Joanna C. Valente

There are Three Kinds of Suns

“When you get to town, get some nice dresses. Something especially now, okay?” Baby Girl’s grandfather said this to her while smoking, letting out the fumes in the open window to his left. She was seven years old, the scar on her right knee still white and pearly, even though it happened years ago when she fell off her bike. She never got back on that bike. 

Baby Girl kept repeating the phrase in her head, We don’t walk to the store because Grandpa’s leg is bad. His leg is bad. Baby Girl often repeats words in her head until they don’t sound like words anymore. Brooklyn is all hills when you go up 5th Avenue, so they drive instead. All those miles give her grandfather pain and he’s already in his 70s but his body is really ten years older than that and he thanks the war for that. Grandfather is from Philly, but he moved to Brooklyn to be in the big city and met Baby Girl’s grandmother and they married before the year was out. They had seven children. Two already dead. One shot. 

Baby Girl grew up hearing stories about the family, about people who were dead that she never knew and never will know and how they were the best and kindest and craziest and wore the strangest and prettiest clothes. Grandfather always liked to get her new clothes, so she wouldn’t look like all the other kids, clothes that looked like trash, like garbage clothes as he would say. She didn’t really care about looking different, she just wanted to make him happy. 

Grandfather parks and they step out of the car and he wheezes a little and leans on his cane that Baby Girl got to put some cat stickers on. From a young age, Baby Girl was used to being someone else’s pet, a project to work on. This will take years to undo. It will never be undone. 

Her mother grew up in Bensonhurst, than Bay Ridge. And then Baby Girl was born, in the same house her mother lived in for over 20 years. Grandfather kissed her on her forehead, led her to the store.


Sometimes K holds Baby Girl’s hand or her shoulders or any part of her, so randomly or abruptly that Baby Girl flinches. Every part of her body screams, wants to collapse in at itself. But she doesn’t protest, because isn’t she being the weird one? Shouldn’t she want to be touched? 


When Baby Girl was seventeen, she had a boyfriend who would skip class with her to go to the Silent Barn and set up crust punk shows. He had longer hair than Baby Girl did which her parents didn’t like. Baby Girl liked when he got real quiet while making a playlist for her, when he wrote song lyrics for his band, when he bought her French fries at the diner, when he held her hand at a show. He went to prom with her even though he thought the whole thing was lame. They broke up during their first semester at college. He moved to Montana, overdosed on something that no one would tell her. His parents still keep his Facebook active. 

Sometimes Baby Girl thinks about her first boyfriend, her high school boyfriend, who sounded like Nick Drake—and wonders if he overdosed by accident or killed himself on purpose. Does it matter? Why do families lie about overdoses, as if somehow covering it up changes the outcome? As if it will bring back the dead. Why do people tell stories that our bodies know are untrue? 

I could get into trouble, Baby Girl remembers telling her Nick Drake boyfriend the first time he said they should cut class. She hesitated, but did it anyway. They didn’t get in trouble. Her mom lost the baby she was carrying for eight months in her belly—everything was just falling icicles and men with axes destroying the family room couch. Her dad would mop the floors when the icicles would fall. But they kept falling and he kept mopping. 

The first time Baby Girl held a cell phone, her own cell phone, she was 18. Her parents decided to get her one because she had a boyfriend and while they let her stay out with him a little later, they wanted to make sure she was off doing drugs in a dark alley somewhere. She barely used it at the time, would send the occasional text to her parents, or the good night and good morning to her boyfriend. In college, it was like the internet didn’t even exist. It felt freeing, to understand her body was wireless. Could be damage to everyone. 


The second time Baby Girl had sex, she was 19. He was an adjunct English professor engaged to a woman two states away that she didn’t know about. He put a body suit on her and spanked her until she cried. She loved every minute. He said he would teach her how to give blow jobs every man would love—and he wasn’t wrong. 

She knew he lied, that he was a cheater, that he didn’t really love all the girls, but just wanted to have sex with them. But Baby Girl was tired of basically being a dumb virgin, of having boys and girls reject her, as if her vagina contained some secret covenant inside, as if it were Pandora’s Box. Baby Girl didn’t even care that he wanted to have a lot of sex. She did care about the fact that he didn’t love anyone. 

