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A Present of Time

Upon my stoop lie a woven basket. I was returning from my walk with Skipper, my annoying, but cute, Shih Tzu pure bread that my half twat of a boyfriend left behind when he decided that “I don’t love you anymore,” was a good enough excuse for “I’m screwing Lisa behind your back,” when I saw the caramel colored wicker basket infused with a pink ribbon planted before my door.

Skipper began to bark at a voltage that my ears now tune out, unleashing a hellish cry from the basket as I approached. Slowly walking up the steps, I swopped down and picked up Skipper as he nuzzled in closer to my side.

Hovering over the basket, all that I knew about life, not much in my twenty-three years, disseminated. Looking back at me was a small creacher with bleached textured skin, similar to an alligator without the tail, with large protruding eyes. Eyes that seemed to swirl with the knowledge beyond our world, encompassing more than our world, or all the worlds combined. In that moment, the two of us were frozen together in a space where it knew me, and both beyond me. My head began to swell with stories of light, love, murder, sadness, and reaching the limit of possibilities, Skipper yelped in my ear snapping me back to reality. Dazed, I snatched up the basket and hurried inside to see what more could be trapped in those eyes.

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The Gold Haired Boy

The freedom of a slide excited the girl. The way the wind pushed her hair from her shoulders, and the temporary feeling of lightness surrounded her. These were the days where the sun turned her skin to caramel, and the clouds looked like white marshmallow puffs in the sky.

The girl lived in a country cottage with her father and sister, her friends being the trees who came to life when she entered the woods. The girl was enveloped in a happy bliss.

In school, the girl found it hard to focus. Instead, her mind was more fascinated with the stories she read from her heroes in print. The Gunslinger became her guide, Frodo her adventurer, and Alice her best friend.

Gathered for a pep-rally, the girl sat on the hard gym floor but rather was creeping upon Dracula when her friend called the boy’s name. He looked up, and a head full of golden curly hair toppled over his eyes. Dracula began to saunter away, as the girl became fixated with the boy.

Outside, the girl looked at her feet, and exchanged her name with his. They quickly began sharing notes with the stories they were never able to tell others; they began to shape their own world.

Falling down the slide, he caught her and kissed her. These were the days where the sun poisoned the leaves, and they fell to the ground choking out their life.

Moving on in school, the boy and girl became inseparable. Everything he did, she did, and everything they did was electric. The girls’ stories became intertwined with his, and they enjoyed experimenting with the complex feelings of a love at first sight.

She hadn’t known anything like this, someone to occupy her, fulfill her, listen to her, drive her mad. Slowly, he became a part of her, and she pushed down the freedom she once felt on the slide, the stories she once built in her mind.

The gold hair boy cut his hair, and the curls fell to the floor. He left her with a hug at the airport, and traded in his converse for combat boots.

The girl and boy wrote short letters, trying to explain long feelings. They didn’t know how to tell their stories through missed calls, and text messages, rather than face to face in dark rooms under the covers. These were the frost-bitten days, where they suffered from cold noses, and relied on bundles of clothes for a fake warmth.

The boy moved to the state with eternal darkness, and the girl began to sing Bill Withers’ songs to the boy. “Ain’t no sunshine when she’s gone,” but the boy was already gone.

The girl sat in the green hammock, staring at her phone after their story had ended. She cried for what seemed like days, drowning the last few years.

She faced the days of blooming new life.

Drown Your Sorrows

Slamming the glass back on the oak bar, Mike realized he was alone. The ghosts of his friends 10 years ago echoed in his ears laughing, and cheering on the next shot of Jim Beam.

“Have another, Mike?” Nick yelled from the other end of the bar, strolling up to the opposite side of him. His fathers rule that he carried along with him was to always keep the barrier between him and the patrons, especially the Monday night regulars.

“Hey, where’s everyone at tonight.”

“I don’t know man, maybe the weather scarred them off.”

“Yea, maybe.” Mike fingered the edge of the thick glass, tilting it on it’s side fixating his gaze on the marble cut bottom. Resting it back on its bottom, he tapped the top of the bar, and Nick filled it again half way with the copper liquid.

Rain splattered against the window, and Mike brought the glass to his mouth, feeling the warmth of the liquid hit his lips. Closing his eyes, he could swear it was the feeling of Janet’s soft mouth against his own. Smelling in her vanilla perfume that always lingered on his clothes too long, but drinking in the liquid to push her back down.

He knew that tonight, he wouldn’t be able to push her down far enough. The rain kept bubbling her to the surface like the worms fighting their way out onto the cement after a storm. Longing to take a breath of fresh air rather than being pushed down into the mud. She was the light.

_

“Hey, let’s go meet up with John and them at the bar tonight.”

“Can’t we just stay in, it looks like the rain is going to really be coming down tonight.”

