You know what I mean

By the fifth day, the coffee may as well be tea. Day five the grounds are weak, wrung out, done in. By day five, the grounds have given it all they had. I despise the fifth day.

It’s Tuesday morning, day five, and I’m sipping my poor excuse for coffee by myself at my tiny kitchen table, when it comes back to me: The large table, the freshly squeezed orange juice, the glorious newspaper. And don’t forget the new coffee every single morning. We had it all.

Tuesday’s news is old news, but it even still it lies there filling my tiny table, begging my attention. You know I’m elsewhere, always elsewhere. I’m always with him, in our old life, our run-down shack of a castle, our love so tight it blocked out all the light. You know I never could read the paper, I always just looked at it.

farmhouse-kitchenToday, like every day, I’m right back there with him, a steaming-hot cup of first day coffee in my hand. I’m not reading, not seeing. When every day is day one, you feel nothing. Day one the windows are black. Day one and I’m back there in our real kitchen – real, real – I’m talking Viking range, glistening Bio-glass countertops, pristine doorless cabinets, Williams Sonoma stone-top double island, all of it.

He never wanted to talk. He liked his Business in peace, he liked to savor his coffee. He liked to admire his pretty scene as he flipped to the center spread. He preferred silence and I preferred him so I did what I had to. I sat pretty with my first day coffee and I liked it. He read Business while I kept up with pleasure.

My new place is small but cute. It’s got a patio and a picture window. My parkay floors that he would have hated, my velvet chaise in the corner that he’d have never even heard of. I’ve got a crystal chandelier that catches the light, and then there’s my table, small, round, and delicate. Here I am, stretched to the limit. I’m here, drinking day-five tasteless coffee because I can’t afford new beans. Here I am, still being elsewhere.

I took it until I couldn’t stand it. I shopped, I decorated, I even bought the fucking coffee beans. I put all the finishing touches on sweet reality. Don’t get me wrong, he kept up his end of the deal. He took care of Business. We gave it everything we had, but it wasn’t enough. You know what I mean, don’t you?

Somewhere around the 5,478th repetition of day one, I found myself sitting at that heavy Livingston dining table and I just couldn’t bear it. My patience was dwindling and I couldn’t see the sun. Powerlessness makes me angry, and I’m not proud of this, but I took my 5,478th cup of day-one coffee and poured it all over his Business section. It felt so good.

So now I’m here, in my new place. I’ve got a little shelf over the sink with a mirror and a couple of knickknacks; I’ve got the music going and the picture window is uncovered all the time. I can see it now: The sun in the sky, the blossom on the trees. Freedom is mine.

Still, I can’t enjoy it. I gave it all I had and I’m totally broke. You know how I feel. I’m drinking tea for coffee and what’s worse, tomorrow is day one.


via DeviantArt
via DeviantArt

There is no warning rattle at the door, or perhaps I’m in too deep to hear you invade the keyhole with your key, too far gone to hear the scrape of metal against metal. Either way, I’m down so deep I can barely move: I have no warning. You appear before me silently with a candle and a dark smile, holding a small metal bowl, which you set down carefully on the floor.

You circle me, examining me, clawing at me with your eyes. You tug my wrists strung behind my back, you pull my ponytail where it dangles, you run your hands down my spread legs to the shackles and bar at my ankles. You aggravate my hurts and I moan.

You enter my plane of vision and ravage the silence with a growl.

“I’m going to use you.”

I nod and mumble in agreement.

You slip a small knife from your pocket. You loom and cut the rope at my wrists. You let my arms fall to my sides.

I breathe.

You pocket your knife and snatch my hair in one hand. With your other hand you slap my face. Once, twice. A third time, and my face is stinging. I am awake now, you’ve seen to that.

I blink. Your small candle casts eerie shadows around the room.

You abandon my face and travel to my shoulders, which you take firmly into your hands. I find myself at the juncture of clavicle and phalanges. I smile.

You shove me to the cold, hard stone without another word; you watch me watch you deliberately undo your pants. You watch me watch you.

