Issue #13 |

Bad Winter Emulsion

In my dream last night, my ex-husband had moved back into the first apartment we shared, almost ten years ago. A drafty attic-level one-bedroom. It was unchanged, down to the stains on the floors and the dents in the walls. My ex-husband was standing at the stove cooking something. His hair was falling in his eyes. He needed a haircut, like he always did. I sat at the kitchen table and watched his long back.

“Can you believe it was back on the market?” he asked. “The same apartment!”

“I thought you hated it here. You never stopped complaining about it.”

“Let me see your eye,” he said. “I can fix it.”

He took my head in his hands and started manipulating my eyeball in some obscure way, fingers pressing into the hard round surface of it.

“Please don’t. You’re making it worse.”

He didn’t stop. I wrenched my head away. Whatever he had been cooking was now producing a black, acrid smoke.

He started crying. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I want to make it up to you.”

I got up and left him crying in the kitchen.

I woke up shaken and surreal. I had not known I remembered, exactly, my ex-husband’s voice and gait and the hunch of his shoulders. I had not known I remembered every dent in the walls of that place. I was not prepared for these things to leap out of my unconscious like that, fully formed, in vivid color.

It’s my day off of work at the bookstore. It is April and snowing. I can wander around my apartment touching things, my bed and my bookshelves, my coffeemaker and my cat. The beige walls of the basement studio I am lucky to have, the art prints I have hung on them to make them feel like they’re mine. I’m proud of my life. I’m proud of myself. I’m stable and independent and sober and none of these things were easy for me. Even so. There’s always this time from my early twenties that lives in my memory like a separate animal, more alive and active than any of the better things that have happened since.

No point trying to shake it off now, at least for a few hours, at least until the sun is up. I sit down dumbly on my bed. I wonder what I ever did with my eyepatch.

 

We got married in the spring of our senior year at UC Santa Cruz, day-drunk on a Tuesday, when we happened to walk by city hall. He was already accepted to the graduate school at Tufts, a PhD in Renaissance literature, and I was already planning to go with him. We thought getting married was hilarious. His parents were upset we hadn’t planned anything or included them. My mom said, “Oh,” and frowned, and kept any other opinions to herself. I remember these things like they were biographical facts I was reading about someone else.

In the fall we moved to Boston and I took the first job I could find, a receptionist position at a corporate law firm in the financial district. I mostly remember the commute. The snowstorms came early that year and kept coming. Everyone said it was an unusually bad year, unusual to get so much snow so early in the season. I got up hungover almost every morning, brushed my teeth, tried to get the wine stains off my lips, and went down to the street. It was cold enough to freeze the snot inside my nose. The sidewalks where we lived in east Somerville were a network of tunnels carved out of the dingy snow with snowblowers and wide plastic shovels. Everyone in the neighborhood had to walk single-file. The crowd had usually overflowed the platform and spilled up the stairs by the time I got to the train station. The delays got longer with each successive snowstorm, like the T workers were slowly losing hope. Eventually the crowd would press me onto a train where I’d sweat into my coat and breathe into the coats of others, my head spinning slowly on its pool of day-old alcohol like a lily pad, and try not to throw up.

I got off at State Street station, went past the homeless people sleeping on benches underground, into the lobby of my office building, into the elevator and up to the 40th floor. I popped my ears. I settled behind my desk with the multi-line phone I never quite learned how to use. Stone and Weyfarth, how may I direct your call? Stone and Weyfarth, how may I direct your call? Sometimes I turned around to look out the plate glass windows at flurries of snow blowing off the tops of neighboring buildings.

Nobody in the office talked to me. I mostly looked at the internet all day. I read the Craigslist personals. I told myself I liked them because they were funny. Really it was that they were obscene. I liked seeing people shout their filthiest desires into the void. I felt a tenderness for them, a kind of communion through the computer. Sometimes I forgot I was sitting at my silent, sterile reception desk.

On my lunch breaks I made a cup of coffee in the break room and went down forty floors to the sidewalk. I popped my ears again. I stood there with my coffee and tried to get through two cigarettes before my fingers got too numb to work the lighter. There was a sign on the sidewalk in front of the building: CAUTION, FALLING ICE. They were in front of all the high-rises. It didn’t seem like a helpful warning to me.

