Be Nice, She Said

Be nice, she said

screamed, 

flailing, pushing

Hands flat, open, extended

In avoidance

Wondering why
He didn’t come closer. 

Be nice, she said

Cried as she brought up

imaginary, claimed forgotten

Perceived slights

From a year and a lifetime ago.  

Which never were,

But damned if she won’t use them

As an excuse to bury herself

In the dirt of hurt

Than she’s planted and tended

On her own 

Better than any lover. 

Be nice, she said

Hid behind her own 

Insecurity

Asking for kindness

Despite, undeserved,

Unreserved 

That she begs for

Without words. 

Warmth 

In her ice. 

Forgiveness

From her homicide

And her crucifixion 

To her own cross 

I can’t be nice, she said. 

I forget. 

I locked it away. 

Lost. 

Be nice, she said. 

Forget with me. 

Help me remember. 

Be nice. 

Malina and Grizella

For the two incredible women who walked with me through this year.

This is the introduction to Malina and Grizella, the warriors of my imagination.

 

Photography by the author.

Malina was still curled into herself and asleep when smelled the smoke. Her legs started moving before her mind did. There had been fires here before: cigarettes, an iron, and once a disturbed Iranian girl who simply loved the red glow of a client’s gold zippo and what it could do. That damaged girl and her tender scars had also briefly slept on Malina’s couch. She remembered all this before her head left the pillow and her legs started to process the motor action needed to run away. When she smelled the clove beneath the smoke, her body stopped and her eyes opened. The woman and her dark cigarette stood in Malina’s doorway.

“Out in the hallway. Don’t wake her,” Grizella said.

The smoking taskmaster finished her order and then she shut the door. Malina closed her eyes and let her body return to its automatic muscle responses that would get her out of bed and then out the door; let her body face what her brain would ignore. Her arms functioned on instinct to pull on a robe. They weren’t supposed to be in the halls in their underwear.

Grizella had placed herself, all six feet of her pipe-thin frame, only inches outside the door. Malina had to flatten herself, back against the door, to pass through. Grizella wasn’t about to move or make anyone else’s life easier.

“How much?” Grizzled asked, staring down at her. Grizella’s eyes were red and there was a scratch on her forehead. The make-up didn’t mask everything. “How much?” Grizella demanded.

Malina’s mind flipped through the meaning or possibly the translation of this. It wasn’t money. As a legal maneuver, years ago they started sending someone to meet the men outside the rooms. The girls never actually touched the cash or even witnessed the exchanges. So, it wasn’t money.

“How much what?” Malina asked.

“All you girls here, you think I don’t know things?”

The drugs. Malina crossed her arms over her chest, trying to fold herself deeper into her robe. She tried to forge a map in her mind – where her pills were in her purse, how to get to them and then get rid of them in the fastest, most direct route. She’d never make it.

Grizella did not like drugs. Selling them was fine. That was an acceptable income diversification. She usually kept a stash for clients who paid well and wanted an enhanced experience. Clients, of course, sometimes enjoyed them free of charge as her hospitable gift. Her girls doing drugs was different. She didn’t give a shit about the lives than could be wrecked. It was a matter of commerce. Drugs ruined faces, they ruined bodies, they ruined things that would need to be replaced. These men were really only kids, after all, and no kid wants to play with a broken toy. Buying new toys cost money. The other women didn’t know this. Grizella didn’t want them to know anything she thought or felt. But Malina knew. As she knew Grizella didn’t like it, but would tolerate it among most of the girls, but not Malina. Never Malina. She had promised.

“How much what, Grizella?”

And with that, the woman’s needle of an index finger jabbed through the flaps of Malina’s robe and into her stomach. Malina was more shocked at the motion itself than the unexpected pain it caused. She flinched and backed away from the stick of a finger.

“Baby. What do you think? How much baby?”

She knew, Malina thought. Of course she knew. She knew everything.
“I’m not sure,” Malina said.

“Not much yet,” Grizella said. “I already have an appointment. The Jew doctor. Day after tomorrow. To fix this.”

Malina nodded.

“I’ve never had a girl get pregnant as easy as you. All the time. I’ve lost count.”

Malina opened her mouth to apologize. Like she always did. But she stopped. She said nothing, and only curled deeper into her robe, cinching the belt at her waist.

“Just like your mother. All the time. Another baby. Your cipki taking one thing in or pushing another thing out every day,” Grizella said.
Malina stared at the tall Polish skeleton in front of her. The nose on that face, long and equine, was the same one Malina tried to hide on her own face. He mother had hated that same nose as well. Malina turned to escape back into her bed and the tin in the bottom of her purse.