At last, “Open your mouth,” you whisper. I do, and you commence your ministrations. You push me, pull me, you fight me. You play with my breath, you take what’s yours and you steal what’s mine. I am forced out of myself. You persist at my mouth until you take matters into your own hands; your efforts culminate in a hot, wet arc that says it all.

Afterwards I am hot and wet. Afterwards my knees hurt. Afterwards I smile. I am here for your pleasure.

“Bedtime,” you say not unkindly as you replace your clothing. I wait for you to make your way back up the stairs, your quiet hum echoing in the gloomy chamber like a prelude to the slam of the heavy door. The scrape of metal against metal startles me now.

When I’m sure that you’re gone, I use my hands to support my weight as I flip my bound legs around to the front, a feat not so easy to accomplish. My hurts complain. I sit, naked, legs still shackled and splayed before me on the stone floor: I am a bird on a wire. I reach for the small metal dish you’ve left. I am hungry and I dig into the food with my bare fingers, enjoying my sustenance.

Later, as the small candle wears down and sleep threatens, I memorize the shadows. I take note of the size and shape of the empty dish next to me on the floor. A dog bowl, I think with my last few strands of consciousness.

My laugh echoes in my dreams.

Go ahead

via DeviantArt

Lock me up in your bars of rage;
Open my throat to sing.

Watch my longing escape,
Seeping out faster now.
Watch my blood spread.

Truth is the dirty knife in your hand
And knowing those unknown things.

Fearful still?


Shopping is a religion


Portia burst through the heavy glass doors of Saks with a toss of her new Giverny-blue Kate Spade handbag on her right shoulder, nearly prancing. She was overjoyed that Sven hadn’t yet thought to cancel her credit card, the one that she had flashed at the handbag counter to make her dream of the moment reality.

Portia skipped out onto the sidewalk with her new robin’s-egg–blue, satchel-shaped handbag on her shoulder and caught a glimpse of her reflection in the plated glass of the window, her perfectly coiffed hair just catching in the breeze, her sundress clinging to her curves, her new shades adding that certain je ne sais quois, she thought in French. I’d fuck me, Portia thought in English.

Portia made her way to a café and used Sven’s credit card to treat herself to an iced tea and a pastry, which she nibbled bewitchingly at an outdoor table, her legs crossed femininely and her new handbag displayed prominently on the wrought-iron table. As she nibbled, Portia began to consider her future. Sven’s credit card would not last forever. As she nibbled, Portia admired the 14-karat-gold hardware on her new purse and admitted to herself that she was a horrible person.

What kind of a girl steals from her ex-boyfriend, Portia thought with a flash of clarity. She sipped her tea and felt hot tears in her eyes. She watched the other girls parading along the thin strip of sidewalk, their legs gently brushing Portia’s table. Each girl carried a stunning handbag on one arm and a stunning boyfriend on the other. Why can’t I have both, Portia asked herself with a little whimper. She examined herself in the translucent glass once more. I’m hideous, Portia realized. She saw her dyed hair with its frizzy ends, her fake-red lips, her nose that was too big for her face, and she let the tears fall behind her shades.

Truth was, Portia missed Sven big time. He was hot, he was kind. Portia liked being his girl. Sven, you asshole, I can’t replace you, she argued with him in her head as she picked at the last few crumbs of her pastry. She wiped her hands before running her fingertips over her new bag. She unzipped it a little and stuck her overly large nose inside to savor that new purse smell that she loved so much, but not as much as she loved Sven. I’m a wreck, Portia admitted to herself, a bit surprised. She wasn’t used to experiencing such deep feelings. She reached into her purse and retrieved a tissue, which she surreptitiously used to wipe her tears.

Portia stood, hung her new purse from her elbow and in an uncharacteristic move of self-awareness, lifted her plate and glass to return them. After depositing the dishes inside, she wandered down the busy sidewalk, slowly now, and thinking only of Sven. One block past the café, Portia tossed Sven’s credit card into a trash bin. Two blocks from the café, a young man suddenly appeared in front of Portia. Appeared, she insisted later that afternoon, on the phone with her mom, appeared out of nowhere.

