Category: Spring 2015

Imaginary Places – by William Seal

Imaginary Places - by William Seal Artist statement: William Seal is a practicing artist born in Washington, D.C. He is currently working towards a BFA in Studio Art at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. His work deals with inter-connectivity between tangible and intangible objects. He often creates large scale installations in order to immerse the viewer and detach them from the white walls of the gallery.
Imaginary Places – by William Seal
Artist statement: William Seal is a practicing artist born in Washington, D.C. He is currently working towards a BFA in Studio Art at Appalachian State University in Boone, NC. His work deals with inter-connectivity between tangible and intangible objects. He often creates large scale installations in order to immerse the viewer and detach them from the white walls of the gallery.

Self Portrait – by Elizabeth Shanahan

Self Portrait - by Elizabeth Shanahan Artist statement: We've all heard by now about body positivity, we've all heard that people come in all shapes and sizes, and we've all heard someone say, at some point, that every body is beautiful. But being positive about an unconventional body is easier said than done. This is my way of upping the ante. I choose to display this unconventional body as a thing of beauty, and in doing so I hope I can encourage others to do the same.
Self Portrait – by Elizabeth Shanahan
Artist statement: We’ve all heard by now about body positivity, we’ve all heard that people come in all shapes and sizes, and we’ve all heard someone say, at some point, that every body is beautiful. But being positive about an unconventional body is easier said than done. This is my way of upping the ante. I choose to display this unconventional body as a thing of beauty, and in doing so I hope I can encourage others to do the same.

Electric Butterfly, Mother-of-Pearl – by Anonymous


Just like a broken faucet, you drip with a grating inconsistency. There’s something pitifully self-serving about the way you handle rejection. They were never interested in anything else- you knew that, didn’t you? That’s why you drove here alone, that’s why you didn’t tell anyone where you were going… a peek out the hallway window over the city, so gray, machine-like in the movement of its cars and subways and people… they run a tight ship here, boys, no time to waste, hafta stay on schedule… so grossly efficient, all these city people…

The hallway is cold, freezing actually. You reach a hand to the filthy brick walls and stop yourself from collapsing. Your face chilled by tears and mucus and whatever the hell was in Marco’s drink when he threw it at you… threw it, yeah, with purpose, at you sitting there with your bag of oysters, pinctada maxima, little pearl factory money machines straight outta the South Sea…sure… do you think he was angry? Of course he was. He was pissed. Wouldn’t you be?

Of course you would be. You’d be furious… probably even more than Marco… he has incredible self-control, and he’s been putting up with your bullshit for months at this point, you’re surprised he’s kept you around this long… you know you wouldn’t have been so kind, were you in his position. You stumble your way unevenly down the concrete stairwell, down fourteen floors, keep going down, you know you aren’t finished yet… you reach the bottom early, you wouldn’t mind walking down a few more… at least its raining, the rain feels good to someone like you… yes, someone like you, busted circuit down here on the motherboard, fucking up the whole operation, damn it boys, we’re behind schedule now…

So that man on the cross bled for you, you know. So he suffered and died all for you, you know, just for you. He’s right up there, nailed to the wall above your bed, miserable head flung to the side, body skeletal and pale in the darkness… you can see his chest rising and falling in ragged, labored breaths… see how the heart flutters and thrashes beneath the skin, unimaginable torment, right before your eyes… stinking, rotting corpse, pleading eyes… sees you when you’re sleeping, when you wake up he sees you…

You’ve never fucked around with pearls before, only once, only once, you swear. Do you remember that room, a bunch of people you’ve never met before? Hard to forget. They didn’t care about you, still don’t. Remember what you saw hanging from the ceiling… they told you all about it, the people in the room. They answered your questions, that was nice of them. They looked you in the eyes, and do you remember what they said? They said:


“What’s it doing, hung from spindly marionette wires, flesh warped around the rusted iron bars of its too-small cage? Crying, probably. Jesus, shut up already.