“Nie.”

Malina stopped.

“I’ll give you two days after. Two days to stop bleeding. Two days to stop the drugs. After three days, if you are not fixed, all fixed, Abraham will take you away in the van.” Grizella blinked when she said his name. No one else would have seen. Malina did.

Malina didn’t remember the cigarette being held out to her. But her eyes were stinging from the strong smoke, as Grizella held it to Malina’s mouth, the moist tip soft and wet against her lips. Malina knew this woman and she wanted to forget her. She didn’t think or feel, but inhaled, held the smoke in her lungs, and let it seep out her nose. She just wanted to taste the smoke.

“But maybe, almost time for you to leave here anyway. Not so good to be the oldest apple left in the store, Teckla. You rot. Then, you’re only good for the rats in the alley.”

Teckla. She hadn’t heard that name spoken in a long time. Her old name. From her old life. Her dead life. Like the one she was walking through today.

The above is an excerpt from my debut novel Drowning Above Water. It is available now at Amazon in paperback and Kindle, and at independent bookstores throughout Pittsburgh. 

Not Hers

Trying to be her.

 

Not Hers

 

These aren’t hers.

 

Hers had shiny icing

and soft, tawny edges,

 

Not sandy sugar covering

and black, ashed bottoms.

 

Mine barely fill a plate.

She had enough to reach across

her kitchen.

 

Where she raised a girl

to do the same

in hers.

 

Who did the same with

her girl.

 

Who didn’t.

 

What did she think?

 

Of my clothes.

And my tattoo.

My degree.

And my divorce.

My lost faith.

And my dark roots?

 

My home

that’s warm

and decorated

and has been host

to a mouse and a

maggot

and that’s not

the men?

 

 

 

 

Did she want more?

For me?

From me?

For her?

For not her?

 

She painted her long

slender legs

and I can’t be bothered

to zip my un-slim legs

into pants.

 

She raised a salutatorian

and a Christmas dinner

maker.

A sender

of beautiful cards

and thoughtful

messages.

 

A volunteer.

A nurse.

A giver of time

and compassion.

Even when she doesn’t want

 

She raised a woman

who knew how to love.

Til death do us part.

Even though

she had to be both

halves of a

separate whole.

 

How can I measure?

I can’t even

measure.

Not hers. Mine.

Does she know?

 

Does the one she raised know?

 

How proud I am

to be hers

and hers.

 

And how I want them to

be mine.

 

But I’m green

To their red.

 

I’m wispy air

To their solid earth.

 

Indulgent sugar

to their austere,

pragmatic

flour.

 

I want to be hers.

 

Both.

 

But I’m not.

 

I’m mine.

 

My make-believe, my stories.

My comic-book kid

And my pancakes for dinner.

 

My city stays

and all-black.

My sulking and silence

My burned edges.

 

But my soft parts.

My strong parts,

the leading and

supporting

and surviving parts.

The loving parts.

The believing parts.

The good parts.

The her parts.

The their parts.

 

The parts I have

of them,

to remember

to never forget.

No matter how I try.

 

Not hers.

 

Or hers.

 

Ours.

My new book Drowning Above Water is available to read with holidays cookies. Yours and hers. Amazon Kindle and paperback. 

I See Me

I See Me

 

I don’t like to see me.

 

I remember nights of towels

to catch,

blankets

to cover

over mirrors

so I couldn’t.

Catch.

A glimpse was too much.

 

Not the body.

Not the deeper.

I couldn’t see.

 

Loving someone makes

us see.

Us.

Not them.

Me.

The beauty of

the ugly.

What we look past

In our own selves.

To them, visible, a

downy, perfected smooth

under a touch,

when all we see,

feel,

know,

are the raised ridges of the scars

 

If I was looking,

they were looking,

each other in the eyes,

of the same height.

 

I could stand

the emotional

discrepancy.

 

But when the physical difference

is a matter of inches

and the year displacement

is thirty,

 

and it’s your own child,

 

at once

you don’t see your faults

Flaws

Mis-steps

Fuck ups,

 

because they’re not

exclusively yours now.

 

They’re shared in miniature,

not as boulder-ous,

overwhelming,

monstrous,

as yours.

 

But they’re still yours.

And now.

They’re his.

 

He has your eyes.

Your dance.

Your heart

 

And you see

what the

ones who looked in your eyes,

at your height,

saw..

 

Your insecurity.

Your give up at a glance.

