Flash fiction based on pictures I find on the internet. I don't own any of the pictures. I do write all the words. These stories are protected under a Creative Commons license. Feel free to reblog, but please do not use them otherwise without my permission. I'm also katherine-victoria.tumblr.com
Because You Are 22 and Afraid Of The Dark
Because you are 22 and you have been living on coffee and cigarettes for three months, go home from the bar with the boy who took two weeks to call back.
Let him put his arm around you in front of his roommates while he pours his six and sixteenth drinks. Give him your hand when he wants to drag you away, sticky eyes following from the living room. Pretend you couldn’t care less. Forget to pretend when his skin hits yours. Let him mark you up. He was taught to kiss by carnivores and he will bite bruises into you. Wear these marks like battle scars, like love. Bite back.
Because you are 22 and you sometimes feel hollow in the places underneath your skin, fill your bathtub to the brim with Epsom salt and boiling water.
Pretend this will purify you. Pretend not to care about your water bill when you find yourself doing the same thing four weeks in a row, always on too-bright Sundays when the weight of your decisions needs to be pulled from your hair. Scream when the salt enters your tiny scars. Laugh when the water burns your scalp. Sit for hours by the window with your hair drying over the radio. Lather. Rinse. Repeat.
Because you are 22 and selfish, fall for someone exactly like you.
Hell, fall for three in quick succession—one because he reminds you of the first, the next because you feel like you don’t know any better. Make sure to find someone who makes you feel like your teeth are coming loose, someone who only plays winner-take-all. Someone who bets against you.
Hate that he plays at heartless. Hate that you never know what he’s thinking. Let your friends call it karma for all the ways you’ve treated kinder men. Promise you’ll be contrite if he only admits to liking you for something other than what you can make your mouth do. Come when he calls. Wake up early. Leave without saying goodbye.
He took her in the temple like she was nothing and that was common in those days. Fair-cheeked Medusa, youngest of three sisters, raped and wrecked in the house of a vengeful goddess.
He took me in the spare bedroom and that was common, too. He laid my body on the altar and it would have been kinder to tear me open with a jagged knife. But the sea-god and the devil, they left Medusa and me living.
History has never been kind.
In all their wisdom, the others still blamed us and gave us snakes for hair. And the oldest sister grabbed the other two by the hands and said, Well, if you’re going to take one of us, you may as well have all of us.
So to the caves we went, Medusa and I. She with her sisters and I alone in the silence, thinking only of blonde hair and eyes the color of the ocean on a rare calm day and the feeling of stone altars against our spines and fingers pressed to our necks and terrible weight against us, crushing us. We became hideous.
There were men. So many men who had once stood under our windows as we teased them from the balconies. And some came for us, thought themselves saviors. But we devoured them, took them to the blackest parts of ourselves. We crushed their skulls under our highest heels and said, Good riddance.
We turned their hearts to stone with a single look.
And then came a hero, as heroes always do. Unadorned, not cloaked in wreathes of sea foam with a tidal wave behind his teeth, came a man who they would say slayed me.
The truth is that Perseus made love to her, seduced her, kissed the tops of her thighs with his eyes closed in ecstasy. The truth was that he whispered in her ear, buried his face in her neck while the snakes lashed and then calmed.
The truth is she was the one who took the sword to bed with her and, when her lover fell asleep, cut a careful red line right above where the sea God had left his terrible fingerprints. One sister cried out. One stood still and understood. The snakes roiled and twisted and the hero wept when he woke. The truth is that she finally cut the sea-god out of her.
The truth is I opened my legs to a hero and said yes, take all of me.
A Poem For All The Men Who Loved Smoking And Me Simultaneously
You were the first one who said, Try it. Just see how it feels. And it felt like my insides were burning, like my heart was on fire, like I could feel myself rotting from my very core. And I liked it. I wanted for a long time to claim you broke my heart. Somewhere in a hot July, you’re still claiming I broke yours. Saying, Try it. Just see how it feels.