            It’s growing, that’s for sure. Surprising. No, we won’t replace the cage. Why bother? It’ll be happy with what it has, it always is.

            Pulsating lungs outside the body beat infrequently, a busted warbling music box melody, speeding and slowing. Would you take a look at that. Keep it in there. If it can breathe, it can live. It’s happy enough with that.

            Remember how it told us to board up the windows? Not to turn the blinds down, but to actually board them up. Grinning, the skin behind its teeth, eyes wide, shaking in total ecstasy. Ecstasy.

            It yelled: “Do it! Board them up, lock me up forever!” And we did, and then how the pitiful thing wailed and cried and choked on its tears. It thrashed and banged about its cage, swinging back and forth violently, calling out for mercy, for God, for anyone. But when we came near, how it barked and growled like an animal. “Don’t touch me,” it cried, “Don’t let the sun touch me!”

            What did it study at University? It doesn’t matter, it dropped out before it even got there. It was happy to. Happy to roll around in its own shit-stink, wasting itself, wasting whatever potential it might’ve had. It really is a worm, don’t you think? Selfish. Lives only for itself. That it should be made to please others- that was the ultimate insult. It would be happier here, happier where it was right about how much of a worm it was. It is happy here.

It’s easy to be happy here, leaving the city, reaching The Sea of Tranquility, Nirvana, whatever you want to call it. This city, such a drag, concrete slab dripping tar on all of us. With so much electricity, with everything wired up, it gets tough. You can’t fuck up because the whole thing depends on everything working right. So all the losers and fuck ups might as well hide away and go swimming on the moon. No, it’s much better here. Trust us, you’ll like it here. It sure likes it here quite a bit, doesn’t it? Lighten up, we’re only joking, stop screaming…”


            How you got from that room into the garbage can behind the old theater on Rivers Street, you can’t remember. Maybe stumbled off, maybe got carried there. Made an ass of yourself, that’s for sure, they were all having a good laugh about you, you can count on that…

            And then you felt sunlight on your head and looked up and there he was, there was Marco standing above you, lid of the garbage can in his hand, looking down at you, wrinkling his nose at the smell. You blushed and smiled- actually smiled– glad somebody was there to see you, witness you in all your shit stained glory, happily stewing in your own filth, tears pouring proudly down your face… something pitifully self serving about the way you handle misery, so manipulative… you used it well to gain his disgust, to gain his hatred, which is what you wanted above all, to be right about something… to be right about how disgusting you are, and he obliged, he gave that to you.

            “Get the fuck out of there, Jesus Christ,” he said, and you laughed and blushed and tried to climb out but you wiggled too much and tipped the whole goddamn thing over, fell on its side with a large metallic noise, painful, you writhed… the shit was in your hair, in your teeth then… He looked down and sneered at you, no sympathy, thank god, you hate sympathy… he helped you, he saved you, and you know you aren’t worth the trash in the garbage can to him, and that’s good, that’s right, that’s right because you know you aren’t worth the trash in the garbage can to anybody… you can make him happy, you aren’t like the man in the cage. No, you can make someone else happy, you can try, is what you told yourself. So much light back then, so much glistening electronic city light. That was months ago. Now you’re home and alone and there is still light even at night sneaking through the blinds of your window, broken up in bars against your wall.

            You’re at your best when you’re like this, 2 A.M. eyes wide open on your back in bed in the dark. Will he call you again, or is this it? You hope he calls you again… you close your eyes and your cheeks flush bright red, you move your legs thinking about him… strong jaw, dark eyes when they look at you made a little brighter… it’s all over now. Why would he call you ever again, after this? After pinctada maxima fictus, after South Sea pearl necklaces from a fucking department store?