Your blame and accuse.

Your drive to be

without

because trying

again

Is too hard.

 

Yours.

Now his.

And you can’t take them back.

 

He yells and stomps like you.

He hurts.

With the pain you know.

Both.

 

I see me,

in him.

I did that.

That’s what I’m meant,

forced,  to see.

 

He sees me,

And knows.

 

I don’t want him to know that.

 

I don’t want him to see.

 

But he sees me.

 

I see me.

 

I want him

to see.

Better.

 

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

New horror fiction. 147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 7

 

Chapter 7

It was so hot. The blankets from their bed around her felt like a heavy shroud.  Asphyxiating like the vest they drape over torsos during an x-ray. The wool was oppressive and binding. She could feel the sweat pooling between her breasts. Her shirt was soaked. Her hair was wet from the nape of her neck to the crown of her head. The room was bright and sharp and stinging light shot in through the curtains. She squinted, and she could feel a bead of sweat trail down her curled nose and forehead.

“Baby,” Shawn whispered. Carolyn opened her eyes, but they were leaden. Her eyelids drooped, leaving her eyes open just a sliver against the burning light. “Can you try to drink something?” She felt the bed shift when he sat down beside her. She pushed the blankets down to her stomach. It felt like she was trying to dig her hands through wet sand. Shawn’s hands brushed against her as he helped wrangle the covers.

“Here,” he said. She felt his hand behind her and he helped her get into a sitting position. More of a leaning, tired position. He handed her a glass. It was cold. It felt wonderful. Instead of drinking it, she held it next to her face. “Try to drink,” he said. “You haven’t had anything all day.”

“My legs hurt,” she said. Let her try to hold the glass on her own. She managed, although it did clink against her teeth each time she raised it to her mouth. He wrapped his hands around her calves and rubbed, them. She grimaced, the glass wobbling in her hand.

“Steady on,” he said, taking the glass from her.

She curled her knees to her chest. “My stomach hurts. Like something is squeezing me. Twisting my insides. Ugh,” she groaned.

“Baby,” Shawn said. “We need to take care of you.”

“No, I just need to sleep. And my deductible is too high.”

“It’s almost bedtime. You’ve slept all day.”

“What? Shit, I have to…work,” she said, trying to roll over in the bed. She flopped to her original positon on her back, out of strength.

“No,” he said, putting the glass of water on the bedside table and softy keeping her in bed. “No work. Dae texted this morning. You texted back.”

“Wha…” Carolyn said, trailing off into her pillow. “I don’t remember.” She pulled the blankets up to her chin, despite the rising temperature around her. “Just…want…”

Shawn kissed her forehead. “Sleep. I’ll see you in the morning, love.”

 

 

Two hours later, Shawn was sitting on the edge of the chair in the hospital room. Carolyn was on the bed, curled into a fetal position. Neither of them spoke. Shawn, usually so eager to touch her, to heal and relieve with his good hands, kept still, his fingers curled around each other in his lap. A man in tight-fitting scrubs, with tattoos down past both elbows, walked into the room. Shawn stood. Carolyn didn’t stir.

“I’m Dr. Curtis,” the man said. Shawn extended his hand and the doctor quickly shook it, but his eyes focused on Carolyn in the bed. “How you doing?”

“Been better,” Carolyn said quietly.

“Here’s where we are,” Dr. Curtis said. “You’re running a fever, but the blood work shows no real signs of infection. I’ll be honest, I don’t like it. So, I’d like to get you in for a CT scan of that belly. See what’s going on. Okay?”

“Do you have any idea what’s-“ Carolyn started. The doctor stopped her.

“I really wouldn’t want to guess until we know more. Can I get you anything?”

Shawn looked at Carolyn. She waved them both off with her hand.

“All right. I’ll be back,” the doctor said and he left the room.

Shawn paced back and forth across the small room. He turned quickly, sending a bin of tongue depressors and long cotton swabs onto the floor. The echo of the metal crashed reverberated in the small room.

“Please sit down,” she said.

He knelt down to gather up the scattered debris. He looked to the trash, and looked at the bin on the wheeled-cart, but her wasn’t sure where to put his handful. Frustrated, he dropped them all on the counter next to the sink. From the bed, Carolyn shifted her hips and released a muffled groan. Shawn left his pile and sat next to her on the bed. She grabbed his hand.

