I stared at that photo for what seemed to be an hour, trying to process the gravity of it all. The photo that was confirmation you had moved on. It’s funny how feelings work. Days and weeks go by and I didn’t think of you. The holidays rolled around and you were on my mind here and there.

I deleted your number on purpose months ago. Sick of the bullshit. Sick of wishing I could make you love me. You were the topic of therapy sessions. This man I had so much spontaneous fun with. Who else could make fucking on the playground look so good in the fog? Remember that? Of course you don’t. From the looks of that photo you don’t remember any of that.

You’re smiling. She’s smiling. Jesus, she’s gorgeous. Perfect trophy wife for the likes of someone like you. Someone like me doesn’t fit on your side of the tracks. Too “artsy”, whatever the fuck that means. I guess that’s why I tried so hard to make it work.

I hate defeat.

Especially when I was the only one playing the game.

Cheers.

I wish I could honestly say I’m happy for you. I wish I could smile for your happiness and I presume the sweat of love. I don’t know what to feel. I stare at the photo knowing that could have never been me. Life goes on. These are the breaks.

I just can’t log onto Facebook for a while.

"He doesn’t have to be a dreamboat, GQ dripping lover man. Just be nice to me. Care about me. Make me a grilled cheese after sex. That’s all I want yo, just love the little things. And for chrissakes have a beard and tattoos. Those are pretty sweet." -Brie

Chapter 7

I awoke to the unforgiving sun glaring through the dusty blinds. I didn’t care about their filth. I turned over trying to dodge the intrusion. No use. As I regained consciousness I noticed the pictures of naked women from last night strewn across the floor.
I was disoriented, trying to come down to Earth. I must have slipped into one of my episodes where I want to be turned on, I want to dive into the deep sea of erotica, and then I snap. All of a sudden I can’t stand it. It’s suffocating, treading heavily on me. I build it up only to tear it down. I taped the pictures up only to lose my cool and tear them down. Over and over, and over, and over again.
Sometimes I didn’t feel like myself. I looked in the mirror and I didn’t recognize myself. I knew I was me, I’m Jim; but did I really know? Do any of us know anything? Are we truly capable of making our own choices or is everything already outlined and we follow the plan as written? Like moths to a flame. Beasts in the wild, looking for the next victim. Every now and then everything seemed so hard to believe.
The clock read two thirty-one in the afternoon. Brushing my teeth felt like a chore. I showered once again and got dressed for the day. 
“I am my destiny. I can change things,” I muttered.
First thing’s first, I needed to get out of my head and out of my apartment. Spending my days in a haze of drug-induced euphoria felt nice but I needed to work. I needed to exercise my brain before I no longer knew what was real and what wasn’t.
I pulled on a pair of my best denim jeans and my cleanest black shirt. Fortunately I kept a stash of rolled joints at the ready. I couldn’t proceed without a push first. I smoked a joint to balance myself out. Lord knows I needed it. 

Chapter 6

She sashayed closer to me, licking her glossy lips. She bent down to rest her hands on my knees, keeping her eyes locked with mine the entire time. I finally noticed one was green and the other was brown. I closed my eyes thinking I was just high, I couldn’t be seeing this. When I opened them, those same mismatched eyes were staring into my soul. Her roughly manicured hand ran down my chest and stomach. It felt good but I couldn’t get over those eyes. I caught her hand before she could go any lower.

“I said just want to look at you,” I mentioned again. 

Defeated, she dropped her head to the ground to map her next move. I kept thinking about how good that weed was. It hit me pretty smooth.

She resurfaced.

“Baby you look familiar. Have I had you before?”

“No, you haven’t. I’m new to the city,” I said.

Those eyes stared at me for a few moments as she tried to figure it out. I was over it already. Wait a minute, she figured it out. Don’t say it. Don’t you dare say it.

She said it.