“Come on, don’t be so boring! Only for an hour.”

“Alright, just let me go change into jeans. Even if were going to that nasty bar, I’m not going to go out in my stained sweats.” Janet gave Mike a coy smile while heading into their bedroom to change.

_

Now I feel the wind blow outside my door,
Means I’m, I’m leaving my woman at home.

The music began to fill the empty seats in the bar, giving it more life than Mike sitting with his memories, and Nick wiping down the newly cleaned glasses out of the washer.

“Gotta love Skynard, right man?”

Mike nodded, and tapped the bar again where Nick did his duty and filled his glass once more.

He could see Janet from the far end of the bar chatting to the man who she called her friend. The Beam lit the fire in his temple causing his whole face to burn, spreading down his arms, and resting in his knuckles.

She moved in slow motion back towards him, swinging her hips with her black hair flowing down and bouncing with each step. The life inside her radiated out, stoking his fire that she could radiate without him.

The sound of thunder boomed into the bar, seeming to fill the small space to capacity. More alive than it’s been in months.

“Alright, Mike, I’m gonna close up shop. $20 bucks even.”

Placing $25 on the counter, Mike sauntered towards the door grabbing his coat and pulling it over his shoulders while heading out into the storm.

Nick shook his head at his regular, and returned back to his thoughts of seeing Cara in that new black slip she sent him a picture of an hour ago.

The wind had began to howl covering both Mike and Janet’s screams towards one another. Patrons in the town knew when to leave well enough alone, and occasionally glanced their way but headed either in and out of the bar like normal.

The fire began to burn from his stomach, smoking with ever rain drop that hit her smooth skin, wetting her hair. Her spirit began to suffocate out from his smoke clouding around her, stealing her oxygen. Grabbing her arm, he pulled her into their car to head back home.

Gripping the steering wheel, his knuckles continued to burn with the white hot flame. The roads were beginning to puddle, and Janet wept into her hands with the occasional hiccup. Mike glanced her way when the tires lost their hold, and the image of her bent to the right of the cab with damp hair falling over her face became permanently etched into his mind before it all went blank.

Pulling the keys from his pocket, Mike felt the rain hit his head, causing his hair to stick to the sides of his face. He decided to walk, and placed the keys back into his jeans pocket.

Rounding the corner, he approached the bridge that separated the town from the country. The familiar sight drew him in, touching the cool metal with his fingertips. Gripping the railing, he pushed his body to the side of it, and gazed over the edge. He saw the eternity of stars mirrored below him.

Submerging himself over the side, his fire extinguished.

 

 

 

 

Addict

She could feel their heavy eyes on the rolls of white flesh protruding from her favorite pink shirt, silently screaming their disdain for her ‘poor life decisions.’ Her family surrounded her, but she could barely lift her head once they were out in public. Her once lighthearted personality that consumed others seemed to be absorbed by the corn syrup and saturated fats she pushed into her mouth.

Seated around the table at their favorite Chinese restaurant,  she could feel the shield of technology against a loving conversation. Childhood memories faintly played in the back of her mind of her parents and two brothers sitting around a rickety light oak table sharing stories of their days. A time when weight never entered her mind.

John, her husband, sat to her left playing the newest social media game while casually sipping on his soda. Her eyes fell upon the bubbles crawling up the side while she pushed her hand over to his thigh under the table where she began to absently rub her thumb over his skin. His eyes lifted with a look of confusion, while he subconsciously pulled away from her.

She had never found dating to be easy, always having more of an interest in characters on a page rather than the men. John made it easy, though.

Their courtship started in a cafeteria line in college. Both of them larger than the majority of their classmates, naturally bonding over the comfort of food. Every week for a semester, they silently retreated to the farthest booth in the cafeteria together exchanging stories, and small talk over fried onion rings, grilled cheese sandwiches, and melted butter. Blooming slowly into not love, but a deep complacency to dull the throb of loneliness.

The waiter came and left their table, and the liveliness of her children still brought a smile to her face. Two plump, or growing according to her mother, boys sat across from her. Their chubby cheeks were rosy pink, just like they were on their birth day. She cried when she first held them. Their faces melted into her chest, and she finally felt that her fat had served it’s purpose as nothing else than a pillow for her children.

Childbirth was a complication for her, and her doctor constantly brought it up that if she wanted to feel that same warmth with her grandchildren, she should change her lifestyle. Yet, when the waiter came and set the plate of food in front of her the steam lifted from the plate and the smell overtook her to a point of ecstasy she couldn’t find from her marriage. Her mouth began to water, and she absently shook her head ‘yes’ when the waiter asked if everything looked okay.

The sun had begun to set on what had been a sticky Summer day. Katie sat on the front porch steps in a new pair of pink jean shorts that her mother had bought her the day before as a congratulations to her journey to womanhood. She had officially started her period, and had just turned 13 years old the week prior.