“We’ll figure it out. Figure it all out,” he said. He loosened his hand from hers and then took her hand in both of his. He cradled it like an egg. Supporting her hand in his, he massaged her wrist; circles of light pressure then a firm downward force with his thumb. He slowly moved his hands up her arm, then to her shoulder. Her breathing slowed. The tightness and the tension in her face relaxed by a degree. He moved his hand to the side of her ribs. Not reaching for her breasts; this was a healing touch, not a sexual one. He curved his hand into the space between her ribs and her waist, and then back to her rib. He gave firm pressure to a tip of a middle rib.

“This should help,” he whispered to her.

“Why does it hurt so much?” she said. “There’s something wrong. Something really wrong. I’m scared.”

“Shh. Don’t talk like that. We’ll find out what this is. Have you right as rain. You’ll see.”

The end of a gurney pushed into the room with a clank or metal and the squeak of old wheels.

“Carolyn Janus? Birthday 07/22/1988?” the woman in bleached-white scrubs pushing the gurney asked.

Shawn nodded.

“Ok. We’re going upstairs to CT.”

“Should I…?” Shawn asked.

“No. You stay here. I’ll keep her safe. I promise.” The woman helped Carolyn shift from the bed to the gurney. Carolyn bit her lip and stifled a moan. The woman slammed the side rail of the gurney up into place.

“Get her right back to you,” the woman said, backing the gurney out of the room.

Out in the hall, the woman smiled as she pushed the patient on her stretcher. Carolyn could barely see the woman who was moving her down the hall. She looked above her at the woman in white. There was a tag hung around her neck. There were bright red letters, but the name that was stamped in the middle under a picture kept blurring out of focus.

“Remember me?” she asked.

Carolyn couldn’t think. It was the woman. From the bar. Pam. That was it. Nun’s name. With the drink. And the phone.

“Don’t worry, honey,” Pam said. “Like I told him. I’ll keep you safe. Both of you.”

 

 

Her head pounded. It hurt so much. Carolyn stood against the window of the hospital room and leaned her head against the pane. She wished for winter, but the glass was warm.

“Why can’t we just leave? she asked. It wasn’t the first time she had said that in the last hour. This time no one was there to hear. Shawn had gone to get her an herbal tea. She hated herbal tea–in this moment, more than usual. She wanted a glass of white wine so cold that glass had frost. No. Not a glass of white wine. She wanted a bottle. And she couldn’t remember a time in her life when she had ever wanted white wine.

A nurse came in the room, pushing a computer on a wheeled-stand. At least Carolyn guessed she was a nurse. The woman in the navy scrubs never said.

“Marilyn?” the woman asked.

“Carolyn.”

“Oh,” the woman said, starring into the computer screen. “Were you in a different room?”

Carolyn shook her head. Jesus. She would seriously kick this computer and its pusher down a flight of stairs for that wine.

“This place,” the maybe-nurse said, sighing and taking a huge slug out of travel mug that sat on the small ledge wrapped around the front of the monitor. The mug was orange and as big as the computer screen. The woman slurped down the coffee as she clicked, somehow all while staring out the room’s window. “Oh, no, here it is. Ok. Doctor signed off on your discharge. Go ahead and change and I’ll print out your papers.”

“Is anybody going to tell me what’s wrong?”

“He didn’t come talk to you?”

“No,” Carolyn said.

The woman sighed louder and swallowed another mouthful from her mug. “There is it. Follow up visit in two weeks. Number will be on the papers.”

“But-” Carolyn growled.

“If there was anything, it would be in here. But it’s not. So, I’m sure you’re fine.”

“Sure. Cause I feel fucking fine.”

“Your papers will be at the desk,” the woman said, pushing her computer out of the room.

Carolyn flung up her middle finger at the empty doorway. She yanked off the hospital gown, and walked over to the tiny plastic closet in the corner, wearing only her underwear. The elastic band adhered to the sweat on her back.

Shawn stepped into the doorway, holding her tea and wearing an eager, sympathetic smile.

“What did they say?” he asked.

The steam rose through the hole on the plastic cover of the drink. She imagined the liquid melting the cup, distorting it around Shawn’s hand. Hotter, and hotter and hotter, until the tea dissolved every molecule it touched, until there was redness, and pain and…

“Bloody hell,” Shawn yelled. He dropped the cup on the floor and the tea pooled by his feet, hot vapor rising like a mist. He stepped back and reflexively brought his hand to his mouth to cool it. “Don’t know why they serve it like that.”

He grabbed a handful of paper towel and bent to clean the mess.

“Leave it,” Carolyn said.

“No, I can’t. I’ve made a wreck of the place. Someone could fall or-“

“Take me home,” Carolyn said. “Now.”