“Well color me shit. You’re Jim Fitch! Jim motherfucking Fitch! I didn’t recognize you at first. Well, I’m real high right now too but, aw man, you were my favorite porn star sugar! Shit.”

I was instantly disappointed and annoyed. I mashed the cigarette in the butt-shaped ashtray on the table. It was time to lie down.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” I offered.

“Why yes hell you do! I’ve heard stories about you mister. But wait, didn’t your girlfriend, oh. Oh god. Wait, is it true what she did to you?”

Fed up, I grabbed her clothes from the floor and headed for the door. I’d had enough Candy for the day. I opened the door and hurled her prostitute fashions out of my apartment.

“Wh-What are you doing?”

“I’m not doing anything. You’re yapping and wasting my time and you can do that bullshit somewhere else,” I said.

I shoved the half-naked prostitute out of the door, hard, as she struggled to pull away from my grip. I slammed the door. I heard her drawl through our barrier.

“Hey asshole! You could at least let me get dressed!”

“What for? You’ll be naked in an hour anyway with some other john. Save the energy,” I replied.

I watched her dive into a full tantrum through the peephole. She stomped her foot on the ground and poked her shiny lip out.

I refused to let her ruin this good high that I was on. That weed was the stuff dreams were made of. Before I could slip into my trippy abyss, Candy interrupted my flow. Again.

“I want my money you scum!”

She banged on my door. She wouldn’t let up.

“I said I want my money!”

I strolled back to my bed as Candy grew tired of beating. Time to fly a little higher. I opened the drawer next to my bed and found my ecstasy pills. Jackpot. I twisted open the silver container and retrieved my little helper. I popped it in my mouth just as Candy quit her relentless banging.

“Karma is a bitch! Putting me out like this. Smoov is gonna get that ass and when he does I’ll be there to laugh in your face you prick!”

I heard her storm away, finally. Good riddance. A dirty magazine peeked out at me from the drawer and of course it piqued my interest. I tore out random pictures that enticed me for the evening and taped them to the walls. I liked surrounding myself with sex instead of actually participating anymore. Cindy ruined me.

I fell on my bed and sank my hand down the front of my sweatpants reaching for my cock. No one else could give me that pleasure. No one else was allowed.

Chapter 5

My prostitute was on the way and I felt some relief. I leaned back on my bed and ate the slice of pizza I picked up for dinner. All of my ex-girlfriends told me I was a weirdo for only liking black olives on my pizza. None of that pepperoni bullshit people flocked to. Lord knows what part of the pig is shoved in that shit. 

As I ate, the smell wafting from my body got stronger and stronger. What was I thinking? I needed a shower. My stench would definitely run my company away and I was paying for her services. A man likes to get his money’s worth. 

After finishing up the pizza I went for a shower. I scrubbed at my skin as if bugs were taking me over. Leaving a trace of the foul smell on me wasn’t an option. I let the warm water run down my body and lathered once more.

After drying off I slipped back into my sweatpants and relaxed until my girl arrived. I packed my bong with some heavy kush and lit it. After a few deep pulls I was good and stoned. Riding high, ready for the world. As soon as I reclined to ride the wave, there was a knock at the door.

It was her. I’m sure my eyes were glassy and red but I knew she had seen worse. I’m sure one of her johns overdosed, and I’m positive she fled the scene. Then again, I didn’t care what she thought. I was paying the bitch. 

I opened the door and there she was. They told me her name was Candy. Typical. She was tall and lean, definitely in her thirties. Obviously no stranger to hard drugs and hard times. Her aged and stressed face didn’t quite suit her but I’m not picky about these things anymore.

A purple glittery dress hung on her lanky body.

"Hi baby," she said with her smoky, southern drawl.

I walked over to the chair in my living room and took a seat.

"Take off your clothes," I demanded.

"You don’t waste time, do ya sugar?"

"Are you gonna take them off or not?"

She saw I wasn’t fucking around.

"Geez, of course."