When George W. Bush is elected, no one in Baby Girl’s family cheers. Her mother is on the couch, crying that she isn’t breastfeeding her baby brother that died. What is a family? Her mother cries, asks this question and over and over again. Her father sits there silently, choosing not to be the savior, choosing not to be part of the story. Choosing to opt out.

Uncle P calls her mother on the phone, sometimes asks to speak to Baby Girl. There is no photo to show what he has done to her body, to any girl’s body. How many girls did he take the consciousness of and replace it with agony, with a dreamslate full of sorrow. How many women has he conquered and colonized with his dick, his greedy hands, his putrid mouth rotting into knives? 

He asks her how school went, if her homework was hard, if she made it to Brighton Beach and thanked the ocean for letting her body swim and fall into the water, be consumed. He asked her if she had any crushes on boys, what their names were, what neighborhoods they lived in, what she wore. All of these questions were innocent on the surface, but even then, Baby Girl knew better, felt the unaltruistic journalistic edge, some kind of agenda. Even then, she knew her mother would call her crazy, then deem every subsequent act crazy, part of her hysteria, part of her over sensitivity. So, she stayed quiet. She grew to like the silence.

Joanna C. Valente is a human who lives in Brooklyn, New York, and is the author of Sirs & Madams (Aldrich Press, 2014), The Gods Are Dead (Deadly Chaps Press, 2015), Marys of the Sea (The Operating System, 2017), Xenos (Agape Editions, 2016) and the editor of A Shadow Map: An Anthology by Survivors of Sexual Assault (CCM, 2017). Joanna received a MFA in writing at Sarah Lawrence College, and is also the founder of Yes, Poetry, a managing editor for Luna Luna Magazine and CCM, as well as an instructor at Brooklyn Poets. Some of their writing has appeared, or is forthcoming, in Brooklyn Magazine, Prelude, Apogee, Spork, The Feminist Wire, BUST, and elsewhere.


Scout Kelly


It’s Friday night, so I go out to this gay bar and I don’t want to drink but I want to look at people and maybe talk to a stranger.  This city is still new to me. I only moved here 4 months ago, after we broke up, which was 6 months ago, which was 3 months after you cut your hair short. And 2 months after we found out your brother’s wife was pregnant and I asked which one of us would carry a baby. 15 months ago, I told you I loved you and you said you weren’t sure if you could love a woman, but you could definitely kiss one. We kissed for a lot of months. We even kissed 4 months ago, when we physically split. We kissed all night, saying goodbye goodbye im sorry. Then, I packed all my things in a car and moved across the country, back to the state I grew up in, back to Tennessee.   

This week you told me you were on a vacation with a woman I’ve met before.

I haven’t even gone on a date in 6 months.    

Outside of the bar, I think about you briefly and feel angry, but also sad that I feel angry because I really hate anger.     

I open the door and hand someone my ID. They say I’m OK and that I should have a good time. Inside, there are drag queens, drag nuns, boys in leather kilts, and people holding hands. I immediately think you would like this bar, and I smile, but quickly stop smiling. I order a corona and literally just hold it and I don’t drink it, even though I love corona. It reminds me of summers in Chattanooga. I’d really like to quit drinking at all, but I can’t handle being in a bar with nothing to hold onto.

I stand awkwardly in one place and then another and then in a few other places. It doesn’t get better anywhere, so I stop moving around and try to look normal. A man in a kilt asks me if I’m here with “my lady.” I smile and say “no.” And he asks where she is. I say “good question.” He kind of laughs and stops talking to me. I wish he wouldn’t.

When the kilt guy turns away from me, I see this girl in the opposite corner of the bar who I saw in Kroger once. I was holding a frozen pizza and I saw her picking out red wine. I peeked down the isles she browsed through, trying to make eye contact. She didn’t seem to notice at all, not even when I dodged around the bread section just to see what kind of shoes she was wearing, as if they would personally tell me her sexuality. It’s a joke now with my friend. Genus: Kroger, species: hottie. I think I might go and talk to her, but don’t because I don’t have anything to say. Seems rude to try and talk to someone when they are trying to decide between cabernet or pinot noir in the wine isle; turns out, it seems rude to talk to someone at a bar, too.