(Alyssa Herron is the author of the new suspense novel Drowning Above Water. It is available at Amazon.)

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

My book Drowning  Above Water is out and lives at Amazon. It’s been a thrilling, terrifying, depression-inducing, anxiety-inflaming, relationship-testing, love-finding journey. I barely made it to the other side.

So of course, I’m considering with still-shaking hands what words are coming next.

There are two options: a collection of my poetry and spoken words pieces or the noir novel that won’t stop slinking around the shadows of my brain

But, it’s October, and that is Halloween and horror and magick and I have a scary story that needs told.

This is 147 E. 9th Street, a short story. I’ll be releasing it over the next few weeks right here. Come along.

 

147 E. 9th Street – Chapter 1

The woman moved in slow motion, steps and half-frames. She watched, in fractions of centimeters, the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger. She didn’t feel the blood surfacing above the skin. It seeped first in tiny, segmented pixel dots until they multiplied and then assembled into a line of red that crept to her wrist. Every time she turned her cheap key copy in the lock of her boyfriend’s apartment, she banged her knuckles. Every time. But she had never been in this much of a hurry. And yet somehow, she moved like she was stepping through a river full of silt. The key fell from the lock and crashed onto the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on the jumble of silver and gold metal. Curling her hands around the pile of dropped jagged edges, she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. He looked immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. He looked trapped in his own locked body. Finally, the door gave way and she pushed her way inside to him.

Her mind went blank. They had only been dating a few months, but it seemed a lifetime. It had come on hard and fast between them. She thought she had played it cool, making him wait until the third date to sleep with him–only to come flying into his bed seven hours and twenty minutes later. By the end of the second month, she’d met his mother and had a key to his place. She knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with him. But right now, she realized knew nothing about this man.

“Shawn. Shawn!” she yelled. He didn’t flinch. She dropped to her knees in front of him. His neck was extended back, his eyes not just looking to the ceiling but past it. His arms were fully extended, fingers gripped on the chair. She shook him. His body moved in one steel piece, not in any fleshy segments. His phone was on the floor by her knees. The screen was black. Dead. She ran to her bag, searching. She gave up and turned it upside down, crawling into the pile of purse debris.

“SHIT!” she screamed, skidding change and mints and a tampon across the floor as she flailed her arm. Somehow her wrist crashed down to her hip and she felt her own phone, jutting out of her back pocket.  It took her four tries with as many deletes, but she finally dialed 911, and someone on the other end of the phone started talking.

She didn’t remember saying anything in response to the words she heard. The phone was somewhere near her and she tried to listen. It was the strange, calm voice of a woman. It was telling to put her ear to his chest and listen for breathing. She couldn’t hear anything. The sound of her blood pounding in her ears was louder than the world. A tiny pair of wheezing lungs had no chance at being heard. She stopped listening and tried feeling. She put her hands on his chest. Breathing? Shuddering? Anything? The woman’s calm voice said more words. Where was she? His apartment. Where was his apartment? She wasn’t sure. She left him to run back to the front door. She couldn’t remember his apartment number. No, she didn’t know if he was epileptic. No, she didn’t know if he was diabetic. Or allergic to cilantro. No. she didn’t think he took drugs. Did she know? No. She just knew it looked like he was dying in front of her.

A voice called out. She leaned in to Shawn. He was immobile. His mouth was rigid, lips separated, back teeth clenched. The voice wasn’t his.

“Ma’am? You have to stay on the phone with me, okay?” It was her phone. In her hand.

“Yes, yes, It’s Shawn.”

“Okay, ma’am. What is wrong with him?”

“I don’t know. He’s breathing. I think. But he’s just lying there. He’s not moving.”

“Okay. We’ll get him help. But first, what’s your name ma’am?”

“What?”

“Who am I talking to? What’s your name, ma’am?”

She stared at Shawn. He hadn’t moved. Maybe he wasn’t breathing. “I don’t think he’s breathing. I looked closer and I don’t think he’s breathing. Oh my God.”

“Where are you?”

She had just looked and she still couldn’t remember. She had walked, taken a cab and usually the R train more times than she could count in the last weeks of her life. But she couldn’t remember his address. Where was she? She was just at the door. She scanned the room. There was mail on counter, spilling onto the stove. Half of it spilled to the floor when she reached. She hit her knees and pulled out a bill. Shawn Crown. 147 E. 9th Street.

“Shawn Crown. 147 East Ninth Street,” she almost screamed into the phone.