The young man appeared, Portia was certain. One moment no one was in front of her, then – Poof! – there he was. Tall, thin, and shaggy, she described for her mom, later. He had none of Sven’s fastidious good looks. In their place, Portia said, was a dark jacket, too heavy for the weather, a nice leather cross-body bag, thick frames, and an expression of utter and complete wonder. The expression really got to Portia, who was still overcome with self-hatred and desperate longing. What could possibly be so great, she wondered angrily.

For a moment their eyes locked: His dark brown, hers blue, and infinity passed between them. Portia, unaccustomed to the sensation of genuine human connection, looked down and noticed a flashing remote control in his hand. Yes, a remote control, Mom, she insisted, later. I think I know the difference between a phone and a remote, seriously, she insisted. A moment later, he disappeared. Disappeared, Portia emphasized, later. These things happen sometimes, sweetie, her mom comforted, later.

The moment after he disappeared, Portia lifted her sunglasses to blink at the empty sidewalk before her, replaced them with a shrug, and tossed her lovely new handbag over her shoulder. Just like that, she felt beautiful again. Just like that, Portia forgave herself. She never looked back, she just kept walking.


Another little visit from the lovely and oh-so-alluring Portia for this week’s Speakeasy.

It’s funny how my mind works

Copyright Erin Leary
Copyright Erin Leary

Even now, even after so very many years have passed, so long after the fact, I can still recall how that fence branched out before me on that isolated stretch of road. I can still recall how I abandoned my broken down car, how I made my way obediently home while admiring the details of the rough hewn boards, and how I found myself disappointed in the obscurity up ahead.

Nothing else: not your hand on my shoulder, not you tearing my dress, not you ripping me open. Only that fence disappearing into fog.


So, what does this fence remind you of? Let’s hear it over at the Friday Fictioneers’ linkup!


Aftertones of infinity

Until the day I die, I’ll never forget those glassy, unblinking eyes. It’s funny how no one else seemed to notice, because I did right away. The moment I stepped in front of the mirror and lifted my toothbrush, I noticed those dark glassy eyes, and I knew something was very wrong. The moment I stepped in front of the mirror and blinked I knew nothing would ever be quite right again. The moment I stepped in front of the mirror and noticed that my eyes did not blink back in the reflection, I knew I was in trouble.

What do you do when you step in front of the mirror and realize that your eyes are not your own? I’ll tell you what I did. I laughed. I laughed out loud and I blinked and blinked again. I laughed and I looked at my unblinking reflection and I decided right then and there that I was up for anything. Count me in, I said. Because, fuck it, when you wake up early to glassy, unblinking eyes in the mirror and no fucking clue what the hell is going on, what else can you do but laugh?

Right then and there, I signed the contract. I waived liability. I agreed to anything. Brushing my teeth proved relatively easy but doing my hair took a few tries. I didn’t even attempt to exert any will over my wardrobe. I softened my gaze and put on what felt natural, which turned out to be a long white peasant skirt and a skimpy black top that complimented my glassy gaze.

One last glance in the mirror revealed infinity. I took a careful step back in those heels – the ones I hardly ever put on because they trip me up – and I headed out for the day. When you find that what you see in the mirror doesn’t match your face, work doesn’t seem so important anymore. In fact, I could think of only one place to go, so I skipped work and headed for the Modern wing. What, that doesn’t make sense to you? Fuck off. I needed to find myself somewhere.

After a bit of wandering, I found navigating easier than usual. I floated down the soaring hallways and through the dim galleries. When my eyes were not my own, my heels no longer tripped me up. I found myself there, in the Spanish abstractions, in the sallow faces looking back at me from American Gothic. I found myself in Picasso’s cubes, I found myself in nails on a black cross. I found myself in wood and canvas.

After I got the hang of finding myself, I floated backwards to the Middle Ages. There, I found myself in a gold-rimmed engraving by Dürer. When five o’clock rolled around, I wasn’t ready to leave. They found me sitting on a bench where I could keep an eye on my eyes. I put up a fight for the security guards; I dug my heels in and screamed. It took three guys to restrain me, only they didn’t know that it was already too late. I’d signed that contract, remember? All in means all in, so here I am.