She’s with friends and they have noticed me first I guess, because they look like they’re either talking about me or the kilt guy. I’m suddenly aware of my body, of my hair at an awkward length, growing out from a 2-year-old mullet buzzcut, my clothes probably not fitting well, probably ripped. Do I look butch? Soft? Do I look tough or scared shitless? One of them is pointing. All of their heads are so close together, almost cheek to cheek.

How do girls do that? Put their heads so close together when they talk? It makes me want to put my head in the circle, too. To be very close and talk about something that isn’t me.

45 minutes pass and she looks cool and calm the whole time. I’ve compulsively looked at her at least 150 times. She isn’t overdone. Her hair is short and bleached. She’s wearing a thrift store button-up that hangs on her body.  I don’t feel like I have to keep up, which seems nice. She seems comfortable in her clothes, like she woke up from a nap, like the whole world is casual. Her friends look crazy. Like, one of them has tiny buns on her head, which makes me feel like she’s probably wild. Girls who have buns and wear chokers and thick eyeliner are beyond me, which I can accept. They know a million things that I don’t and I can’t keep up. Like they probably know a lot of shit about google docs and venmo and how to photoshop memes and a lot of other useful things. But I’m standing alone with a beer that I’m not drinking and I realize that I’m in a circle of boys in leather. And they are probably talking about how I don’t make sense in this scene, about how I probably didn’t realize I was in the leather boy group. They were right.

I zoom out and realize that I don’t make sense here. Truly, I don’t. I have barely moved for nearly an hour, except for walking over to the pool table and touching the felt lightly, pretending that I was considering putting quarters into the slot. I don’t even have any quarters. I’m not even having fun. So, I drink two gulps of corona and leave the rest in the bottle on the counter and leave. I stand on the curb for 20 minutes, pretending to do whatever I can think of. Pretending I’m not wondering if maybe she’d come outside and talk to me. Eventually, a much older man rides up on a bike, “BABY GIRL, YOU OKAY?” He yells with genuine concern. I quickly jump onto the hood of my car to seem like I’m used to the city.

“Yes- yeah. I am. You?”

“Making it,” he rides away.

I think, am I supposed to feel offended? I’m supposed to feel indignant when someone calls me a pet name like that, especially a stranger. Especially a man. But instead I feel warm and familiar and surprised at my own reaction. I appreciated it. I wanted to sit down and talk. But he was gone. He barely slowed down and picked back up as soon as I affirmed myself.

I walk down the block and look at trees, newly planted maples by the sidewalk. I think to myself that they won’t last long there. I put some stickers onto a light pole. I go to another bar and walk through the entrance and straight through the bar and out the exit.

That did not last long.

A man rides by on a bike. It’s the same man, 20 minutes after our last interaction.

“Hey! Whatchu doin anyway? Are you okay?”

I say, “Yeah, yeah I guess; what about you.”

He goes, “You were that girl sittin’ on the curb and you hopped up onto the hood of that truck.”

I say, “ha-ha yeah. Yup.”

He goes, “Damn, girl; I’m tryin to get down to the shelter to get me a room, you know? You know they charge you 7 bucks a night at the shelter? People wonder why I ask for money. Like I gotta figure out how to EAT and then I gotta pay 7 for the shelter, too.”

I say, “Shit man.”

He goes, “Baby girl, do you have any food or any cigarettes? All you kids smoke.”

I say, “No, actually; I quit a while ago.”

He goes, “All right then, babygirl. You think you can give me a lift to the shelter? It’s a few blocks away and it’s been raining all day and my shoes are soaked.”

I think about it and I got rained on all day at work at the plant nursery. It was cold and muggy at the same time. Like I was shivering but also sweating.

I say, “yeah sure.”