Candy took off her dress, and kicked off her cheap plastic shoes. She wore a pair of white lacy panties and matching garters. An unnecessary embellishment. I lit a cigarette, still zooming through cumulus clouds in my head.

Before she reached her shoes I stopped her.

"Leave your shoes on."

She stopped and looked up at me, confused.

"Okay, whatever you want," she concurred after seeing no smirk on my face. 

Candy stopped again to adjust her garter. She stood in front of me propping her hand on her meager hip.

"So what do you want exactly?"

"I just wanna look at you. That’s all."

"No sex? Ya know, I give a mean blow if you’re interested. I mean, you can get that at least baby."

"If that’s what I wanted, I’d ask for it!"

My angry tone startled her and I knew I needed to reel it in. Calm down Jim, you sick son-of-a-bitch. Cool your jets. I switched gears for a new angle.

"I’m sorry. It’s been a long day and I’m not in the best mood."

"I know what you mean baby. I can make it better, ain’t that why you called for me?"

Chapter 4

My apartment wasn’t the typical bachelor pad. It was modest and it suited me just fine. I didn’t use milk crates for shelving and my towels matched. I hate when things don’t match. Towels, socks, and lingerie sets on my woman, all of those things need to match. There’s nothing worse than white cotton panties and a red satin bra on a woman. It’s a slap in the face and doesn’t warrant me lying you down and showing you something proper.

I did have taste when it came to the few things I owned. There was art from my various travels lining the walls, and over in the corner was a drum set I bought. I always wanted to play, but it ended up being yet another grandiose idea I came up with and pushed to the side. In reality, Cindy crushed that dream. 

"You ain’t no Questlove," she said. 

Ever since then they’ve been nothing more than decor.

My Sex, Drugs, and Jazz poster hung above my queen sized bed. I kept my black bong on my nightstand for easy access. Every single morning I smoked. 

I had artsy erotica & your typical artist books underneath to keep me inspired. I liked the weird photographers and architecture ones the best but for the most part they collected dust. There were times I flipped through them before bed in hopes of influencing my dreams. Perhaps I would dream these beautiful, on-the-edge-of-reality dreams filled with vibrant colors, and people who looked like they stepped right out of Dali’s paintings. Instead my nightmares solidified their hold on my life, in dreams and in reality. 

I pulled off my clothes and didn’t bother with a shower. My body reeked of the day’s travels but I just didn’t feel like bathing. I pulled on my favorite sweatpants and spread out on my messy bed, chest bare.

Then came the feeling I usually had around that time of day. I was lonely. I wanted someone by my side to keep me company. The sun was setting, and the neighborhood was losing some of its luster as mothers called their children in for dinner.

My little black book sat next to my bong calling out for me. I couldn’t deny it. I made the call.

Chapter 3

Just as I walked outside, the bus passed by. 

"Shit!"

Now I had to walk. It was only about a mile and the weather was nice so I couldn’t complain. The hole in my jacket felt like it was getting bigger and bigger every day. My finger slipped through it, rubbing the fabric between my fingers. I told myself that I had to remember not to put money in that pocket again. Last time I was out eighty bucks. I knew I should’ve just bought a new jacket but I liked that one. It was perfectly worn and it was mine. Why should I part with it?

The sunlight flooded the sidewalk as I strolled to the shopping center up ahead. Still clutching the package, I wondered what was inside this time.

I pulled the door and stepped inside. A quick scan of the room revealed a few stragglers and loungers tapping away on their laptops. Some read their douchebag literature while others were slaves to the text messages on their phones.

I moved like a cat towards the bathroom, briefly connecting eyes with the barista. She was cute. I closed the bathroom door behind me and leaned back against it.

Without delay my hands moved along the package, ripping open its outer shell. She didn’t leave an address on the package, once again. I didn’t know her name. I didn’t know where she lived. Nothing. All I had to go on was that she knew me, wanted to see me, and had been contacting me via mail for the past year. The postal stamp was from Madison but I knew whoever this chick was, if she didn’t put her return address, she probably drove to Madison to mail it.