Broken sob escapes your mouth, neck arched and knees bent. Your naked body resembles a wavelength going nowhere, frozen in time before crashing against the shore. You fucked up. Forsaken. Maybe he’ll call, maybe he’ll forgive you… you can still taste his drink, his lips… that was your mistake, kissing him after showing up with them… those shitty little fake pearls you don’t even care about, it was all for him anyway. Not that they did him any good, not that fake peals ever helped anyone anywhere. Wrap yourself up in the blanket, there you go… nice little cocoon, safe little place of yours… you think about his eyes again, this time angry and his lips trembling and his voice screaming, powerful… your eyes closed, you blush and touch yourself… remembering glass against your face, how humiliating… a moan reaching its hands up from inside you, prying open your mouth, dirty fingernails scratching at your teeth… it’ll be morning soon, wonder if he’s going to call…



            Marco sighs, exasperated, runs a hand through hair as he stares out the window, catching his ghostly reflection in the glass. He takes off his thick glasses and curses- “Fucking piece of shit…!”- as he turns around and looks at mess on his living room floor. Just what he needed today- another fucking mess to fix. He’s behind schedule as it is, and then that kid, that kid comes here and decides he wants to fuck around. As if he weren’t busy enough.

Instead of grabbing a mop, he goes to the counter and pours a gin. A replacement for the one he wasted on blondie over there. Fucking stupid kid. After all he’s done for him, that ungrateful brat comes up and tries to foist this kind of shit on him. Well, it aint gonna work. He’s been around the block a few too many times to be fooled by some green little highschool faggot with a sack full of counterfeits, that’s for damn sure.

He takes the gin and downs it, slams the glass on the countertop. A drink or two more to calm his nerves is all he needs. Maybe he shouldn’t have been so rough with him. He is young after all, and an out-of-towner besides. Sucks dick like he invented it, too. He shakes his head furiously, grunts and runs to the window, pressing his face onto the glass as hard as he can, looking out at the town.

This town, electric everything. The whole goddamn motherboard runs on Mother-of-Pearl, and he’s the best link this town’s junkies have, the best they’ll ever have. He had his connections, but what got him this far was determination. Started as a quality of life improvement, a way for him to solve problems and make his living easier- hard to stop someone from taking your shit with a load of pearls cruising up your veins. So that’s what he’d do, load them up with enough pearls to down an elephant, wait for them to reach the Sea of Tranquility, and while they were busy talking with the oysters on the moon he’d be halfway across town in a van full of their shit, electronics, cellphones mostly. Everything electric in this city, everything. He liked that about it- no room for slow downs or ‘human error’, just go, go, go, making things run, making things happen. Soon he figured he’d cut the middleman and stick with the MoP business, dealing in pearls, making new and loyal customers almost faster than he could supply. Made a lot of enemies, got his fair share of scars to show for it, too. But he climbed his way up, damn it. He even crushed the pearls himself, with his own goddamn hands. Nobody could say wasn’t a hard worker. He worked for what he had, and you better remember that. He used to be a nothing, a nobody. But he didn’t fuck up. He was electricity. And now the place runs on him.

At last it stops raining, the clouds start to dissipate, reveal the setting sun like a curtain being drawn. His hands tremble as he thinks of all he’s done for this town. “They need me,” he says calmly into his reflection. His face, superimposed across the city’s darkening skyline. Sea foam could turn this whole place white, pulsating and rhythmic, in an instant. Crush a few pearls, go for a swim. Go someplace you’ve never been. Mother-of-Pearl. The people in this God-forsaken shithole want a way out, and he is their doorman. They want to fuck up so bad, fine. He’s no loser, he’d never touch the stuff himself. But he could move things. He could make things happen, and they know that. He alone holds the key to their salvation. For whatever it’s worth, anyway.

He thinks about when he asked one of his sources, a guy from India, about how they get such high quality pearls over there. “Pearls form by pressure,” the guy said, “when a natural part of the oyster’s feeding cycle gets interrupted by the smallest amount of some foreign object, and it builds pressure to try to get rid of it… you could encourage that. You could take a knife and cut along the tissue of the mantle, you could pry that open and pour something in there, an irritant we call it, to make the little thing go crazy. The thing doesn’t know what to do with itself, goes nuts, lays it on thick with the nacre, the stuff that it uses to make the pearls. That’s what we do, and there you have it. We call them ‘cultured pearls’. Higher quality and faster harvest, and all that leads to a bigger profit.”