He and I on a mission: laughing, drunk, and fingers intertwined. It took an entire summer of midnight runs to the closest convince stores to make him fall for me. It lasted only one night before I left for blonde-haired black eyes and bruises. We stargazed alone, isolated by our twin obsessions: his for cigarettes and mine for him. I did not want for nicotine. I went only for the smell of smoke in my hair when I was trying to fall asleep.
You were always quitting everything. Of your two habits, I was the easier one to shake.
His professions of love on the phone at three a.m. were asthmatic and brief as he stood on his balcony and smoked his girlfriend’s American Spirits while she slept in the bed they shared. I loved him more than anything, past the point of poetry. He and I never smoked together.
You taught me to pull the trigger. You called me darlin’ and you tasted like sunshine. My cowboy, my bank robber. You called me honey and you tasted like beer and wasted time. You forgave me everything before I asked. You called me love and I ran with your Marlboros still in my pocket.
I called them “Jazz Cigarettes,” which made him smile in that calm way he had. His hands were always warm on my bare shoulders and he whispered, slow down, slow down, slow down. I think I loved him best like that, hazy and hard for me, listening to our parents’ records on Lake Shore Drive. He wanted me like a firefly stuck in amber. I just wanted a goddamned conversation.
Okay so you weren’t a man and you didn’t love me but for several endless winter nights, I wanted to be the one demolished under the pointed toes of your impeccable high heels.
He always smoked after eating. He always smoked after sex. He always smoked after I told him I loved him, almost as if he was punishing himself for every second of pleasure. Almost as if he needed to die every time he wanted to carry on living. Making me taste his acid tongue in the bitter cold mornings with the windows down. I left him with his lungs collapsing in a city on fire.
A note to all of you:
I will always be the last cigarette in a crushed up box: at first a saving grace, and then a bitter disappointment.
I kept falling in love with older men and it wasn’t because I was trying.
My friends taunted, Daddy issues, and my father claimed I was trying to send him to an early grave. My mother hated all of them, called me Electra to my face, and didn’t let me bring them to dinner.
Older men fell in love with me and I pretended I didn’t know why.
Blame my wide hips, blame my round face, blame evolution. I laughed at the cigarettes between our fingertips and said, You just wanna put a baby in me. He swore it wasn’t true, but he called me his woman and never his girl. Never my own anything.
Exes my own age made Viagra jokes and scoffed, biting bitter sentiments into my neck. Younger men leave bruises; older men have scars.
Older men come to you with ex-wives and body counts. Older men have had a lifetime of women. Older men have entire cities full of them, all of whom look twice your age and barely glance at you while they leave perfume on your man’s jacket.
He named our children one night when he took up drinking again. Charles, a family name for both of us. Caroline, the first girl he’d ever loved. His alcoholic liver rotting under his skin, he built our future beautiful while I stayed on the line, texting his sponsor and wondering how someone with so many years on me could be such a mess.
Older men never want to hurt you. Your bruises, your lovers, your saddest songs are all trivial to them. Older men will protect you, older men are not boys. Older men have long since stopped playing games, they swear. They expect things of you, they will not run halfway across the city at three in the morning to rescue you from some imagined slight.
He found Lolita in its sacred place on my bookshelf and laughed about it for an hour. Light of my life, fire of my loins, he whispered while he fucked me. I dug my fingers into his skin.
The problem with older men is they fall in love with you, too. The problem with older men is they will gorge themselves on your freedom; they will try to swallow it whole.
Seven Metaphors About A Love Not Yet Lost
We both had tattoos and I could never quite distinguish if the way we loved or the way we hurt each other was more similar. Both were permanent and intentional to the point of being accidental. Both started as ideas, and then became raised parts of us which over time sunk into us and became flesh. I loved you so much that it became a part of my skin, I hurt you so much that it became a part of yours. And vice versa and vice versa and thus and thus forever onward.
A doctor once theorized that my left hip bone was separating from the muscle there and that, one day, they would split from each other and there I would be with my hip in two parts. He did not, as I recall it, give any method of prevention or any hope as to a cure.