The bathroom was spic and span. I felt bad for treading in with my dirty shoes.

Alright here we go. I snatched at the envelope, tossing a few of the pieces into the garbage as I moved along. Inside the package I found the usual gold metallic envelope, a dirty magazine, and one of my old films Concockshun. I remembered shooting that one.

I studied the photo of me naked with a small apron around my waist, stirring up something in a big metal bowl. I always thought it was the worst idea, ever. What the hell is a porn star stirring up on the front cover of a DVD? I was no baker. Shouldn’t I have been deep in the middle of some hot action with the big, bold words covering up our nether regions? 

I had cake icing on my dick for two days trying to wash it all off. Looking down at an old version of me on the cover shook me a little. I wondered if I’d ever be the same. Before losing it all. Or at least when I thought I had it all. 

I flipped through one of the magazines she included. Every breast fetishist’s dream. Every page scored with seductive gazes and large tits. I checked my watch, it was almost one o’clock. I slipped everything back in the envelope and headed out.

The barista leaned behind the counter bored out of her mind. She had long black hair pulled back into a ponytail. Her bracelet and rubber band littered wrists caught my eye. A small star tattoo guarded the inside of her wrist. She wore a white polo shirt, stained with coffee and confections. I was guessing she had four roommates and drank forty ounces at home because they’re more bang for your buck.

She watched me as I approached the counter. I glanced up at the menu board for an idea of what I wanted. I caught her straightening her apron in the corner of my eye. Women always did this when I came around, I was used to it. They straightened their clothes, made sure their hair was perfect, licked their lips, the whole nine.

"Hi, what can I get for you today sir?"

"A large coffee please."

I stuck with old faithful instead of venturing out into flavors. She shuffled to get a paper cup.

"You come here a lot don’t you? I mean, I see you sometimes. You should smile more. I bet you have a nice smile," she said.

Not up for much of a conversation, I respond just because.

"At least something about me is nice. Thank you."

"You’re welcome."

She handed me my coffee. I tried to pay but she didn’t accept.

"My treat. It’s good to see you."

"Thanks."

I tried to split.

"What’s your name by the way?"

"Jim."

"You look so familiar to me."

I forced a smile and walked away. It would hit her later on that night when she washed dishes or brushed her hair while listening to some crappy emo-punk. 

She’s seen my porn. Everyone has.

CHAPTER 2

"I can take you next sir," alerted the post office clerk. 

I didn’t respond. 

"Sir?"

All I could think about was how much I needed a shave. People were staring at me, wondering if something was hidden in the forest growing on my face. I snapped out of it. It was lunchtime on a Saturday. Truthfully it was one of the last times I’d be able to pick up mail on a Saturday. I thought this was America. The land of the fatties, albeit free?

There weren’t many people inside the post office with me. A black woman in her twenties worked behind the counter in a heavy-starched blue shirt and pants. The shirt was so crisp it could stand straight up on the counter if it wanted. I approached the counter and leaned on it out of habit at that point.

My glare of determination and concern said it all. The anxious woman behind me moved her absurdly oversized sequined bag to the opposite arm as her junk shuffled inside. I turned my eyes to the source giving her the glare of life. She rolled her eyes to the ceiling as if I’d give a whiff of a fuck. Why do women carry all that crap in their bag? Unless you live in New York City, you have no need for a carryall where you literally have to carry it all. 

"Jim Fitch. I have a package I need to pick up," I announced to the clerk.

I handed her the wrinkled salmon colored slip to confirm why I was there.

"Hmm, let me see if I have something for you."

"You do."

She looked like she wanted to retort but she knew she had one more hour at work before she could indulge in her own life, her own vice. She headed to the back to check for my package. I could’ve cared less about her attitude. Do your job. I twiddled my fingers on the counter, ready to go about my day. Ready to get fucked up. Wishing I could get fucked. I wouldn’t allow it.