 

When I came home from work my husband would usually be sitting at our kitchen table with his laptop and a mason jar full of Yellow Tail, the cheap Australian wine with the kangaroo on the bottle, which tastes like old water pipes or blood. As soon as I got in the door he abandoned his work and followed me around the apartment, telling me about how stressed he was, waving around his jar of wine.

He said, “You know who’s stupid? Deconstructionists. Deconstructionists are just the dumbest. They’re all, oh, the coercive power of language, and I’m like, ‘do any of you ever enjoy some cake, or watch a TV show?’” Or something like that. He said a lot of things.

I poured myself jars of Yellow Tail. I never remembered to pack lunches and couldn’t afford to eat out, so I was always starving when I came home. The wine distracted me.

Our apartment had two rooms with ceilings so steeply vaulted you could only stand up straight in a few places. The vinyl in the kitchen/living room was glued down unevenly and had bubbles that would squash down under your feet and pop up somewhere else. The windows were flush with the floor and let in a little light and lot of cold air. We didn’t insulate them that first winter. No one told us we were supposed to. We thought everyone suffered like this.

There was a fire escape out our bathroom window, a platform of metal grating propped on the building’s slanted tarpaper roof. We went out there to smoke. When the snow started in earnest we cleared it off with our hands and laid trash bags over the ice packed between the metal slats. We dragged the blankets off our bed and huddled under them for warmth. I remember this as a composite, a memory of all the many times we did it, and I also remember particular times that we did.

One particular time, I said, “You still like the poetry though, don’t you?”

“Yes. God yes. Here, hold this.”

He handed me his wine jar, flicked his nearly-done cigarette over the edge of the roof, and climbed back through the bathroom window. I waited. My husband came back out with one of his school books. He read me a poem, an Andrew Marvell poem, the one about the garden, tilting the book in the poor light.

I said, “That’s beautiful.”

He took his drink back absently. “I have to write six pages about it by tomorrow.”

On at least a few occasions it rained while we were out there with our blankets. The blankets got wet and we shivered under them all night. We didn’t stop dragging them outside. They developed a smell: rainwater, dead leaves, stale smoke, spilled wine, our own sweetly rotting alcoholic sweat.

 

I drag a chair from the kitchen to the closet and stand on it to reach the top shelf. I take down a shoebox and set it on the floor. It’s where I keep worthless objects I don’t want to throw away—my old college ID, faded concert tickets, Polaroids with former friends, a single costume earring. I don’t know if other people keep boxes like this. I’ve dragged mine with me through half a dozen different apartments across as many cheap neighborhoods of Boston.

I dig around. There’s a Boston Tea Party commemorative shot glass, a Bic lighter with a photo of a golden retriever on it. I only vaguely remember why I wanted to keep these things. There are three different stamp cards for Raven Used Books, each with three or four stamps on them. These I do remember, in a way I can feel in my body. I gather them together and hold them in my hands, creased and going soft at the edges. A basement-level storefront under a liquor store, piles of yellowed books on the floor and behind the counter, plywood shelves, mildew smell, metal bars over the tiny street level windows, Lou Reed playing always. When I bought The Recognitions there the clerk put it in one of the paper bags they usually used, hefted it once and looked at the corners of the book poking sharply into the paper, and gave me an old Raven Books tote bag he had behind the counter to carry it in instead, gratis.

I lost the bag somehow. Raven Used Books closed a few years after I moved to Boston. The stamp cards will never be completed. I can’t get new ones anymore. This is why I can never get rid of them.

If myself of the past could see myself of the present, she’d be disappointed. She’d find my life project of Being Sober—the things I’ve cultivated to do it, mindfulness and acceptance, compassion for myself and others, remembering my metaphorical stamp cards—boring and unsexy. Why have you structured your life around limitation and constraint? Why do you want your world to be so small? I’d have some things to say back to her. Stupefied and suffering is not an interesting way to be. Compulsively fleeing reality does not make you free. The way things are is not entirely your husband’s fault. But I’d just be talking to myself.

I linger over the things in the box but I don’t find what I’m looking for, the eyepatch. I would not have thrown it away. It has to be somewhere. I can see it in my mind. Black, domed, made of foam with a silky finish. I can feel it on my face.

 

We didn’t see ourselves as dissolute people. We made attempts at being some other way.

For instance, I got the idea to read The Recognitions by William Gaddis.

