All art are oils on canvas and appear courtesy of Lea Barozzi.
3. It Kills Me To Be Kind
5. Birds Want My Flower
6. Rip Her To Shreds
7. The Joy Eaters
9. Little Red Riding Hood
Your parent’s house is in the middle of everywhere I need to be, and when I’m near I find myself unconsciously drifting towards your street out of habit and an almost gravitational pull. I pass: 1) your old bedroom where I took your virginity, which you lied about, told me you lost it to a stranger in the backseat of a car and didn’t admit to said lie for two years because you thought it was emasculating because I was more experienced, which I thought was cute, but which I later found annoying as I realized how good you were at lying; 2) the parking lot, that is, your backyard where we searched for your cat who went missing that night we took acid and you swallowed that glow stick and we made space-cadet love and realized the cat was never missing at all; 3) your stepfather’s church where we went to so many funerals and crept around with flashlights at night, stealing the collection money and fucking on the altar saying we’re so going to hell even though neither of us believed in hell; 4) your bathroom window where we drew faces with our fingers on the glass, steamed and humid from the heat of the tub where we bathed each other, and later I bathed alone when I locked myself in after you tried to kick me out of the house screaming I’m going to call the police after I threw that beer in your face after you threw the glass at the wall after I ruined your party after you told me you didn’t love me anymore; 5) your kitchen where we microwaved soup and danced to John Coltrane even though neither of us could dance and your mom would come down babbling and drunk wearing nothing but silk underwear, and you’d get so embarrassed, and I’d tell you I didn’t care because I didn’t because I loved your family more than I loved my own.
Your parent’s house is in the middle of everywhere I need to be, so I take the back roads.
The Sun Also Rises
There is Ania and there is Gosia. Ania and Gosia live in block 393 and they are not the perfect pumpkins. They sing nie nie on a nightly basis. They push their zule and their zule push back but eventually they send their zule back to their domu. They say rozumiesz rozumiesz until their zule finally say tak tak and head home to dream their dreamless dreams and nurse their hangovers. So these two zule. These two zule of Ania and Gosia. They pimped out their ride. First they added a flame thrower. No two flame throwers. Then they added a wodka tap built right into the engine. They sport the perfect mullet and they dream dreams of an apocalyptic nature. Crashing their vehicles into an object is an artistic craving. Ania and Gosia are suckers for muscle cars but they are not suckers for zule. But they also know not every zul stays a zul and some zule become non-zule. For example, when they have a baby. Sometimes this works; sometimes this doesn’t. If you’re pregnant you are between third and home and it’s a real pickle.
There ain't shit to do in Valentine, Nebraska, when you're 22 and jobless. When she's the one you still love even though she left a year ago. When you're alone on the suicide dog bridge and no dogs are coming and you just hope that one of them will come running and jump, so you can watch it fall and fall.
Fiona said she'd love me forever, even though it was over. How that was bullshit. How I wished it was true.
Fifteen dogs in the last twenty years. A Shih Tzu, Goldens, German Shepherds. Something about the bridge. Some say the bridge is haunted, that the dogs chase ghosts.
There are other words for it: superstition, longing, regret.
I'd held a dead one before, below on the rocks. Stroked its fur, its eyes. Wished it alive and shook it. I shook and shook, like my hands were defibrillators, full of lightning.
“You'll forget me,” I'd told Fiona and she said never, like a spell, and you said, “forgetting's not something you plan.”
The suicide dogs don't come. They only jump when no one's watching, when they are brave and think they can fly.
Justin Lawrence Daugherty
It was a long painful summer. Stomach perpetually attacked with whiskey to take me as far away as possible from her. She was devoted and blinded by love still—wouldn’t leave my side. I refused to say I loved her anymore—she compensated by saying it all the time. I watched football, listened to obnoxious music, ignored her whenever possible, and slept on the floor rather than our bed. By winter I had succeeded. She was gone. I stopped drinking for a while. It didn’t last. A few months later I picked up where I had left off. This time to try to forget the mistake I had just made.
I wake to his words. It’s still dark. I look over at his sleeping body and find that his lips aren’t moving.
Shh, I hear him say. Shh. Shh. Shh.
The next morning I steep coffee. He shuffles into the kitchen and slumps at the table.
Sugar, he says. Sugar. Sugar. Sugar.
I glance, and his mouth is still. I grab three cubes from the pot above the stove and put them in his open palms.
He looks at me, one brow lifted. How? He asks. I shrug.
We are touching. My hand strays to his back, to the crook of his spine, then to his shoulder, then to his chest.
Back to my back, he says without talking.
I move my hand there.
Stay. He says. Stay. Stay. Stay.
How? He breathes into my neck.