We walk to my car and he tells me his name is Red. I remember that we’ve actually met on that street before. He remembers me, which is incredible because he was really drunk. He asks how my friend is doing. I say she’s fine. Red tells me that I have a good handshake and that a girl needs a good handshake because if a guy shakes a girl’s hand and it’s firm, he knows that she ain’t scared of shit. I like that logic. He asks where my man is at and tells me I’m fine-as-hell, as if I’m expecting to be complimented or something. As if we are role playing. Surely, he doesn’t think that about me. I’m in old pants and a flannel. I make something up. He doesn’t press me about it. He tells me that he used to believe in angels but he doesn’t anymore, and I’m not sure what he’s getting at. He says he has a really good personality and I agree with him. We drive a few blocks away to the shelter and get his bike out of my car and tell each other to be careful.

I don’t know what to do, so I go back to the first bar. She’s still there with her friends, but now they’re out on the back porch. They seem different now, though. More drunk and careless. They are having a lot of fun.

I’m thinking of you again, though. Thinking of all the things you used to call me. I’ve never really liked pet names. I’ve never felt sweet enough for them. I’ve never felt good. I think you have to feel good sometimes to be able to be spoken to like that, like you need to deserve it. I’m floating away in my head by now. I feel indiscernible. I remember you calling me Babygirl because it pissed me off. You only called me that when you were being condescending in a joking way, when you were making fun of me for being too moody and taking everything too seriously.

I would be lying face-down on the couch, frozen, thinking about whether or not I was ever going to be able to make enough money to support myself and you and the kids I thought we’d have.

You’d look at me with a mug of tea in your hand and say, “oooo babygirrrrrrrl, Do you need me to put on the Rhye album???” And it would annoy me at first, but I’d laugh, because I know you are right in your sentiment. And I’d say yes, please. And you’d either lie with me or go into the other room, or sometimes do yoga where I could watch you. Your long arms stretching and your muscles rolling. I liked watching you live. It felt normalizing to watch you, unworried, unaffected by the issues I carry internally. Your life seems to roll out before you. I’d think ooo babygirl. How do you do it?

You were always in the real world.

I never am. I never was.

I leave the bar again and walk around the street for a while. It’s getting later and quiet. Almost every car that passes me is an Uber on its way to or from Beale Street. They are full of people living and sitting in each other’s laps. Like they just have so many friends that they couldn’t fit them all into the one car, so they just piled on top of each other. I hope the Uber drivers make tons of money. I hope they’re all extroverts, I think to myself.

I resolve to go home and accept that the night is now over for me. It felt like a ticking clock anyway. It’s a short drive home. Opening the door, I see my dog waiting for me in my one-bedroom apartment that I cleaned before I left.

I don’t know, I had thought before I left, what if something crazy happens?

 I lay face-down on the couch and grab my dog’s head and bring it close to mine, kiss her, saying babygirl babygirl.

Scout Kelly studied Creative Writing at University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Published work can be found online at Babesoda and in print in Paddleshots 2: A River Pretty Anthology alongside Robert Vivian and Richard Jackson, and also in Spy Kids Review Issue 1. They live in Memphis, TN.

Thaddeus Rutkowski

Sights and Sounds

My father took me to visit a friend of his. “I met him at the bar,” my father told me during the ride there. “He has his head on straight, not like the rest of the people around here.”

The man lived in a small house next to a farm—the house had a tarpaper roof and imitation-wood shingles. When we got inside, my father and his new friend had some drinks. Then the man took us down to his basement—a space with a low ceiling and a coal furnace. The only light came from an incandescent bulb hanging from a wire. The man led us to a corner, which had been sectioned off with wood planks. A large pig—a hog—stood in the enclosure with its hindquarters to us. The animal must have weighed a couple of hundred pounds. The pig couldn’t walk around in its pen—its bulk filled the enclosure—but it could lie on straw on the cement floor. 

I noticed there wasn’t much smell. Either the straw had been changed recently, or this was a clean pig.

“What are you going to do with it?” my father asked.

“When it gets big enough, we’ll show it at the county fair,” the friend said. “This is a prize hog. Maybe it will win a ribbon.”