‘Cultured’, huh? Whatever works. Apparently it wasn’t much of a trade secret if he was willing to say it over the telephone- you never know when someone might be listening in. Marco knew that all too well.

            Pushing himself away, he stumbles back to the counter and steadies himself from falling. Brand new marble countertop, just installed the other day. Best looking apartment in the whole shitty complex, he was proud to say. Maybe he’ll give the kid a call tomorrow morning. It’d be nice to have a prodigy, an heir. The kid didn’t use, at least not regularly. If he couldn’t tell the difference between the real deal pinctada maxima and some cheap department store knock-offs… but he could be trained. The kid could learn. Besides, Marco reasoned, a nice lay to fall back on when things get lonely aint nothing to sneeze at.

            The kid is a worm, there’s no doubt in Marco’s mind. He is a worm. But then, so was Marco, not so very long ago. He climbed his way up from the dirt and the filth. Now he sat at the top of the tower, a big electric butterfly spreading its wings over the city. He almost laughs at the thought. Instead he pours another glass and stars out the window until the sun finishes setting. He stares until the sun rises again. He stands up straight, stretching his arms out horizontally, palms facing forward, watching the light of dawn creep silently across the city.

This is what I know happens when I leave – by Emma Carte

The girl moves from one drawer to the next. She is thin, rail thin and her hair is cut short, in a plain kind of way, but she still looks crammed into that tiny kitchen, if you could call it that. The only thing that separates it from the rest of the studio is an island that juts out from the far wall. It only has enough room for one stool, for one person to sit. I sit on the couch, in front of the round coffee table. It is painted black and has what I believe to be pineapples intricately carved into the legs.  The table functions also as kitchen table, bookshelf, and nightstand, seeing as her bed functions also as couch.

“I made a pie, have a slice. It’s apple. My mother’s recipe,” she tells me.

“Okay.” I hate when they bring up their mothers.

The kitchen cabinets open and slam. In lieu of an oven mitt, she pulls out an old dishtowel, someone’s initials on it in light blue script. Probably her mothers.

I watch her as she opens the oven. Her arms could snap under the weight of a pie. She places it on top of the stove and blows. She’s wearing a thrift store fur coat that goes to her ankles. There are slits cut into the sleeves from someone whose wrists had not cooperated with the coat. Everything in the place is busted, but she’s got this fancy new coffee maker.

            “Your heat get turned off?” I ask her.

            “I swear it’s absolutely impossible to get by in this city. One day it’s rent, the next heat, then water, then they’re asking for your goddam soul,” she says. She is trying to sound poetic but we both know it’s not working out.

            She brings the pie over to the table, cuts a slice, steaming, and sets it in front of me on a plate with a fork. It is burnt but not badly. She sits across from me on a floor pillow that was once white and she’s wearing these dark glasses, picks at her fingers. She’s all twitchy watching me, waiting for me to take a bite. Looks like she could flake away like burnt crust.

She’s crying a little so I bite into the pie and swallow it, without even chewing. It burns the roof of my mouth, but I don’t notice until later when I run my tongue across the glossy, enflamed surface. But she’s still crying, so I pull it out and put it on the table.

She doesn’t say anything, just stares at it, and walks over to me. She places her hands on either side of my face, still not saying anything, but I know she is more than thanking me. Her hands are like a child’s, soft and small and as if she were asking or begging for something I could never give her. But then she remembers why I am here and she reverts back to that crooked husk of a person.

“Pay me back next week, I’ll be back in town. Don’t make a habit of this,” I manage to say.

She shakes her head avidly, like a bobble head. “I’m getting a job. I’ve got some jobs lined up.”

I offer her the rest of my pie, tell her it’s good but I’m just too full. She declines like I thought she would. I leave without saying goodbye.