But I don’t want to talk about it, at least not with my mouth; we neither of us should risk this gift.
After fucking you’d say, “Oh my God” every time. A rhythm I thought I’d never get tired of. But, oh my god, how you came to bore me with that.
We started at a double feature in the Castro, god, we were the only straight folks that night. Burt Lancaster and Barbara Stanwyk. It smelled like sex. Your hand so close. We had Chinese or Thai. You wanted to leave your girlfriend, remember, or she wanted to leave you.
You were with me then, crawling up out of my double bed in the Mission drunk on nothing more than my breath, you said “I want to know you for twenty years” as if that were the sinew, the promise of bone grafting us in place, hoping once to use the words in the right place with a woman who’d see it through with you.
And now, twenty years gone, how did it rip away, how did the blood dry up, the cells mutate, that once held us tongue to hip, eye to breast, hope conjured on so little.
I’ve been meat, pounded and dead since you’ve been gone.
Cheryl Diane Kidder
Tony took the equivalent of four trips to the emergency room. Popped ‘em in church, in front of a priest who was giftwrapping sermons for lethargic housewives & small dog owners. The priest told the news later that Tony was a good kid, he meant well. Said his head was a box of marbles sometimes. Said he worried about him sometimes. I worried about him sometimes. I always wondered what he was thinking when he looked at rusted train tracks, when he saw cleaning solution under the sink. Tony was always looking for solutions. Told me once that we should line the bodies of downed trees along the road, that way cars wouldn’t hit frogs crossing the street in the rain. I thought about it for a few weeks, the log idea. I needed to know, y’know? So I caught Tony on a Tuesday, staring at cutlery in the supermarket. How will you lug all those logs? Arms crossed, eyes fixed on the knives, Tony spoke: “Not sure. But there’s a way around everything, Father told me.” He reached out, ran his fingers along the edge of a blade. “I’m starting to think it's a lie.”
Dillon J. Welch
As She Climbed Across the Table
I was in love once when I was nine. It was a neighbor boy who used to chase me down the street whenever I passed his house. One day, he wasn't there to chase me. I went into my own house and found my mother, who was sitting in a chair beside the window.
"Mama, where is Jack?" I asked.
"The neighbor boy? They moved away," she said.
"But I loved him," I told her.
"You're too young to know what that word means," she told the window.
"Oh," I said, because when you're nine, you think you can know anything, and you become accustomed to being told you can’t. "What does it mean?"
My mother looked at me then, sharply, the way she did when I was being insolent. After a moment, she told me, “Go and play,” so I did.
That night, my father left for good. Or maybe I'm remembering it wrong; perhaps by then, he'd already gone.
Yesterday I stepped through glass doors uninvited, shifted from light to dark. Yesterday I applied; spoke to a man, to a woman. Their suits were gray. Their words were gray. They said nothing at all. I said nothing in return. During our exchange, a bird died on the windowsill. In deference I relented, accepted, extolled. The man collected signatures; the woman extended a flaccid hand. We nodded equilaterally. I thought I heard gunfire in the distance: an execution, possibly mine.
Afterward, I traded dark for light. I shuffled home hired, shed my suit hired, watched my girlfriend fold origami penises hired, sat atop the crest of my roof and traded whispers with the moon hired. Despite myself, I had been hired, indentured.
Today my suit is gray. My thoughts are gray. I slip pills under my tongue, linger at a gleaming urinal and mimic the touch of yesterday’s flaccid hand. At my desk I sit dutifully rigid and peck randomly at ordered keys. I watch letters bestrew a screen once bleached and barren. Punctuation pecks at my eyes. AutoCorrect shaves razor-thin layers from my brain. Blood splatters onto my corp-issued Blackberry in 160-platelet bursts.
Tomorrow I will demand a raise.
Stephen King and Peter Straub
“I grew up just the same as her,” Brian often said, “and I didn’t kill myself.”
Sometimes he sounded proud of himself, sometimes angry with her. Increasingly now, as he grew older, he sounded confused. He’s started using polite euphemisms for ‘kill myself.’ Take my life. End it all. Bow out.
“Bow wow?” I said once.
Brian doesn’t think I should joke, but she was my sister too.
My son used to tell me all the silver linings that clouds had. “Some people say that there are beautiful sunsets after a nuclear winter. When a bird dies its body nourishes the soil that keeps a million flowers alive.” I thought he was such an optimist. My little trooper, always finding the bright side to everything.
It was Brian who pointed out that he was spending every waking moment thinking about nuclear winters and dead birds, desperately trying to find the good things that come out of bad.
“You should watch him,” Brian said. “She used to do that too. You don’t remember because you were too young.”
Brian thinks my son will bow out.
Suicide, my son tells me, often brings families closer together.
The 158 Pound Marriage