In the evening, my father took my family to a classical music concert at the state university. We rode in his car to an auditorium about twenty miles away. The auditorium was in a gymnasium—the stage was raised above the floor, and chairs were aligned on the basketball court. 

The orchestra featured a harpist; she was the musician I focused on. She was wearing a long gown, and her shoulders were bare. I looked for her in the program, found her name and tried to remember it. 

The concert meant little to me. The music was pleasant enough, but the musicians didn’t do anything except sit and play. The motion of the conductor’s hands and arms didn’t hold my interest. I couldn’t tell what was coming next—I didn’t know the score—but nothing new ever came next. It was always more of the same, just at a louder or softer volume.

I watched the harpist throughout the concert. I knew her name.


During the day, I watched a parade with my brother and sister from the grass next to our house. There was a rise in the lawn next to the street, and the incline made a good seat. Trucks and emergency vehicles from nearby fire stations rolled by. On some of the vehicles were beauty queens, who waved as they passed. Between the fire engines, school bands with baton twirlers marched. The majorettes kicked up their skirts with their knees as they came.

Near the end of the parade, I saw the hog from the basement we’d visited. The animal was riding in the back of a pickup truck, and my father’s friend was driving. The hog still couldn’t move around much, but it could look out over the sideboard. The man waved, and the hog made eye contact with me, as if it, too, remembered our meeting.


I heard my father listening to music on his stereo system. I pictured him drinking beer and smoking tobacco. I was sure he didn’t want to be disturbed, so I avoided him.

After a while, he stopped playing records and walked out of the house. At that point, I went for the stereo. The system had an amplifier powered by vacuum tubes, and when I turned the device on, I could see the tubes warming up in the metal box. In their hot state, the tubes glowed orange. The amplifier put out a lot of wattage, and the sound was powerful. Each speaker stood about three feet high. When I turned the volume knob past halfway, the sound was ear-splitting. That was the way I liked it.

I couldn’t find any harp music, and I didn’t want classical music. So I shut the door to the room and listened to rock music—the harder the better. I put on a British electric-guitar band. I knew my mother was in the next room, but I was rude. 

When my mother came through the door, she didn’t say anything. 

I turned down the volume, and she stood there in her apron, looking at me. “When they sing, I can’t understand the words,” she said. “My English isn’t that good. I can tell they’re angry, but I don’t know what they’re angry about.”


On a weekend, my father took my siblings and me to a hog-slaughtering party. When we arrived at a nearby farm, the killing had already taken place, but the butchering—the cutting and trimming—was still going on. A number of people filled the barn, where various animal parts were being prepared. There were slabs—steaks—and there was ground meat. I noticed three hogs’ heads resting on a plank. They had been shot through the top of the skull. I guessed that was the quickest method of execution, humane in some way. I didn’t see the face of the prize hog that belonged to my father’s friend.

My brother and sister and I walked around, surrounded by potential food. The place didn’t smell good at first—it smelled of blood and lard. Then I got used to the stench, and it started to smell good.


Late at night, I could hear my father listening to classical music—a piece I didn’t recognize. I pictured him slowed from drink, with his eyes half-closed. He would stay in this state for a long time, maybe all night. Then, not having slept, he would “get up” for the day.

I also couldn’t sleep. I looked at the mechanical clock on the table next to my bed. I calculated the hours I would sleep, if I ever did fall asleep. The ticking clock showed 11 p.m. If I got up at 6 a.m., I would have seven hours of sleep. That would be enough; I would get through the day without feeling tired. I lay listening to the music from downstairs. It had become louder—my father had switched to blues sung by a woman, a gospel singer. 

My mother came into the room and saw that I was awake. “Some people slept all the time where I grew up,” she said. “That’s because they were smoking opium. They lived in dens and got very thin. You shouldn’t try that.”

I didn’t want to try it, but nevertheless I couldn’t relax. When I next looked at the clock, it was 1 a.m. That would leave me five hours of sleep. I started counting in my head, “one, two, three … ” The idea was to think about nothing.