I had studied literature in school too. I had always imagined myself an intellectual, but no one else seemed to imagine me that way. In college I was both too timid and too louche. I had no definite talent or pursuit, I stayed up late reading unpopular books and biting my nails, I got too drunk at parties and hooked up with bored strangers. Apart from my husband, nobody seemed to perceive anything about me at all. I hoped I was a late bloomer. Lots of interesting people were late bloomers. I imagined that my life then, the receptionist job and the T and the Yellow Tail, was a stepping stone towards some as yet undefined life of the mind. I imagined long swaths of time spent reading. I thought The Recognitions would somehow move me forward on that path.

The Recognitions is something like a thousand pages long, all of which are adversarially dense. I don’t remember exactly how long it took me to finish The Recognitions, but I think it was about six months. I persisted. I carried that book with me everywhere: on the T, to work, walking around town. Any time I had a few minutes I would hoist it out to read a single long sentence three times before something distracted me. I remember the weight of it pulling my back out of alignment. I don’t remember what it’s about.

My husband went in a different direction. One day when I came home he was standing by the stove, ladling a deep-yellow, greasy liquid into our blender. Both our pots were coated with it, starting to crust. He was making Hollandaise sauce.

“You’re supposed to make it in a double boiler over low heat, so the egg yolks bond to the fat in the butter,” he said. “But I read that if you get the butter hot and the eggs room temperature you can get the same result in a blender.”

“Huh,” I said. There was an open bottle of Yellow Tail on the kitchen table, among the egg cartons and boxes of butter and lemon peels. I poured some wine into my dirty glass from last night. We were not people who owned a double boiler. The coils on our stove were warped and sometimes made loud pinging sounds.

“It forms an emulsion,” my husband said. “Which is a stable bond between two liquids that usually don’t mix. You know what else is an emulsion? Hot dogs.”

“What do you put Hollandaise sauce on?” I asked.

“Eggs Benedict. Cuts of meat. Anything, really.” He turned on the blender.

 

I know we were in Boston September and October of that year, but I don’t remember them. What I remember is snow and my husband’s anxiety winching a little tighter each week as his finals approached. By mid-December he was a frantic wreck. We started fighting. Our fights never seemed to land, somehow—I remember thinking in the midst of one, oh, this is a fight. We’d go for a while and then just trail off, silent, drunk, and petulant. Among the things we fought about were: that he teased me too much, that I expected him to read my mind, that he was not more sympathetic to my work exhaustion, that I was not more sympathetic to his school stress, that he waited until I came home hungry to make elaborate sauces, that I was not more appreciative of the sauces he made. We fought when we’d been drinking too much or when we hadn’t been drinking enough.

We weren’t having as sex often as we did in college. We told each other that it was normal, we were both tired and stressed. We tried to be proactive about it, in the way we were proactive about things: our idea was to watch porn together. My husband put his laptop on our bed and pulled up a website. I’d never been to a porn site before. I found the ads off-putting. It took us too long to choose a video and when we did it had buffering issues. We tried taking our clothes off, to see if that would make it more exciting. It didn’t. We never tried it again.

There was one night I walked in the door from work and he asked me to read a twelve-page paper he’d written about a theorist I’d never heard of. It was due the next day and he wanted me to tell him it was OK. I read it and told him it didn’t make sense to me. He got upset. I told him he didn’t respect me and walked out of the house. I bought three nips of Fireball and a Dunkin’ Donuts hot chocolate and stood behind a dumpster to combine them. I wandered around the snow tunnels getting drunk and ignoring his calls for a while, then went home and locked myself in the bathroom until late. We never talked about it.

Once we drank several bottles of Yellow Tail and he stood across from me in the bedroom telling me I was selfish and adolescent and did nothing but feel sorry for myself until he passed out, fully dressed with all the lights on. He later claimed to have no memory of this.

He kept making Hollandaise sauce. The blender method gave us greased, lemony raw egg yolks. He tried using a saucepan and controlling the heat carefully, and made sour clumps of scrambled eggs. He tried stacking one saucepan precariously on top of another. I kept inching my way through The Recognitions.

My husband said, “If you don’t like it you can stop reading it. It wouldn’t make you dumb.”

“I do like it,” I said. I was lying. At no point did I like it.

We would not find new strategies. We would not give up on the first terrible ideas we had.

But that wasn’t all of it. For instance: one night we snuck a bottle of vodka into an art house screening of Repo Man, then mocked the people we saw through the windows of the fancy Harvard Square bars.

“Suckers,” my husband said. “Squares. Money won’t save you, losers! Death comes for us all!”