There are certain parasites which themselves have parasites and, once they crawl inside you, pour thousands of glowing bacteria into you. These Photorhabdus luminescens breed beneath the surface of your skin, turning you ultraviolet and giving you an angel glow. And this will draw me to you and I will swallow you whole and you, in turn, will kill me. But not before my body becomes phosphorescent and we become luminous together.
I was an empty city, my heart was a crumbling tenement, and you were a bulldozer.
When you kissed me on the cheek, it felt like an incomplete sentence and I held my breath, waiting. I wanted paragraphs and biographies and entire histories. I wanted novels with cracked spines, written in untranslatable languages. We were an ellipsis for months, we were baited breath.
Everyone knows that birds can fly only because their bones are hollow. It is the empty spaces, the lacking that gives them wing. They are void and vacant. When I long for you, I almost feel that I can fly, too.
Sometimes it will take days for a bruise to appear on your skin after the initial injury. That was how losing you went: I was fine, just fine, until I woke one morning and I wasn’t.
I want to chart the curve of your back, the rise and fall of your hipbones. And this is nothing new, this is not uncharted territory. Somewhere in West Texas, a girl has a compass rose tattooed on the scarred flesh of her inner lip where you bit it into her. Somewhere in Southern California, a man has a legend for every inch of me; he knows the distance and scale of the dark places between my ribs where there be monsters.
And you give me a bad case of wanderlust and I am crossing bridges to come to you, wet and wanting, navigating by starlight and the smell of cigarettes in my hair. I want to learn the language of your shallow breath; I want to speak in tongues while you sleep next to me.
And I have long since given up exploring, though I doubt I will ever feel at home without rusted dirt under my bare feet. But I have been landlocked far too long in my own body and your eyes are oceanic—water and salt and bitter and I have never tread water well. And I am mapless in your arms, I swear.
But there is something beautiful about discovery, even if neither of us is a road untraveled. And old maps become irrelevant; they fade and curl and the places they once knew become unknowable. There is something wild in you; I felt it moving under your skin that first night. It will tear fallen civilizations up by their roots; it will make you feral again. You are a city build on ruins and I am ruinous.
I am a careless cartographer. I was always best at being lost.
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Left for Texas
The first one couldn’t be helped.
You were five years old and you’d been married a week before, over by the slide. He kissed your cheek and gave you the black crayon after snack because it was the best one.
His mom tells the class that they’ll be moving in two weeks and you suddenly understand why he crawled under the arts and crafts table yesterday and wouldn’t come out, even when Mrs. Rametta demanded it, even when you offered him the sharp black crayon.
He makes you swear you’ll still be his wife and, together, you find Texas on a map; it’s unfathomably huge, and three states away.
How am I going to still be your wife? you ask.
Simple, he says, come with me.
But he moves with his family and you never once see him again.
You knew the second he put his application in what the answer would be. He worried for weeks but you knew and it created a kind of calmness inside of you that he would later call stagnation. He would call it quicksand.
He tells you again and again that you don’t understand, you still have a year before you apply for college, you have no idea. But you do; you know. And when the letter comes, it’s thick with dread.
Open it, you say.
He’s too nervous, he makes you do it.
And you can just see him there, sitting on the front porch of some frat house, drinking beer and whistling at sorority girls with pretty blonde hair. You can just see him tossing a football with his new friends, that all-American smile on his face. And who were you, you think as you slide a finger under the flap of the envelope, to think that you could have kept him? What arrogance, you recognize as you tear gently at the thick paper, to think that you would have been enough.
When you read him the sentence where the dean says he’s pleased to inform your boyfriend that he has been accepted, he starts to cry and holds you close.
When he leaves you three months later, you cry but he doesn’t hold you.
He was a friend of a friend and he wasn’t even supposed to be there.
After a drink or two, someone asks who he knew in the house and, knowing nothing, he slipped an arm around your waist and said, This here is my fiancée.