I heard the clerk shuffling around in the back room looking for my package. Then it sounded like a box fell over, the contents spilling across the floor. 

"For fucks sake already," I heard faintly from the clerk. 

Maybe she was having a bad day. Maybe she was new. Maybe I should have been a little nicer to her instead of being so terse. It’s not like I should have really cared about her. I didn’t care about anyone else anymore. When you care about other people, the bullshit starts. That’s when you get your feelings hurt. Your heart broken. Your schedule jam packed with activities you don’t want to do but you only do them to please her. Those days were over. I only cared about me and I was getting impatient.

"Found it?"

The clerk emerged from the back with a large bubble envelope. Sirens boomed down the street, yanking me back to a memory I tried my best to forget.

I was sprawled on the floor shrieking in pain as sirens approached my house. Cindy lived there with me. My blood pooled around my body as I wondered how the hell I got there. The knife gleamed about a foot away from me. 

Cindy’s hair and clothes were a mess. A sure sign of what just happened. Her eyes were red from tears and too much vodka. Wild and teetering on the edge. I’d never seen her like this. She inched towards me, crying her eyes out, her hands covered in my blood. She clutched the cordless phone so tight she could break her fingernails. Her adrenaline could have crushed the phone in her hands. She was hysterical, choking on words between the fury of warm tears.

She managed to speak, “I’m sorry. I’m so, so, sorry.”

I watched her beat herself in the head like a crazed maniac, knowing I could have prevented this.  I had the power alone to prevent how we’d gotten to that point. Cindy wasn’t strong enough without me. After investing everything short of blood, she finally realized what a mistake that was on her part. She looked down at me, looking at what she’d done. I’ve never seen this look before.

"Jim? Jim?"

The pain was brutal.

I was kicked back to the present. The postal clerk eyed me, trying to figure out which planet I could have possibly come from. Men filled with craze deserve to have their moment.

She handed me the package, I smiled at her, and made a run for the door.

I hated staying anywhere for too long.

CHAPTER 1

The hips of a goddess. The hips that made any sane man utterly wrecked with insanity. If there was a God, give him a gold star for molding those hips. Many nights my hands have grazed and manhandled those hips with one thing on my mind. It’s like I was seeing those hips with a new set of eyes, a new angle. 

Cindy was drunk. She moved and grooved with the music, gyrating fearlessly, as if no one else existed. The powerful lungs of Letta Mbulu filled the room with soul and femme angst. That was her favorite song. That was the song she played when she was upset with the world. I knew every line by heart as it felt like Cindy was basically at odds with the world more than ever. She felt unloved, unwanted, and of course if you’re unloved you’re probably unappreciated as well. I didn’t feel any of those things. Okay, I definitely could have appreciated her more, but surely I loved her.

Cindy guzzled straight from the bottle of cheap hooch. I imagined the liquid burning her chest on the ride down to the depths of her body. The depths where her other secrets and issues took shelter. 

She yelled, “Fuck it all!”

My woman was what men dreamed of. Soft legs for miles. Supple breasts perched perfectly in her t-shirt. The type of girl your mama would be proud you brought home. The girl who would fuck your brains out and then make a three-course meal at two in the morning, just because.

The vodka fueled her moves like oil in a locomotive, giving her the edge she needed. She needed it to function. She needed it to deal. She reeked of confidence and empowerment, if only for the thrill of a moment. 

Cindy pulled the hair tie from her hair and shook it free. A broken picture frame with a photo of us littered the floor. The glass threatened her bare feet, waiting for a misstep. Vodka swished about in the bottle. A gulp.

She didn’t know I was watching her through the window. For the past ten minutes I peeked through our window watching her, thinking of what excuse I’d use that time. I knew I was running out of options.