But it was hard to focus on the numbers. How far had I gotten? Was I in the one hundreds or the two hundreds? I couldn’t remember. I was thinking about the baton twirlers and the harp player, the one whose name I knew. I started counting again. In about an hour, I had reached the number 1,000. I was more wakeful than ever. I got out of bed and walked around my room, still counting in my head. I lay down again. The clock showed 3 in the morning. I kept counting.


Thaddeus Rutkowski is the author of the books Guess and Check, Violent Outbursts, Haywire, Tetched and Roughhouse. Haywire won the Members’ Choice award, given by the Asian American Writers Workshop. He teaches at Medgar Evers College and the Writer's Voice of the West Side YMCA in New York. He received a fiction writing fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts.

Mandy Petit

Straight Lines

There is a regular space that I come to meet a friend. Feels sometimes it's high above the world. It's just the first floor of this chocolate cafe in the Royal Arcade. But when the quiet gets so quiet that your vision makes up for your ears, zooming in and out and adjusting focus like a Smartphone cam, a kind of vertigo kicks in. And the people on the chequered tiles below all become insects. Sometimes she asks me what I'm thinking of if I zone out. I usually stay vague and light. But there are times when I look down from a height and remember this.

I walked the perimeter of a nine storey hotel once in London, forgot the ground even existed. I can't remember how I got up there, but the edge had a soft flamingo pink shade to it. Probably from the neon signs lining Gloucester Rd. Sam had just died and Lisa went missing, I went for broke and started the night with two lines of speed, one of coke and a couple of long gulps from a bottle of shitty tequila. I'd stolen these party supplements from the house of a guy called Clint J his dad was big on Westerns. The Jack the Ripper bus tour I was on was a fucking joke so I had ditched it and headed over to some dive bar I found in Kentishtown the night I went to see Killing Joke.

Clint was easy enough to get along with J which is the general trend when someone looks as lit as you're hoping to be. I made mention of a particular Smiths song to him, he didn't say anything back J just kept gawking with dilated pupils. And then decided to express his shared love for the band by going for my belt, dropping under the pool table, and taking me in his mouth. All while dancing in a crossed legged position. His technique was appalling, but the gyrations somehow got me there. After he surfaced he invited me back to his place "I need another pair of hands for an art project." For about 3 hours and 15 minutes I wound up being far more meticulous than I expected to be. Taking shots of this couple hurling paint, feather boas and these lumps of dried up cow shit he’d been collecting, at one another J on an inflatable mattress in a concrete courtyard. Making every picture count with a disposable camera.

He'd laced a rolly for me and shit took a sudden turn for the sexy. I didn't even question the validity of the project. I’d gone to a Francis Bacon exhibition that week, so I was spewing Hollywood agent love all over Clint about how worthy he was to share those walls of the gallery J all while he attempted to make his girlfriend squirt using only the handle of a spatula. Click, wind, click, wind, click...

I woke up in his garden, did a walk of shame from Soho to South Kensington. Back at the hotel, that night was when I tested my acrobatic skills on the rooftop.

Two days later the concierge called me and wanted to confirm a possible error with my account with the hotel.

"What error?" I asked.

"Ah yes, sir, it would seem that there is an expenditure of £185, used primarily for the viewing of in-house pornographic material".

"........" I said.

"........" he said.



"Do you know how this could've occurred?"

I had no way of denying nor remembering this. Shit. Mini bar was empty. That was going to cost me too. He could hear me rifling through the fridge and cupboard. "Mr Petit? Do you ...."

"AH FUCK!" Ah ahhh ah J " the phone cradle hit the floor and the vibration was enough to end the call. I lay next to the receiver, clutching my cock, which I'd just jammed in the pringles and peanuts drawer.

(Note to self: Do not open/shut waist high doors or drawers while naked.)

It was 1 in the afternoon when two young housekeepers arrived, I heard them knock, I heard them enter, but I was glued to the bed by a come down. "Are you serious? Woon hoondred en' airty five pounds? Ee moost be righ' loon – leh." Then they saw me half wrapped in the bed sheet. Just my upper half. The best I could do was barely roll over and grumble while they apologised and scrambled. 

That afternoon I received another call from the concierge.

