising song for days now, and it seemed she was getting nowhere with it. She paused. Then she strummed the chord again, more gently this time, listening closely. To her surprise, the chord was exactly what the song called for.
Delighted, she decided to push her luck even further. As thoughtlessly as she’d strummed the first chord, she played a second, and a third. Both were perfect, almost uncannily so.
She looked up from the guitar over to where her dad’s body lay on the bedroom floor. Blood pooled around his head and shoulders where the carpeting had become saturated. Tonight must be my night for overcoming stubborn obstacles, she thought, taking her penchant for understatement to a new level.
She took a deep breath and then slowly exhaled, letting any lingering tension drain from her body. Most people would find her serenity wildly inappropriate, given the circumstances, but Shae was beginning to realize she wasn’t like most people. Continue Reading »
Over the mountains the oil sky was splitting open, the yellow light crawling over the world. I stood sleepless at the end of the dock watching a flock of gulls float over the small swells, their white feathers dissolving in and out of the fog.
The rest of the class drifted down the small hill toward the boat in small groups, bundled in matching blue and white sweatshirts with our school mascot. They huddled into a small circle and I lingered. Across the distance—the impossible new divide between us—I could see their excitement spark at the sight of the boat and take shape in their faces and wrestle them over completely.
Cappy’s blue truck coughed into the parking lot at six and we all gathered up behind the truck’s bed. Cappy jumped into the bed and began pushing the tubs of flippers and wetsuits into our arms and we hauled them, single file, down to the empty dock. Continue Reading »
People make too much of dissociation—it’s a wonderful coping skill. Time honored, really. I’m not a multiple, mind you. It is just that if you need to touch my body, don’t worry; I have some place to go where I can’t be bothered.
Let me pause here, while I undress. I’m going to do this carefully, seductively even, although you’re sitting there on the mattress; all ramped up for something more.
Here is a bit of collarbone. Not as fine as when I was younger but still enough to catch an eye or two. I’m leaving my hair down for now. Later, I’ll pull it back and let you glimpse more of my neck.
So, let’s talk about my cashier job when I was a kid. That was the beginning or nearly the beginning. This is not every woman’s story, and mine doesn’t begin in childhood, but as a teen. Believe me, there are much sadder lives. If you were staying longer, I could share those too, but this was meant to be a brief transaction unless you’re willing to cough up more cheese. Continue Reading »
It reminded me of the time I was at a high school dance and the pretty young woman I was secretly in love with was standing near the dance floor and I had every opportunity to walk up to her and ask her for a dance but told myself it wasn’t the right time and what would I say while flopping around to some music that was nothing but noise and finally why does the guy always have to be the one to make the first move when in the end she didn’t look that great anyway.
– Jeffrey Zable
He slipped the bullet into the chamber and gave it a spin with a flick of the wrist. The chamber rolled for a few moments before slowing to a halt, and then he cocked the piston and set the revolver down on the table.
We picked up our glasses.
“To the death,” I said.
“To the death,” he said.
I threw back the shot and felt the heat of the poison as it spilled down my throat. The room swam in a shimmering haze as I set down the glass.
Maxim drew a silver coin from his pocket. He held it between two fingers up next to his face. “Heads,” he said.
The coin was scratched and inscribed with odd characters. Pictured was a rudimentary carving of a goddess holding a scale in one hand and a bow in the other. Her scratched face was still beautiful. Continue Reading »
The Screen Door
He fixed his eyes on the small sun. In the distance there were mountains and the sun hovered above the tallest peak, apprehended by only one thin cloud. The orb was yellow and red. The color of Anne Marie’s favorite dress. The man stared at the sun, and stayed staring. He stared until the peripherals of his vision caved into darkness, falling away and into the middle towards the center point: the sun. This was no sunset, when the darkness pulls down over the light. Instead, it started from all sides and crept to the core. Then after the last grains of light slipped down the hole and his vision filled with darkness, there was a white circle left where the sun had been. Then the outlined circle faded too. He blinked, and thought he was blinking, and he was to anyone who might have been there and might have seen him, but as he blinked no light filtered in. He was blind. He tried crying but could not imagine a picture to be sad about. A young girl beaten or a boy sent to prison. Nothing from the newspaper headlines or five o’clock news. He reached for the pint of whiskey by his ankle and twisted the cap. He heard the plastic top roll out of his fingers and across the wooden deck, without any idea as to which direction it ran. The cap dropped and the man drank. He took the bottle fully until there was nothing left, but the weight of the glass made him believe something was left inside. A note perhaps, or a sign of forgiveness from Anne Marie. He threw the bottle away and it landed on the wood with a clap. He heaved up and reached for a bottle of vodka left by his other ankle. The metallic lid came off, twisting its teeth like an old fashioned torture machine. He threw the lid and did not hear it land. The liquor poured into his mouth until it filled everything and bubbled up his throat, spewing from the corners of his mouth. After a breath, he drank again. The liquor was gone, or he could not taste it anymore. So much liquor, all at once, that it killed trillions of taste buds planted on his tongue. He imagined his mouth as an apple, and could see it clearly in his mind, a shining green skin. He imagined his tongue as a worm, black and rotting. He tipped the vodka to his lips and no taste. And no sight to tell if the liquor was gone for good. He stopped drinking and leaned his head against the screen door. He felt very little. Less than little, but still longed to rid the feelings that were left. It could have been deep night or very early morning. There could be more liquor around the deck. The man blinked and slapped his lips and had nothing. Nothing but the feel of the giving screen behind his back, and the sense that nobody would find him, and nothing but a sadness to hold his Anne Marie again. But he lost that long before he lost the rest, and the rest was nothing compared to Anne Marie.
– Jahla Seppanen