I finally mustered the nerve to open the door. I know I’ve fucked up this time. My entrance interrupted her dance, unaware of the storm that was brewing. She hurled the bottle of alcohol at me in a fit of rage. 

"You fuck!"

I ducked like a prized fighter, the bottle missing my head by mere inches. I dropped the bag of Red Vines I bought for her. She loved Red Vines but she wouldn’t care. She wouldn’t care that I went to three stores to find them for her. She wouldn’t give a shit about the flowers I ordered.  All she’d say is that flowers die and my money was wasted. Flowers are life, if only for a brief one. Life is to be enjoyed no matter the duration, don’t you think? None of this mattered and of course even if I tried to fight it, it didn’t mean a thing. How could candy help the situation? 

That was the beginning of the end.

 

Lo-res of the cover of Gutter (previously Rare Form).
A has-been adult film star has lost it all in the midst of juggling his drug and alcohol abuse. After befriending two other social misfits from his crappy new job, he finds himself slipping into Atlanta’s underbelly as he battles secrets that could cost him his life as well as the lives of his new friends.
It’s finished. It’s free. It’s fucked up.
Dropping chapters separately in case any of you like them and want to reblog. Once the chapters are finished being dropped separately, the full baby can be downloaded as a pdf for your summer reading from my website.
xo.

(I decided to write a short story. It’s been awhile.) Today I joined a cult and I’m hoping for the best. The air smells clean around here, wherever “here” is. They met me downtown and blindfolded me so I didn’t know where they were taking me.  Perhaps that’s for the best as well. People seem nice enough but things are always great in the beginning, right? Everyone is friends until somebody gets drunk. There’s always the angry drunk. There’s always the person who gets drunk and wants to have sex all the time. I guess people have sex in cults, right? Thankfully I picked a cool cult who likes to have sex and have bonfires. Nevermind the chants and blood rituals, there’s some cool shit going on. Waking up to the smell of pine needles and fresh cut grass. Bobby likes to cut the grass first thing in the morning because he says “that’s when the souls are still asleep and we wanna keep them peachy.” Have you seen an ant head up close? Today I did shrooms with Sandy and I saw ant heads up close. They smiled at me and told me that everything was okay. They agreed, I picked a cool cult. The ants have pot bellies from the crumbs we drop while eating in the yard. I met the queen and everything. Good times. My old life feels like it’s a million miles away. I worked at a nail salon part time, filing the fungus and filth from people’s fingernails. Painting their nails trampy hues of red and pink. The ghetto girls got blue and purple and all sorts of stripes and designs on their nails. They went all out. The uppity cotton-pantied women stuck with nude pinks and French manicures. The teen girls got whatever colors would piss their mothers off.  You learn a lot about women by working in a nail salon. None of that mattered anymore. I don’t miss any of it. What matters is that I have a family now. Finally a group of misguided people, just like me, willing to give our lives for the cause. I don’t even know what the cause is, I just got tired of being lonely. I’d rather die with a group of people than sit in my dumpy apartment alone another night.

He sat in the train lounge reeking of yesterday’s hooch. Lonely on a moving vehicle filled with other people deliberately avoiding him. His fingernails were permanently caked with oil and dirt from working on his truck. A camouflage jacket hung over his body with a name patch that had “Wade” stitched on it.  His jeans had an unfathomable crease in each pants leg that seemed like train tracks leading to nowhere in particular.

Wade’s full-bodied plaything, Janie, dropped him off at the train station early enough for them to sit in her Buick and kill time by kissing and her shoving her saggy breasts in his face. Janie was a woman who knew exactly what she wanted and had no qualms with telling Wade about her every desire. Janie wanted what she thought all women craved. She wanted Wade to be with her all the time. Call her all the time. Bring her flowers and candy just because. Janie even wanted Wade to get her a puppy, like how they did in the movies.

Wade always asked, “If I get you a puppy, who’s gon’ walk the damn thing?”