"Good afternoon Mr Petit, admittedly I was slightly perturbed by the abrupt termination of our conversation earlier. I do hope you are improved?" I couldn't tell whether he was asking or demanding, so he could launch into debt collecting.

"It's okay you don't need to be so formal – you guys are only 3 stars anyway". And then he did.

"BE. THAT. AS. IT. MAY...." and I can't remember the rest. I just did what any rational full-grown man would do. I bawled my eyes out.

I screeched and gurgled and wailed until he was made so uncomfortable he had to start trying to gently shush me down the telephone. "Things are just really bad. I don't know where to begin", which was immediately followed by me talking in detail about the failing digestive functions and subsequent clean up of my non-existent, terminally ill dog. He actually purred "there there" at one point.

"Let's talk about this another time shall we?" he said.

"But David Bowie Junior (yes my fake dog was called David Bowie Junior) only has 5 days" I sobbed. Why the fuck he bought this story while I was staying in a hotel instead of with my dying dog is beyond me.

"I mean the little implication of these adult entertainment fees,” he said.

"What are the fees?" I squealed, making certain I hit the highest note I could on the last syllable.

"I uh, I have some other matter to address Mr Petit. I must, uh, cheerio."

The do not disturb sign had been on the door of my room for 6 days, the place was filthy and I had never felt more like a Hunter S. Thompson wannabe in my life. I was about to go to a record store in the seven dials and then head back to check out from the hotel. I was standing by the entrance when I heard the two house keepers coming up the hallway.

"Geoff said he found security footage of him on the roof."

"What was he doin' up der?"

“I think he’s not all together, you know what I mean?”

Then they saw me, clothed this time, and became silent but still managed a polite nod.

When I got downstairs the concierge discreetly called me aside, told me that the porn charge was "lacking credibility and I would be reimbursed". He then whispered "Look, I know it's not my place to pry but I feel it would be remiss of me if I didn't pass this on." He scribbled down a number on a pad, tore it off and handed it to me. Above the number he had written 'London & District Distress Centre', which was basically a suicide support line. I took some time to soak up the gorgeous curls of his ampersand. And then gazing upward, saw that his name badge read 'Geoffrey'.

Miles up in the plane, looking down at the tiny cities I've never visited, I get to thinking about Sam. Sam without filters, Sam who had two speed settings of asleep or Rocky Horror dance anthem. Sam who convinced us to steal fishing line, glow in the dark stars and condoms so we could make "galaxy lanterns" and hang them from the ceiling and make wishes while we fucked. Along with the journals that he threw out the window, there were a bunch of love letters he never sent me. His auntie said she had collected them from the police after it had been ruled a suicide. She felt it was important that I knew how he really felt, because "he always would jump for the joke before the truth". Then we both got really quiet from hearing that word 'jump'. He had fallen from his apartment window. There was nothing else to it. And I looked down at my shoes for the longest time.

Almost as long as it feels I've looked out from this first floor cafe window.

Then Amanda arrives. "Heeeyyy, how you doin'?" she asks after reaching the top of the stairs and finding me in my usual chair. "Yeah alright", and I smile back – never too sure what I mean by it these days.

Mandy Petit is a grand lord of dabbling. Master of getting his hands dirty amidst the many wonderful, creative outlets that Melbourne, Australia provides. He's a writer, musician, composer, DJ, actor, spoken word performer - which he does all from horseback, while stunt car driving, firing a bow and arrow and preparing signature dishes for cooking show auditions. Apparently the Renaissance found steroids. (Quietly though) He's actually kinda self conscious and often hides behind humour and massive claims to avoid existential crises and heartbreak.... DEATH TO TOXIC MASCULINITYYYYYY!!!!!

T. Guzman

Crimson & Clover

The neighbors are having sex in their backyard. They have a high fence, but we live on the second floor. It’s noon, so maybe they expect us to be at work, to be gone, but we’re here. They’re having sex. I’m in a black suit watching, waiting for the funeral to start.