What’s that, doctor? You want to help me? Can’t you see that I’m just fine? Look at my eyes, look how they match what’s in the mirror now. What’s not to understand? Here I am, all yours. No, I’m not afraid. Fuck it all, doc, can’t you hear me laughing?



Mornin, miss. Lemme show ya where ya headed. Go on’n follow that ocean breeze downa 1 straighta Coconut Grove. Ditch the wheels’n chill. Ya gotta cool your mind. Go on, do what ya wanna. Nothin matters, it’s all good.

Miss, are ya listenin?


My response to this week’s Gargleblaster: Which way to go?

Her heart in his hand

laboratoryDr. Jeremiah Longlove found his cellar laboratory chilly in the mornings. This particular morning, a Tuesday, the sun hung low, cloaked by heavy clouds beyond his half-height casement window.

Dr. Longlove’s cellar laboratory lay at the bottom of a steep flight of stone steps, lit only by half-molten candles and heavy with despair. Glass bottles lined wooden shelves, bottles that contained the elixers of life, according to Jeremiah Longlove: Strontium salicylate for healing skin ailments, Capille pellets for facilitating balance, worm lozenges for irritable bowels, p. Conii powder for alleviating depression, and his precious indigo, as good for cooling a fever as for curing blindness. His ever present and immaculate mortar and pestle stood at the ready in one corner.

Along the far wall, Dr. Longlove had arranged his tools and devices on hooks in order by size. At the far left hung a large, well-sharpened pair of shears, followed by his other implements, gradually descending to his tiniest glistening scalpel. Each and every tool had a special place in Jeremiah Longlove’s heart. Dr. Longlove’s cellar laboratory was his pride and joy, second only to his abiding passion for Angela, his longtime mistress and love, who currently lay dead on the operating platform before him.

Dr. Longlove vastly preferred using the operating platform for fucking his beautiful mistress. Her untimely death due to an unfortunate bathtub accident and today’s autopsy came as a surprise and a shock. Jeremiah couldn’t seem to look at his poor helpless patient without seeing her in their favored position: Bent over the table, her legs spread to receive a pounding from behind as he yanked her head back and kissed her long and deep. No, her death couldn’t have come at a worse moment, just hours before their next regularly scheduled tryst.

Dr. Jeremiah Longlove walked round his patient, who lay before him naked and exposed to the cool morning light. Jeremiah regretted the brutal scene, wherein Angela’s chest lay split open, her heart conspicuously missing from the gaping wound. The sight of his angel ripped to shreds, such as she was, simply broke his heart.

Just then, the clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground. Jeremiah turned his attention to his scale, which at the moment held Angela’s heart, bloody and raw. The arrow on the scale pointed squarely at 300—300 grams, that was. Jeremiah permitted himself a small smile, more out of relief than anything else, at the discovery that his love’s heart was in fact a bit on the small side. This, Jeremiah realized, surely explained why Angela would never take him up on his offer to elope.

Jeremiah lovingly replaced his mistress’s heart in her chest cavity and whispered in her ear, “If only I could put you back together and reset you.” He moved on, separating her liver from deep within her corpse. He slipped the organ into the weighing tray. He must press on; his schedule required it.

“Finally, I can see you crystal clear,” Jeremiah murmured to what remained of his soul mate. Suddenly he became overcome with grief and gripped his own chest. Pain coursed through his upper body—sympathy pain, he surmised. He had done research on such matters. Dr. Longlove ripped open his waistcoat and shirt to reveal bloody tracks mimicking Angela’s.

“The scars of your love, Angela,” Jeremiah reasoned. It made perfect sense. He limped to his shelves to locate the appropriate balm, all the while shivering in the chilly air.


Talking trash in church


“Juanita dared me get inked,” Ana Luz crossed herself then straddled the pew and offered her forearm, palm up.

Mother Fucker, carefully inscribed in Sharpie from elbow to wrist, each letter elaborately disguised. O had legs like a spider.

“Dios mío, chiquita!”


My answer to this week’s Gargleblaster question: Is something crawling on me?