“You are baby,” Janie replied.

Needless to say, Janie was puppy-less.

Wade was on his way to witness the birth of his grandson, making him a grandpa for the first time. His son’s girlfriend was in labor as Wade sat on the train drinking beer out of the can and looking at the trees and creeks and general American wilderness as the train hustled along the tracks. No one wanted to sit next to him. It was just fine by him. More leg room. Most of his family treated him like shit too, and his daughter was the worst of them all.

To tell you the truth, he never liked his daughter. His ex-wife named her Celeste and he never liked the name either. Too whimsical for a southern girl to write on things. Wade thought it sounded like a name some gypsy flaunted, surely not a name for something that came from his sack. She never called, she never wrote, and she probably never wondered about him. For all he knew his daughter had completely erased him from her mind, passing through life with no father at all.

Wade reached into his knapsack for a piece of paper, anything to write the word “tree” on. For some reason he kept thinking, “tree…tree…tree.” The truth was, that’s what his life felt like. A lonely tree in the woods yearning for nourishment and love, only to be chopped down or etched on. Wade fumbled around in the bag past his soft pack of cigarettes, past a candy bar, and past his pocket knife. His hand stopped on what felt like a folded piece of paper.  He pulled it out and saw that Janie had folded a photo of herself and placed it in Wade’s bag. On the back she drew a lopsided heart. No words, no date, no name. Her smile was forced and simple, but perfect in every way. Wade remembered the word “tree” and stared down at the photo. He wasn’t as lonely as he’d imagined. Janie was nice enough to have around and he knew when he returned to Mississippi she’d be there for him. She’d make his favorite dinner, smothered chicken, and life would go on in their arrangement. He’d never marry her, much to her dismay, but he knew she’d grow to accept it as part of their relationship. Wade wasn’t the loving type. Wade wasn’t Mr. Right. Wade was a man who wanted to be loved but didn’t know how to do it himself. All that he could ask for was a woman who understood his shortcomings and not bust his balls about it.

He brought his knapsack from the floor and sat it in the seat next to him, needing no one to fill the seat. The world flew by his window and the suds were settling in his beer. He was getting closer and closer to his destination to meet a boy that would hopefully learn from his grandfather’s mistakes. A boy that would be loved and wanted. A boy that would be handed down a camouflage jacket with the same last name, “Wade”, stitched above his heart.

I was afraid of him and infatuated at the same time. His gaunt face, pouty, lazy mouth, and red hair. His eyes felt as if they could slice me in two if I stared into them for a moment longer than I should. His name was Prague and his dog was Bess. He named her Bess, a play on the word “best”, since that’s what he considered her to be. She’d been his only girl for so long, the room for someone else had inched to barely anything at all.

Prague’s tattered t-shirt felt familiar, the pads of my fingers knew the outlines of the holes by heart. This was his favorite shirt. A faded blue t-shirt that he’d had for years. A shirt that had seen concerts, bar fights, girl’s underwear, airplanes, hotel rooms, burger joints, and many hangovers during their time together.

Underneath his skin smelled like old orange rinds. A salty flesh and lightly chapped lips that comforted me because they meant he walked in the cold to see me from the train station. The fear drew me closer to him. The idea that at any moment he could overpower me and permanently end my life. His eyes looking into mine as he allowed me my last breath. How thrilling! I remembered once before he told me he wanted to hit rock bottom with me to see what it felt like. With no other girl could he fathom being so low with. Bess would never hit bottom with him. I wondered if this was a compliment or something I should find offensive and telling of my nature but he swore it was a good thing.

The sunlight outlined his head like a glowing halo as he leaned over. The morning air slipped through the open window like a thief. His bare shoulders jutted from his frail frame. The closer he leaned in, the more I could make out his features. The details would be a memory for years to come. Bess licked at his feet, his attention promptly leaving me to attend to the bitch.