 “They’re really going at it,” my wife says, touching me on the shoulder. Her eyes are puffy. Her touch is gentle—a slight pressure that says she’s right behind me, she’s here, she’s sorry. She has nothing to be sorry for, but she is sorry. Everyone is sorry. You’d be an asshole if you weren’t. 

It’s an everyone-is-sorry-for-your-loss kinda day.

The man outside flips the woman so that she’s on top. Her back arches as she ascends, her hair flipping back like straight lines leading everywhere before falling, almost in slow motion to the cleft of her back like some shampoo commercial. It all looks staged—a trick of lighting, of camera angles—but it all feels real, sexy. And for a moment, I’m embarrassed to be watching as if I’m intruding on something personal and intimate which seems odd cause isn’t sex always personal, intimate.


My phone buzzes and vibrates in my pocket. I step away and leave my wife to the watching. It’s my brother texting.

“You picking up the sandwich tray?”

“Yea” I text.

And the phone stills, and I’m sure there won’t be any more texts cause when I was ten and my brother was six I threw a black walnut right into his face and broke his nose, and cause when he was eight and I was twelve, he threw a rock at my head and gave me three stitches along the side of my temple. That’s the sort of relationship we have. We love each other in that way that causes violence and mistrust and jealousy and distance.


This time I place my hand on my wife’s shoulder, and she lays her hand over mine, and we watch as they move back into position like something out of yoga.

I don’t know if I’ve ever had sex like that. It’s not that I’m bad at sex, which I know is the first thing someone who is bad at sex would say. It’s just that I don’t think I’m particularly talented. But then who is? Out of the sexing population I’m sure there’re only so many truly gifted rompers, and that it means that most of us, by numbers alone, must be average. It’s not like everyone behind closed doors can be Sting having hour long tantric orgasms. I’d probably need a breather midway through, maybe an orange slice.

“Maybe, I should take notes?” I say.

My wife laughs. It’s a good laugh, light and free, and every part of me wants to feed on that laugh, take it to wherever it goes. 

“Maybe I should, too. Damn,” she says, and we both laugh this time, but it’s not the same laugh. It’s like when you’ve seen a movie too many times, and what you’re laughing at isn’t the jokes anymore, but the memory of jokes already told, living in the comfort of reminiscence.  


My wife’s wearing a black dress. She looks good, great really. It’s a shame cause she won’t wear that dress again, out of respect, but she looks good, and part of me is turned on, thinking of her not wearing that black dress, and part of me is sad. 

“Do you think they know?” I say, pressing my hand to the window. My breath is fogging up the glass. I’m feeling like a full on perv. “You know that we’re watching.”

She says I don’t know; she says maybe; she puts her arm around me, lays her head in the crook of my shoulder in a side embrace. It’s come this far, I think, her sorry, this embrace of condolence, us standing here at our apartment window, such voyeurs. 

“I mean, it’s a Monday, so maybe they think we’re at work.”

She sighs. I can feel it reverberate through my chest. It’s warm that sigh. It feels good.

“Well… sometimes it’s Saturdays, too.” 

“Really?” I say, and I’m honestly curious. 

Her arm, the one embracing me, is doing little circles, trails of figure eights. Circles of support, of care.


“And you watch?” and I’m imagining her rising in the morning her hair tangled and lopsided, brushing her hair—voluminous like it’s floating over her, framing her soft features—walking to the kitchen, making mint tea cause she can’t stand coffee, making eggs, making toast, eating a banana as she waits as she does every day, watching out the window. I’m getting hard thinking about her dress again, crumpled and pushed to side on the floor. “I mean sometimes,” I say, trying to make sure there isn’t any accusation in my voice.  

She shrugs, and that’s enough of an answer.

And I want to nod in agreement, and do so much more. Be Sting, living inside hour long orgasms in Zen like trances, but my phone buzzes again. It’s my brother.

“You picking up the sandwich tray?”

“Yea,” I text.

“Oh sorry,” he texts back near instantaneously, probably never having seen my reply “just saw I already texted you about that.”


T. Guzman writes, plays guitar, and does things in general. Hangs his Philosophy degree from the fridge with a magnet shaped liked the state of Missouri. Tweets @t_guzman.