The porch was her favorite part of her parents home. It overlooked the country road with a long path before it. The red beams stretched to either side holding up the roof which her mother had painted a blue sky with puffy white clouds. Her and her brothers used to sleep on the porch in the summers before they grew older and the girls in short cheerleader outfits become more of a priority than playing with their kid sister.

Wrapped into a new book, she didn’t realize her cousin Mark had walked up the path until he plopped down beside her.

He was 15, tall, but round in the center, and had fingers that looked like little sausages.

“Hey Katie, whatcha reading?”

Adverse to talking to anyone at the moment, she shows him the front of her book glancing at his face from the side of her glasses. She wondered if he knew she was no longer a little girl from the week before.

“Ah, yea, I haven’t read that one. You seem to like reading a lot don’t ya?” His hand rested on the top of her thigh as he chatted with her.

“Who wants ice cream sandwiches?” Her mother pushed open the screen door one in each hand, and the slam of it made Mark pull his hand back into his own lap.

She had felt a pit in her stomach remembering the previous week when Mark hadn’t pulled away his hand. The ice cream began to melt down her hand when her mother touched her shoulder lightly whispering if everything was alright.

Nodding her head yes, she shoved the ice cream into her mouth to feel the relief that the cool sweet brought to her mind. A high she would be chasing the rest of her life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Loneliest Mile

Winking at the windshield, Matt tried to push through the night drive home. A yawn escaped his lips, pushing his jaw out popping it to the left. Conventions always tired him out as an introvert forced to be an extrovert, although driving in mid-west America with nothing more than flat land and endless fields provided little stimulation.

The smell of the leftover pizza had begun to fill the small space of his Chevy sonic, a car his friends relentlessly ragged on him about due to it’s size, but with a job that made him spend 70% of his time in his car, gas prices were a bigger concern to him than status among his gun loving pickup truck driving friends from college.

In an urge to push through the tiredness as he was approaching the end of his drive, he turned off his electronic music that easily fades into the background for what seems to be a recently lost marketing medium- talk radio. He remembers his dad always turning it on during Sunday drives to church, and the smell of his mom’s vanilla perfume chocking him more than the necktie that he was forced to wear.

*RRRRRIINNGGG*

“Thanks for tuning in tonight to the Evening Experience. Welcome to the loneliest mile with your host, Jay Jones. Know how the world is going to end, think your spouse is cheating on you, you were probed by aliens? Great, give me a ring, and let’s discuss how we’re all going to end up in that pine box 6 feet under the surface anyway.”

Rolling his eyes, Matt wiggled in his seat listening to the next few callers discuss their intimate details with who was probably just an overweight balding white man sitting behind a microphone with a large McDonald’s coke resting in front of him while he watched the clock like the rest of the working class.

Although he chuckled to himself, Matt felt an irresistible urge to call in himself. He couldn’t tell if it was Jay’s smooth voice, or how the longer he listened, the more relate-able the at first tall tale stories of others became.

He held his phone in his lap, and thought about his life while staring out through the windshield; water droplets smearing his vision, and the headlights of others journeying to their destinations causing him to squint a little harder every few minutes.

“It’s been a good long night in the wilderness, and aren’t we all just animals? I know you’re out there, driving along a long dark road, the headlights illuminating your life path. Give me a call, I will listen.”

*RRRRRIINNGGG*

“Good evening my fellow human, don’t tell me your name, but tell me your most intimate problems and we will help return your sanity given by the night sky.”

What a nut job, Matt thought. It may have been the rain, his exhaustion, or the rhythmic sound of the slapping windshield wipers, but Matt began to pour out thoughts he hadn’t told anyone before.

“I remember my mom, and all the men in her life, yet I was never enough to be one of them. She couldn’t be alone, and yet never seemed to have the time to be alone with me. She was more of an acquaintance rather than a mother.”

“Ah, my dear dear friend, sometimes the ones we call our parents in our life weren’t ready for that title. We must remember that they choose their priorities, and sometimes their children aren’t one of them.”

Vanilla aroma filled the car overtaking the pizza in the back. His name was Steve, he was a dump truck driver, and he was a sarcastic man that towered over others with his personality and appearance. They moved in with him about a year after the divorce, his father taking main care of him and his brother until that time to ensure things “went smoothly.”

Even through the multiple counseling sessions through school, he still didn’t really understand the extent of what had happened. He just knew that although he was sad, this was his life now, and there wasn’t enough coping books and talks that could change that.

At first, everything seemed fine. Alternating weekends at his Mom’s just became a routine, and he made friends with the neighbors, something he never had at the country house with his dad. There was a barn that had a loft that he was able to transform into his own clubhouse, and a sleigh bed that his mom had gotten him in attempts to cheer him up about his now second home, not just house.