This is what I know happens when I leave the building. What I know happens when I leave every building, every two bedroom home, basement, garage with a couch and a mini fridge. She fumbles around more drawers, they always fumble around. She finds the necessary equipment. She fixes herself up until she feels the pulse in her arm, until she can practically hear it. And she falls back in love with him over and over and over and over and over and over and over again.

white trash dream – by Alexandria B Nystrom

Oh fuck here I am again

Fagan sings the world’s crazy

Danny boy steels my heart

‘Baby girl, you slay me’


Fight for what?

Nothing comes to mind.

Let’s open a bar, a library, a Laundromat together

All at once, combined.


We’ll call it the White Trash Kitchen

Where everyone can be at home

The people will flock

And we won’t be alone


Let’s open a bar together

You can drink behind the line

I’ll smoke in my office

We’ll have a good time


Let’s open a library together

Our kids will play there

A lot for ideas of grandeur

Pardon the smell of stale beer


Let’s open a Laundromat together

We will look fresh for life

We can hide our love stains

I can’t wait to be your wife


We opened a white trash kitchen

We said fuck the doors

Everyone could hear us fight

And when it rained, it poured.

Lawn Detailing – by Ellen Farkas

50 years experience 
rendered new 
                for plugging and 
                re-seeding           Flower-bed  
                preparation        Leaf removal- 
                                                                      False bush, 
                call me.

Pigpen – by Peel Prose

I’m proud of you

Jesse’s hands were shaking. He closed the bathroom door, and braced himself against the standing sink. The basin was caked in grime, the sides lined with brown hair from his own head, and he tried to remember the last time he gave the room a wipe down with some Windex. He could hear the daytime soap opera playing in the next room, just like any other Wednesday afternoon in his apartment. He thought about the actors, how hard they must be trying to break out of daytime TV, how they probably resented the sugary, over-dramatic plot lines as much as the rest of America.

He stared as his reflection in the mirror. It was cracked, a souvenir of a small party from years past, some sort of brawl. He didn’t throw parties anymore.

A hot rush flooded his already flushed cheeks. He had done it. He had done it, he had finally done it. He pictured the scene, her apartment, her pink and white bedsheets. He smiled. Nothing could take away this feeling, this is love, this is love, this is a devotion beyond devotion. Nothing would ever be the same after this, an idea that thrilled him and also scared him beyond words. He looked down and noticed the layers of grime beneath his fingernails, the dark staining on the palms of his hands.

Clean yourself up.

He winced, and realized that this was no way to get ahead in life. Looking this way was holding him back. He reached for the electric razor he kept under the medicine cabinet and plugged it in. The moving blades caressed his cheeks and corroded the wispy hairs from his jaw and into the sink. He jumped as the blades knicked the line of his jaw, right below the right side of his mouth. A spot of blood oozed from the gash, then dripped into the sink along with the rest of his hair. One, two, three, each one coming in succession, such organization, he wished the flow would never stop.

Did hers?

He smiled, remembering the events of the previous night. How did she manage to smell so damned good every time he visited her? Like citrus and wine and cooking oil. His thoughts went back to the first time he had met her, three years ago now was it? Three years and his life would never be the same, he knew the placement of every mole on her body, understood which hours of the day she needed to be alone, noticed every inch her hair would grow. Her nails were always painted white. White because she was clean. She was pure.

What you can never be.

His thoughts raced, he turned to the shower curtain and ripped it back. He stripped, and turned the faucet on, letting the stream of water seep from the crown of his head to the bottoms of his feet. He picked up the yellow bar of soap and started scrubbing the skin of his chest. The smell of lemons coated in the insides of his nose. He drug the soap over and over the surface of his body until it felt raw. It felt good, to be clean. He remembered his grandfather and how he used to compare Jesse to Pigpen from the Peanuts cartoons when he came in from playing with his friends. His grandmother would cluck her tongue at him and tell him that he needed to wash up before dinner. They would pray before eating, to a nameless, faceless God, asking him to forgive their filthy sins, let them be bathed in the light of righteousness and other such pious language. He shuddered and switched off the water.