“‘Ordinary fucking people,’” I said, all Harry Dean Stanton. “‘I hate ‘em!’”

On our way home we passed an abandoned gas station where the snow had been allowed to pile up untouched. We decided to cross it. We waded into the drifts and tumbled through them, cold bright sharp points on our skin. We should have gotten stuck or hurt but we didn’t. We just laughed the whole time, hysterically.

 

I kept going back to the porn websites. I started watching porn whenever my husband wasn’t around, after he went to bed or weekend afternoons when he was at the library. The images had a nervous, flickering quality and the sex looked grotesque and uncomfortable to me. I liked that. I liked the performance of abasement. I liked having a secret tucked away from my husband, to prove I existed.

I went to work and came home, starving: wine stains, snow tunnels, coat breathing, The Recognitions, ear pop, Craigslist, StoneandWeyfarthhowmayIdirectyourcall, CAUTION FALLING ICE, ear pop, coat breathing, snow tunnels. My husband was standing at the stove when I came in—every day, but also this particular day. He had a glass mixing bowl of yellow liquid sitting on top of a saucepan on the burner.

“I think you should just buy a double boiler,” I said.

“I wouldn’t use it for anything else, though.”

I came closer to the stove. “Are you sure that thing’s heat resistant?”

“I’m not getting it that hot,” he said, and then the bowl exploded.

There was heat and force and a strong feeling that I couldn’t open my eyes, and my husband saying, “Oh my God, oh my God.” Shifting, sparkling shapes in red and white floated across the inside of my eyelids. A light buzzing started in my ears.

Everything that happened after that happened in the dark. The explosion had all gone in my direction. My husband wanted to call an ambulance but I told him I wasn’t dying and my insurance wouldn’t cover it. He found a number for a cab instead. He guided me by the arm down the stairs and over the snowbank on the curb. He led me into the emergency room at Somerville Hospital and filled out forms for me. It was like a newlyweds quiz. Did I have any allergies? When was my last period? What was my social security number?

The doctors were all disembodied voices, and they made sounds of surprise when I removed the dish towel I’d been holding to my eye. Someone said, “A kitchen injury? You said this is a kitchen injury?” They pulled and prodded and shined lights. I had a laceration on my left lower eyelid and a corneal abrasion. There was nothing wrong with my other eye. It was just reacting sympathetically.

My husband was asked to leave the room. I hadn’t known he was in it. The hospital people asked me if anyone was hurting me at home. I said no. They asked if I was sure, and I explained what happened.

“My husband’s not abusive,” I said. “He’s just stupid.”

They laughed. They laughed for a while.

I got four stitches in my eyelid, some antibiotic drops for my cornea, and an eyepatch I’d have to wear for two weeks. A little deeper and the shard of glass could have permanently blinded me, they said. They said it could have been much worse. I nodded. I was aware that things could be much worse.

 

I still have a scar going down my lower eyelid, a scar on my cornea, a light fuzz in my peripheral vision on one side. I’m still afraid of stoves. I jump away from them at every little rattle. I’m not thinking about the accident when I do this. I react automatically now.

I take out my phone and compose a quick email to my ex-husband, sitting on the floor with my shoebox and my meaningful detritus:

Do you remember what I ever did with my eyepatch?

It’s not strange for me to email him like this. We started writing a few months after the divorce, first about some practical things and then terse little updates on how we were doing. For the last few years we’ve been sending long, rambling things back and forth every week or so. He tells me about his data entry job and his own spare little studio back in Santa Cruz, I tell him about the bookstore I manage and the funny customers who come to it, we recommend each other books and movies. We are careful and sparing with references to the past. He got sober before I did. We talk about it. How boring it is, how hard it makes dating. I’m not sure why we do this, the emails. There’s no danger of it spilling over into real life. I guess I like to be able to conjure an image of what he’s doing any given moment. We can confirm each other’s existence from afar. I like him a lot better as a pen pal than I ever did as a husband.

I had thought of the shoebox as an ongoing thing, but everything in here is from at least four or five years ago. I stopped adding things to it at some point, without really deciding to. Somewhere along the line I stopped seeing every new bit of trash as a portent or communique to be interpreted.

 

We got home from the hospital late and exhausted. The kitchen floor was covered in broken glass, blood, and Hollandaise sauce. It had congealed together into geometric planes, like a cracked desert floor. We stood in the doorway, looking at it. The blast radius covered most of our kitchen and blocked the path to the bathroom.