She was now working nights at the gas station up the road, her hair now blonde and her jeans fitting a little looser than the years before when they would be riding in the blue suburban to piano lessons forced upon him. Playing in his room adjacent to his mom’s and Steve’s, Steve calls him in.

“Come rub my back would ya?”

“Uh, sure.”

“Yep right here, on my lower back. It just get’s so tense from the truck. Do you like it here Matt?”

“Yes.”

“Good, I’m glad you and your brother are here with us, I really love your Mother. Now work it a little deeper would ya?”

A bright headlight brings him back to the road, his phone still up to his ear, and he wasn’t sure how much he actually relived to Jay.

*RRRRRIINNGGG*

“That brings us to the end of our loneliest mile ladies and gents. Join me on the opposite side of the world tomorrow night. This is Jay Jones with the Evening Experience.”

Pulling up to his drive way, Matt turned off the engine and lingered in his car. The vanilla smell beginning to fade, he couldn’t help but feel that sadness and confusion that had overtaken him at age 7 again. A shiver moved down his spine, and he sat up a little straighter. Gathering his things, he begun his way into his apartment to sleep off the trip.

 

The Professor: Write about a teacher that has influenced you.

“Literature is life. You’re reading fiction, but you’re also reading about what it means to be human.”

The subject was Vampires on Film, and the professor would stand firm at the podium spewing life advice from his many years shown through his grey hair with only a hint of cynicism and sexism.

Although the class had an unusual subject matter, and was taken as an elective for most, I learned the most about the connection of literature and life from Professor Farrelly through the tales of monsters trapped in a dilemma of human longing in a nonhuman life.

“Never marry a two drink girl. You’ll always have to go home early.”

His life advice, which often needed to be taken with a grain of salt, was sprinkled into our lectures. He spoke to us about his wife, and how he wooed her with a poem he wrote in a card, and how his love for her even after her passing has yet to diminish. He connected one of the infamous Dayton bar, Tim’s, to the Overlook in the Shining where it harness the feelings of shame and regret to those who spend their Thursday through Saturday nights there. How we’re all just vampires longing for our mortality while struggling with our desires.

Through the back and forth teasing with us, and quirky behavior, he proudly held the label of weird.

In front of us stood a man, always dressed in a black suit, stomach ballooning out and distinct phlegm filled voice who gave us back our hope. Someone who also had felt the excitement of a weekend spent with characters on a page, and that the written word carried more weight than those spoken. He was teaching us about literature, but what we didn’t know was that he was actually teaching us about life.

 

 

Plan A

As 20 somethings, we’re poised on being responsible. We’re working now, probably have a few bills, loans, maybe a pet or two, all of which we’re successfully stumbling through. Yet, as a strong independent female who don’t need no man, when you find one, what’s your plan A?

Growing up Catholic, we learned the alternatives to sex, and sex education was generally glossing over the opposite sexes parts briefly in the 5th grade to never mention it again; reminding that abstinence is the only way to prevent pregnancy and die.

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For all the ladies out there who have struggled to take their independence into their own hands, enjoy.

It all started with a girls group chat, the ones where you debate all of life’s issues, especially the ones including boys down to the minimal detail.

“I’ve bought them before, it’s better to be safe than sexually frustrated.”

Walking through the store picking up the daily necessities such as coffee and bananas, not organic because who can actually afford that? Contact solution was also on my list. After a few failed attempts due to bravery and lock cases, there they were out in the open. The assorted bright blue and purple packaging promising different effects of pleasure, was not only overwhelming, but a little unnecessary for my needs. Scanning the options from a safe distance of a few feet away, I finally spot the “Classic Design” product. Swiping it and swiftly placing them into my basket, I head straight for the self-checkout. This must be what they were designed for.

This was going to work, I was going to have no interaction with humans while making this purchase that was ingrained in me to be private and dirty. Scanning the rest of my groceries, I plan to place it right in the middle of my order to easily and discreetly place it into my bag.

“Attendant has been alerted.” A security alert pops up on the checkout screen; immediately causing me to curse under my breath. I put on my best awkward smile while the sweet old man hobbles over to my station. He mumbles something while walking over until he can finally see the alert, and gives me the side eye while I stare directly at the floor and somehow utter out something similar to a ‘thank you.’

Although, I’m sure this man will never think twice of this encounter, it brought me to my computer to write for a few reasons. I’m sure I’m not the only girl who has felt shame or embarrassment by buying a product for our safety, and it’s absolutely ridiculous how hard it is to buy condoms. For a product with a strong stigma attached to it, and where the benefits outweigh the negatives, it should be simple and easy process.

The deeper question here is, how do take the sexist nature out of safe sex for the girls who don’t want another chemical in their body controlling their hormones, and still want their freedom?