Prague left the room to take Bess for a walk. I tiptoed around the room getting dressed like I was avoiding waking anyone else up. He lived alone so it didn’t matter but for some reason I didn’t feel alone there. That’s how heavy his presence was.

His pile of dirty clothes didn’t collect in a hamper. He was a pile on the floor kind of guy. Straight, no chaser. A photo he took of an owl in Oregon sat on the edge of his desk, next to a photo we took at a carnival last Spring. It was our first photo together, and since then we’ve taken only a handful of others. I have photos of him in my head. Still images captured from my experiences with him. The look on his face when our canoe tipped over. The way he looks when he rubs Bess’ belly. The way he brushes his teeth with vigor, spitting the spittle into the sink. Images that would never leave me. It’s funny how that happens. How you can forget so many things and remember others. There are things you’d love to forget but you can’t. There are things you’d pay to remember, but you can’t. Why is that?

I have to go home. I have to brave the morning rush in yesterday’s clothes to go shower, before I go to a job I hate with people I despise. It must be nice to work from home like Prague. All the more quality time with Bess. I could never replace her. Granted, she’s a good dog. I know I’m a good woman, but there’s something about automatically being “man’s best friend”, something I’m just now learning how to do after pushing my failures aside.

-by Brie Cook

I want to pound your face in like a mound of clay / you are a piece of shit and I want you to know that / I dreamed we went to college together / seniors / I was waiting in our meeting spot and you finally arrived with some freshman girl / three feet away and you pretended not to acknowledge me / as if on cue / in front of me / you asked when you and that freshman whore were going to finally go on a date / she seemed weird / my blood boiled at the interest you showed her and the total disregard you showed me / I stormed off / later on my girlfriends and I watched the lame ass talent show you and all the guys in our senior class gave / after that you did your homework in the common area which somehow morphed into my old house / you did that little boy shit where you tried to say some clever remark after totally shitting on me and I responded with “That’s stupid and you’re an asshole” / you seemed surprised at my rebuttal so I indulged in what would become some of the nastiest words I ever thought I’d say to you / I forget word for word but I do remember calling you a coward and telling you how I would never do that to you / ever / I yelled and cursed so loudly in that span of one minute that my voice went hoarse / I snapped out of the dream before you could respond and floated between that dreaming and waking up state / the shock and trauma felt too real as I awoke with no text message from you / I text you last night and still no response from that one / or the phone call three nights ago / just great / here I am / foolish for thinking we could be something more than what we are / essentially fuck buddies who have great conversation when we see each other / the occasional “considerate text” from you / example: “Have a good trip” / we laugh and poke fun at cheesy commercials / we talk about how awesome it would be to go to Amsterdam and smoke weed and do ‘shrooms and ride bikes / I hug you from behind / wrapping my arms around your beautiful body and my cheek against your back is all too comforting / it’s probably the most intimate we’ve ever been / then a thought reminds me that that hug can’t and won’t last forever / in thirty seconds I will be walking through that door and going home with nothing but you on my mind / I wish I knew before I moved here for you how this would all turn out / yes it’s true / I wish that I wasn’t so hasty in assuming you’d be consistent for once / I wish with every inch of my being that you would scream my name to the world and feel a hint of what I feel / for now I pretend your face is a mound of clay / with no soul / and definitely not the guy who’s been my ideal man for years / I wonder if you’ll ever come around / I also wonder how badly my heart will hurt if you never do

-Brie Cook

The sunset reminds me of you. The crow crossing the blue sky, searching for another perch. I wish you were here with me. I wish you could feel the cool air breezing on your skin as it breezes mine. You should see the sun falling behind clouds ending its day of madness.

You should be here.

The trees create a barrier between the sun and I. A wall so I cannot reach or even see the sun. I hear rustling in the woods and wish you could hear it just the same. You’re so far away, how can you stand it?

-Brie Cook

Opaque  by  andbamnan