My husband said, “I’ll… clean this later.”

He stepped over it and got a flattened cardboard box we had failed to take down to recycling for months. Our kitchen table had come packed in it. He laid it over the mess on the floor.

I remember, as a composite: unpacking gauze from my eye in the morning, carefully unsticking clots of blood from the sharp points of my stitches. I remember the antibiotic drops, which were greasy and yellow and kept getting in my hair. I remember the light suspense of navigating stairways and snowbanks without depth perception, dropping things and missing doorknobs, a queasy and dissociated feeling. Like I was seeing the word on a computer screen, controlling my hands with a mouse. It was only two weeks that I wore the eyepatch. It still somehow forms its own lagoon in my brain.

We went to an overpriced beer and burger place a few days after the accident, to console ourselves. My husband said, “You do look kind of badass though.”

“I really don’t think I do.”

“You could be a Bond villain. Or John Goodman in O Brother, Where Art Thou?. Or Captain Ahab.”

“Captain Ahab had a peg leg, not an eyepatch. You’re thinking of cartoon pirates.”

“Fine, a cartoon pirate then.”

I said, “Can you just stop, please? I’m getting really tired of this joke.” Which means he had made the joke already, several times.

“I mean it affectionately,” he said. “I’m trying to lift your spirits.”

I don’t remember how I responded.

Strangers saw my eye injury as an invitation to tell their own eye injury stories. When I showed up to work in my eyepatch coworkers who had never spoken to me before stopped at the reception desk to ask what happened. A paralegal told me about when her brother-in-law got a fishhook stuck in his eye and tried to pull it out himself. He had a glass eye now, she said. On the train, with my eyepatch and my thousand-page book, a man told me about when his buddy accidentally shot him in the face with a nail gun. He showed me the dimple just below his eye, like a beauty mark. Waiters and bartenders asked me how it happened, and all had their own stories about exploding glassware. Other than my husband, it was the most conversation I’d had in months.

I had always felt unattractive, dirty, slapped together, depressing. I had skinny limbs and a beer belly and perpetually greasy bangs; clothes never seemed to look right on me. Even so, I knew that other people probably didn’t think anything at all when they saw me. The eyepatch changed that. It nudged me out of the normal and acceptable, it made me captivatingly grotesque. It was the kind of thing that could happen to anyone, but only did seem to happen to people who were failing in a more general way.

I know we had sex on at least once during the time of the eyepatch. I didn’t want the eyepatch to get twisted and my husband didn’t want to look at it, so we quietly agreed that from-behind was best. The lack of visuals let me think about porn. My husband became unimportant. I could pretend I was someone else, a perfect being, the subject of bottomless lust. Somehow the less appealing I was in reality the easier it was to imagine.

 

I put everything back in the shoebox, put the shoebox back on the closet shelf. I shouldn’t sit here any longer. I should remember that my life is not made of discrete chunks of time that exist only in the past. Or just remember a different chunk of time. There are other times, with different characters, different miasmas. For instance: I can remember three years later, after my husband had quit grad school, after I’d been fired from my receptionist job for missing too many days to hangovers, when we were both temping and scrambling and too unhappy even to fight anymore. This, really, is what I should consider the most intense period in my life, the part with the conflict and resolution. I remember sitting on a bus in summer, coming home from a cashiering job I held so briefly I’m not sure what store it was at, my forehead leaning against the window, seeing people on the sidewalks, going by the pizza places and corner stores and gas stations. I don’t remember the thought crystallizing in my head. Just that it was there by the time I got off the bus and walked up the stairs, the certainty that things were not going to get better unless I clawed my way out, that I had to do something about it now before the inertia set back in.

My husband was standing at the stove. I stood in the doorway, sweating—in summer the apartment was unbearably hot. He looked up at me and said hello. His face went slack and blank.

“What’s wrong?”

“I. Uh, I. Uh.”

He said nothing. He watched me stutter for a while.

I said, “I can’t—keep doing this. I. I think we should get divorced.” The word felt luxurious in my mouth. Spacious. Divorce. Like the sound of fabric ripping.

“Oh,” he said. “OK.” And then, “I’m not that surprised, you know.”

Neither of us said anything. He stirred the pot on the stove. I took off my shoes and looked out the window. He really wasn’t surprised. I was not surprised that he was not surprised. There were no surprises.