He paused and closed his eyes, cold water dripping like sweat off his shoulder blades. He remembered her how she looked last night, her brown hair all done up in a bun, circles under her wide eyes. She had looked surprised to see him. After the last time they had talked, he couldn’t blame her. The threats made, the words thrown out, he would never forgive himself for that. She was dressed in pale blue. It looked fresh, like it had been plucked off a laundry line after just being starched. Knowing Hannah, it probably had been. He had pictured taking her to the hill, wrapped in a blanket, laying on under the tree with her, weaving forget-me- knots through her curls. Jesse smiled. Looking back on it now, he appreciated the scene that had transpired. It had exceeded his wildest expectations, honestly, and even though the mess was a little much to deal with after the fact, seeing her was worth it. His grandfather always said that if he wasn’t careful to keep clean, he could end up soiling his playmates. Seeing her, bright and shining, probably ready to head outside…

I’m proud of you.

He shook his head and stepped out of the shower. The surfaces of the bathroom seemed even more grimy then they had previously. His eyes traveled from the empty condom wrappers on the floor, the dirty clothes, the streaked mirror, the toothpaste marks on the counter. He felt a familiar itch rise to the surface of his mind. He headed to the cupboard under the sink. His fingers found the bottle of cleaning solution and before he knew what he was doing, the cap was off and a steady puddle of blue was spreading across the counter. And the toilet bowl. And the shower basin, the tile floor, the corners of the room where spidershad set up their residence. Jesse soaked in the smell of the ammonia and felt like he was drowning, drowning, in an endless sea of blue, blue, like the blue of Hannah’s eyes, the forget-me-nots, the pale blue of her cotton dress…

The phone rang from the next room. He hurried and dried off with the dirty towel lying on the ground, wrapped it around his waist and ambled to the next room. The phone, on the floor and in the pocket of the jeans he had worn earlier that day, was lighting up between the layers of fabric in the front right pocket. He peeled the phone out of the jeans, which were still a bit damp, and scanned the name flashing up at him from the screen.


He froze.

That’s impossible.


He was greeted with only heavy breathing. A ragged breath in, and an equally heavy one blowing out. Jesse felt a cold sweat blossom over his eyes, his heart picked up to a marathon pace and his stomach felt like it had dropped to his knees.

“Who is this?”

More silence. All Jesse could decipher from the other line was the labored breathing, never varying in pace, always an equal inhale and exhale. It was so ragged, he wondered if the person behind it was having an asthma attack or if, possibly…

“…. Hannah?”
More silence, and then
“I know what… you did,”
The voice was decidedly male, elderly, vaguely familiar.
“Who is this?”
“I know what you did,”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about but—“
“You didn’t clean up, Pigpen”
Jesse’s fingers clenched around the phone. No, no, he always cleaned up. He

had cleaned up. The apartment was in the same state as it had been when he had left it. Once he started something he always followed through to completion. Always. He had been raised the right way, he never left a mess.

“Who is this?” Jesse winced at the sound of his own desperation.

An electronic beep sounded and then silence. He pulled back his hand and looked at the screen.

Call ended.

His mind started spinning. He knew he hadn’t left a mess, he had picked up every article of clothing, scrubbed out every spot of blood, he had even remade the bed for Christ’s sake, folding Hannah’s dress over the side. He closed his eyes, and massaged his temples with vigorous speed. Who else could possibly have known about his visit to Hannah’s place today? His mind ran raced over the faces of his friends, Hannah’s friends, his family, her family, anyone who could possibly have been watching. Waiting in the shadows. He pulled his jeans over his legs, stepped into a pair of tennis shoes, and tripped over himself getting out the door.

The car ride over to the apartment was excruciating. He needed to know who the voice at the other end of the line was. Hannah’s phone was at the apartment. Maybe the man was waiting for him to connect the dots, to pay a visit, to clean up the mess.

I’m proud of you.