He doesn’t move from your side the whole night, not even when you’re smoking a stolen cigarette on the front porch, a bottle of whiskey clutched in one fist. He doesn’t know, doesn’t know a thing about you, but he’s a pilot with perfect blue eyes and he’s got strong hands and a wry smirk that’s sick of this town and everything except maybe you.
He stays until your roommates have coupled off with whoever they chose and the last of your friends have drifted out the door and you’re standing in the kitchen doing dishes when he leans against the counter and looks you dead in the eye.
Let me take you home, he says.
But you tell him never on the first night. Maybe tomorrow night, you say. Maybe later. Because you could like this one, you really could, with his easy charm and his constant mouth and the way he insists with his eyes.
I don’t have tomorrow night, he says. I fly out in the morning. My job’s based in El Paso.
You let him take you to bed for five months. You calm the night terrors that come, wonder if there’s a woman who does this for him in Texas. You never get a chance to ask because at night your tongues taste like whiskey and he’s always flying out in the morning.
He was a bar manager who hired you off the street, probably against his better judgment and maybe because you decided at the last minute to wear a skirt that edged just slightly away from professional with your highest heels. Later, he’ll tell you your legs are trouble, that they could cause wars. You’ve heard it all before but it sounds different coming from him.
He will learn that he can make a high blush come to your cheeks and he’ll go after it again and again with a smile behind his blue eyes. You will compliment them only once and feel foolish for it. How many millions of women must have found better words than you for his oceanic eyes? He’s heard it all before; it’ll never sound different coming from you.
At the end of your first night, he pours you a beer, scoops you up into a seat, and lights a cigarette. You watch the way his lips curl around it and think that you’d like to be heat on his mouth.
So what, you say to keep you distracted, brought you here?
He shrugs and it’s a hundred different things. Later, you’ll find out that an ex-wife is one of those hundred things, or perhaps the thing, swimming behind all the other reasons he gives you. Later, you’ll know she bought him the first bottle of the sharp cologne that drew you in when he came near, made you want to bury your head in the place where his long hair just brushes his collar bone. You will, you will, you know you will.
I’m headed back home once I finish training everyone, he says, to finish up my degree.
His voice sounds like regret and twangs like summer sunshine and you ask the question not wanting to know the answer.
Where’s home? you say.
And you pray that it’s Georgia or Louisiana but you know the answer before he says it, maybe you knew the answer the instant you walked into the bar or, if not then, when his hand brushed yours and you knew you’d feel that hand on you again, holding you against him. And you can’t, you just can’t bear for him to answer because you know it means you’ll see his twisted bedsheets and his darkest side and the way his hips move against yours and then, inevitably, the door. But you knew, you always knew before he even moves his lips.
Austin, he says. Austin, Texas.
Elegy For A Dying Summer
We were all withering by August, but I should have known we would be. Our roots ran too deep into the ground, trying to pull something from the cracked earth that wasn’t there.
We were whiskey tongued and vicious most of the time, but there were long nights when we’d all stay home and lock the front door. We kept our cruelness for the outside world; we cared for each other.
We weren’t together all the time, not all of us. Sometimes I would walk home in the dead of night and feel like the only person who ever felt hollow.
We kept our mouths covered with the mouths of bodies whose names we hardly knew. Everything felt like collateral damage; everything felt less important than it was.
We sat on floors almost everywhere we went, unconcerned and laughing. We pulled everyone down with us.
We were conspiratorial, keeping secrets locked behind clenched teeth and knives hidden in the folds of our short dresses and in the pockets of our best slacks.
We hardly slept and we always drank and we sometimes cried. We were careless, all of us, but we knew we couldn’t stay like this forever.
We were restless, our sleeping fingers pushing away anyone who tried to sleep beside us. I don’t think we wanted to be loved at all.
We came away with scars that faded into nothing before we could explain them to anyone. Lovers would one day press their lips to our fingertips and never know we’d bled at all.
We were all inked up by August and I know there was something wrong with us. We were pressing permanence into our skin in a place we’d only ever wanted to burn to the ground.