I drag the chair back to the kitchen table, where my cat is curled up asleep. She isn’t supposed to jump up there, but I don’t bother removing her anymore. She never learns to stop trying.

 

My husband finished his finals and started his winter break. He spent his days playing online chess and meeting his grad school friends for beers in the afternoons, he was often passed out or uselessly drunk by the time I got home from work. The department stores around my office put up elaborate displays of glossy orbs and fake wrapped packages and blared tinny Christmas music out into the street. The people on Craigslist made holiday-themed sex requests: My family hates me and I’m all alone on Christmas, come be my slut. Cookies started appearing in exorbitant numbers in my office kitchen and I stood at the counters when no one was around, eating one after another in lieu of any other kind of food. My eyepatch was gone but the scar on my eyelid still looked fresh and raw. People avoided looking at my face.

I told myself I’d use the time to stop drinking and plow my way through The Recognitions. Instead, I stayed up late after my husband went to bed, drinking entire bottles of Yellow Tail and watching porn until late in the night. The lights took on a stark, ghoulish quality at 3 a.m.; the slanted walls seemed to close in around me. I sat in the bathroom, it felt safer. We would both go home to California soon, I told myself. We’d go home to California for Christmas and come back and try again.

On one of these late drunk nights shut in the bathroom, I went to a website that pairs you a random person to video chat. I just wanted to talk to a stranger. I found it easier to talk to strangers. I’d gone to these sites a few times in college and knew that many of the people I’d get paired with would be naked torsos stroking their penises. I rejected those people. I talked for a while to some teenagers in a carpeted basement in a place they called “Bumfuck, Georgia.” They were playing video games and drinking Mountain Dew and seemed tired of each other. I liked them, I sympathized. When they stopped the chat to go make pizza pockets I went back to the random pairings and changed my approach to the penis strokers. I insulted them. “Is this just what you do for fun? Is this your hobby?” “That’s nice. That’s what gets a lady going.” That kind of thing. I kept them coming. The supply of penises was endless.

I could see, in the image of myself on the screen, that my camera was a low enough quality to mostly hide what was wrong with my eye. At some point one of the men on the screen asked me to show him my boobs and I did. They all asked. I don’t know why I chose that one. I may have thought, fuck my husband or I may have thought, lucky me, a stranger is interested in my boobs, or I may not have thought anything at all. I know I felt a power in becoming the obscene, flickering image. In being the thing people could not look away from, the thing desired. Another one of the men asked me to touch myself and I did. He asked me to moan for him. I moaned for him. He came. I felt accomplished. Like it counted more, happening across computer screens.

I shut my computer and put on a T-shirt and got into bed with my husband. He didn’t move when I got in next to him. His face was vulnerable, snoring, drunk. I hated him. I wanted to smash his soft face in. I huddled there, shivering, for a long time. I tried to make myself feel guilty. I couldn’t. I still can’t.

This is one thing I’ve never told anybody. I’m sure there are others I’ve forgotten by now.

 

I make coffee. I listen to the liquid popping sounds of the machine, I sit at the table and stroke my cat’s soft head with my fingertips, I look at the snow accumulating at the base of my window and the grey light that filters through it. I can just be alive right now. This is a good life, just being alive right now.

When the coffee finishes I get up to pour myself a cup and look at my phone to check the time. I have a new email. It’s from my ex-husband. He doesn’t usually respond so quickly.

We burned it in the sink. I think we doused it in vodka to get it to light. It smelled like burning plastic and set off the smoke detector. You don’t remember that?

Now that he says it, I do. Or rather, I remember the fact that I did it and the mark it left in the sink. I don’t remember actually doing it: the smell or the feel of lighter. Those things are gone. I set my phone face down on the counter. I sit down again. I can’t explain myself. My story’s full of holes. I’m full of holes. I try to focus on the objects around me again, now, here. My hands on the mug, the table, the cat the window the snow. Burning the eyepatch. It both does and doesn’t sound like a thing I would do.

 

Photo courtesy of Carlos Marques; view more of his work on Shutterstock.

author Mack Marsden

McKenna “Mack” Marsden’s fiction has appeared in New England Review and Pithead Chapel, and was awarded a 2021 Pushcart Prize for their story “Suffering in Motion.” In 2020 they were awarded a St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Grant to work on their first novel. In an interview with NER staff reader Laur Freymiller, they …

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