Jesse ran a red light. Two more right turns and he would be there. The second floor, up the stairs, careful to avoid the ice coating the lengths of the wood. Behind the green door, number seven, number seven, seven for completion, seven for magic, seven for some kind of understanding, some grasp—

He screeched into the parking lot, took the stairs two at a time, bursting into number seven on the second floor. The familiar smell of citrus greeted him as he stepped inside. The room was dim, with curtains drawn over the large windows, shutting out the late afternoon sun. He retraced his steps from the previous night, going from the parlor, then to the kitchen, then through to the bedroom. Everything was perfectly in place. The bed sheets were even tucked in at the corners, the clothes were all placed in the armoire, it honestly looked as if Hannah had only stepped out for a moment, that she would be back soon. That she would be back soon. Jesse laughed in spite of himself.

Memories of a few hours earlier flooded his senses, he pictured how the room had looked so different in the moonlight, how different he had felt. Hannah had been frightened, but had invited him inside anyways. She was always good about knowing what to say to calm him down. He remembered when they had first started dating, when his compulsion had been particularly bad. When she found him scrubbing the tiled floor of the kitchen with a toothbrush, she said nothing, only joined him with a toothbrush of her own. She understood when he had to

wash every dish three times, three times for luck, for the Trinity, for his grandfather and grandmother. She said nothing about it, until one day when she woke up and turned to him and told him that he shouldn’t have become so dependent on her and that his illness had crippled their relationship. That was the morning she packed a small suitcase and went to stay with her mother for a while, only that while turned into three weeks, and during that three weeks Jesse had sought the treatment he had never thought he needed, he took the pills the doctor prescribed, because if his illness was crippling Hannah then he would clean up the mess, he would clean up the mess.

Jesse bit his lip. He couldn’t find her, he needed Hannah, he told her that last night. Hannah had only moved away from him every time he had tried to move closer, she had moved her hand away when he tried to cover it with his own.

I’m proud of you.

She had told him that, when he tried to tell her all the things he had been doing, all of the medications he had been taking, all of the compulsions he was battling. She had half-smiled, but the warmth never reached the blue of her eyes. No, she didn’t understand, she didn’t understand, they belonged together. He had tried to tell her, and all she had done was reach for her goddamned phone.

Jesse sat heavily on the bed and remembered. He remembered snatching the phone from her clammy palms, snapping it between his hands like the neck of a small animal. His rage welled up inside him, he couldn’t remember thinking straight. He took lamp from the bedside table and struck her over the head in a sudden gush of anger. Hannah had hit the floor hard. A steady trickle of blood ran from her temple to her chin. She had looked up at him, eyes dilated, like a little girl’s. A little boy’s. A little boy told to clean up, wash up—

Don’t touch me, you disgusting child—
You were born into sin, you were born into sin—
God punished us by leaving you here—
Clean up this mess! Clean up this mess—
Jesse was transported back to his childhood, his grandfather’s voice,commanding him, condemning him. He wanted to be clean, he wanted to be pure,he needed to clean himself, he needed to be Holy, he needed to be righteous. God hated bastards, God hated the sinful, God hated him, God hated him. Before he knew it, tears were flooding his eyes and running down his face. Where was she? What had they done with her?

Sobbing, he pushed himself from the bed and through the rest of the apartment. He knocked a vase of flowers from a bookshelf, he crashed into a glass cereal bowl on the kitchen counter. Once outside, he took the stairs down, two at a time. Where was she? What had they done with her? What had they done with her?

I think you know.

He thought back, to the dead weight of Hannah’s body as he dragged her out of the apartment. How the night air felt against her cold skin. The click of the trunk locking. Jesse turned to the back of the car slowly. He reached into his pocket, and withdrew the key. He inserted the key into the lock and turned until he heard the tick of the door opening, though he already knew what he would find there. A lock of brown hair. The smell of citrus and wine and cooking oil. So clean, so clean.

I’m proud of you.
Jesse closed the door.
I’m proud of you.
He stepped around to the driver’s side.
I’m proud of you.
He put on the radio.
I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of you.
I’m proud of you.