The voice interrupted her own cracking voice. “Okay, ma’am, I need you to check and see if he’s breathing. Can you get close to him? Is it safe?”

She stared at him. Safe. “Yes, he’s breathing.”

“Is he conscious? Can he hear you?”

“I don’t know,” she said.

The voice wouldn’t stop. “Is he taking any medication? Does he have a cardiac history? Does he have seizures? Illegal drugs? Has he been drinking?”

“Didn’t we just do this?” Maybe they hadn’t. Maybe she just thought they had. “I don’t know,” she said, her voice had finished cracking and started breaking.

“That’s fine. Just stay there with him. I’ll be on the phone until the ambulance arrives.”

Then the chair twitched and creaked. She put down the phone. Or dropped it. She grabbed onto the leather, needing to get closer to him but afraid to touch him.

Bent into jarring angles in the cushions, Shawn’s joints flexed and with a few subtle motions, he turned human again. His shoulder lowered and his head maintained its own support. His eyes had never been closed, but they had never seen. He blinked and looked at her.

Ayn zawjati? Mayar. Ayn zawjati?” He saw her. The girlfriend with the light brown hair standing in front of her. He may as well have been looking through a microscope at a petri dish of scabies. He studied, curious and searching, but found nothing of what he thought he would find.

“Shawn?” she asked. Because now, she really didn’t know. She heard knocking and the open door catch on the hall runner as the door was pushed to the limits of its hinges. She watched a man and a woman in baby-blue shirts and navy cargo pants kneel beside Shawn. She stepped back, out of the room. Their black boots left sprinkles of dirt on the floor. She’d have to sweep that later. Shawn hated when people wore shoes in the house.

The ambulance crew loaded him onto the tiny collapsing wheelchair, belting him in like a toddler in a booster seat. New York City meant transport chairs instead of stretchers. He didn’t say anything else, but kept his eyes open, staring around the room as if he had never been there before. The two in blue were fully upright, rattled words and observations back and forth, talking to each other as if no one else was in the room. They were jolting him out the door before one of them mentioned over their shoulder, that she could follow them if she wanted.

And then it was silent. Her purse laid on the floor, empty, with its inside bits strewn for yards. A plastic mint container had been crushed under a boot or a wheel and white powder dotted the floor like rained-out sidewalk chalk.  Something on the chair where Shawn had been trapped when she found him was wet. Her first and only thought was that she had to clean it.

 

(147 E. 9th Street will continue here soon. My novel Drowning Above Water is available now in paperback and kindle at Amazon.)

 

Her Smell

 

I put my Grandmother’s coats into my own closet today. They smelled like her. She’s been gone almost two months and they still smell like her. A high, elegant, womanly smell, proper perfume purchased at a proper fragrance counter. Not the hippie oil that I wear, haggled from some guy’s sidewalk table in the East Village. How can she be gone and her smell is still here? I expected to see her sounding the corner any second, likely telling me that I wasn’t hanging her coats correctly. I so wish she would have.

So much of emotion is tied to smells. Our sheets, our clothes, us. But our own smell is not that one that triggers the lust, the anger or the loneliness. It’s the scent that lingers when one that was there is now gone.

In Drowning Above Water, the main character Malina is surrounded by two major olfactory sensations.  Water, which follows her through her life. And smoke, which also trails her. I know that it’s like to have a smell haunt long after they are gone. So does she.

Drowning Above Water – an excerpt – Malina and Grizella

Malina didn’t remember the cigarette being held out to her. But her eyes were stinging from the strong smoke, as Grizella held it to Malina’s mouth, the moist tip soft and wet against her lips. Malina knew this woman and she wanted to forget her. She didn’t think or feel, but inhaled, held the smoke in her lungs, and let it seep out her nose. She just wanted to taste the smoke.

“But maybe, almost time for you to leave here anyway. Not so good to be the oldest apple left in the store, Teckla. You rot. Then, you’re only good for the rats in the alley.”

Teckla. She hadn’t heard that name spoken in a long time. Her old name. From her old life. Her dead life. Like the one she was walking through today.

Grizella took back the cigarette and walked up the hall, toward the elevator, toward the younger, better girls and their younger, better rooms. She stopped, knocked on a door, smiled and hugged the pretty one who opened it, and disappeared inside.

Malina stood alone in the hall. When she nuzzled her head against the collar of her robe, the smell of the smoke hit her eyes again and they watered. She did not cry. Instead, she turned to her own door, turned the knob and went inside.

 

Drowning Above Water is available and lingering at Amazon.