By Nicole Cater
Not quite a year ago I moved to Clinton. I had high expectations. Perhaps I would volunteer. Maybe I would join a club or two. The first few months were filled with painting, repairing, moving furniture and moving it again. Hanging pictures and all the minutiae that comes with the purchase of a house,
But then we settled in and all the routine things began to happen. Jeremy went to work. Sky went to school. And I… Well, some days I wrote. Some days I window shopped online. Some days I spent all day reading. I did make an attempt at volunteering. But I had to stop after the first day because they wanted to hand me a schedule and assign me tasks. Things that were like, you know, work, which I can’t do even if I wanted.
It turns out that was the only opportunity to volunteer. There were no others. There were no clubs either - social or otherwise. In Clinton, people made friends with the parents of the children involved in whatever activity their child is in. As of yet, there is no Gamers' Moms' Club. Unless you count me downstairs sewing yelling at Sky and all his gamer friends that, "By God, I am 40 years old and not afraid to take a single one over my knee if I so desire."
I do go to the Quad cities once or twice a month for doctor appointments, to see friends, to deal with business. Always to see my mom. I don’t have many friends in the Quad Cities. I’d like to think I have enough to make a fire chain to rescue me if I needed it. True, with my stops so brief, I don’t always get to see them. Sometimes I try, and even the best laid plans can get muddled. But I’m going to make a pledge, whether it’s a night out for drinks, dinner with the family, or your lunch break at work, I am going to see you.
But as noble as this sounds, Clinton is only 45 minutes away, and since my life is busy doing nothing, I can easily drop it and go visit. But what about the other way around? One friend visited on an errand. I don’t blame her for this as I have not issued a proper invitation. Nor do I have stools for our bar. Nor is our hot tub filled (dammit, Jeremy). Nor is there a grill for the men to grunt over (dammit again, Jeremy).
My mom has visited only once. She works a lot and is busy in the church and she knows I’ll come to her. And my best friend has visited a couple of times. Mostly to help get the house in habitable shape, but once just to visit.
And so I sit, so close to the QC I can drive it in 45 minutes. But rarely do I get a visitor. It’s a lonely existence, knowing this is where I live, so close to where my friends are. And yet I have not a single friend here. I sit, day after day, completely alone, trying to figure out what will make the day go faster; speed the boys home. But even then, there problems are nothing I can relate to, because they have life, I have four walls and a dog and cat for companions. My life is lonely.
By Lea Anne Stoughton
He left behind a cup. It is marked where his mouth pressed against it. He drank his fill in the warm night, but today all is cold and empty. From her bed, she hears the truck pull away, and weeps.
By Lea Anne Stoughton
Evening tide came in and began filling the rocky pools. Rhythmic sounds of swelling and receding were broken only by seabirds’ chatter. The air was thick with salt. The light of the dying day stained red the foam that rode the gentle waves and welled up in the footprints leading away from the shore.
The rocks surrounding the largest pool had their own red stain.
Her hair reached towards the surface, lifted by bubbles and danced by the current. Her lips parted in a final, lifeless exhalation. Tiny crabs scuttled over her face to investigate the possibilities.
By Nicole Cater
She walks in beauty like the night*
Her ankles brush the dampness
The pasture has grown over long
And she had to time to fully dress
He was coming, he said he would
And she wouldn’t miss him ever
Not for all the damp ankles in the world
Someday, he would take her away
She could see it now even as she waited
And there, away, she would again wait
Wait for his return and his promises
She would wait, under the same moon
With her ankles still getting damp
She turned and glided back inside
*No offense to Mr. Lord Byron. My intention was neither to improve upon the poem, not see if I could do better. Alas for me, the poem simply did not work unless I used his first line. All credit given where it is due.
By Michael Merline
Uncle Bill arrived drunk that Sunday, which was unremarkable. What was remarkable was his relative quietude. Grammy was in the kitchen, trying to help out, but the other women ignored her except to avoid running her over as they scrambled to get the turkey feast ready. She stood in the middle of the kitchen giving out helpful hints, instructions, and random recollections of Thanksgiving meals past.
She would occasionally forget where she was, and then awaken from her journey of forgetting to further regale her imaginary army of prep chefs. Most of the kids were out in the yard plotting some sort of mischief and settling old scores from the last family get together. Allen and Frank were arguing again, this time about football. It wasn't a party until they got into a physical fight and had to be pushed outside, where they drank beer and felt good about themselves again.
At the table, the older women kept the conversation light, occasionally asking for input via terse interrogations of the younger set. Under the groaning table of mountains of calories, the dog lay forlorn, hoping for a food related accident. At length, during a lull in the conversation as the dishes were being cleared, Uncle Bill suddenly stood, raised his fifth tumbler of Scotch, and addressed the crowd with a toast. Women came out from the kitchen wiping their hands on aprons and towels, and he began.
“I've been in this family my whole life, and I've seen a lot. I never said anything about any of it, but today I will. You are all the biggest bunch of liars and thieves I've ever seen. And I've seen plenty. You talk a good story but not one of you ever says what you really mean. All of this unspoken cap just festers and then you die, perhaps not soon enough.”
At this point Amy dropped her wine glass and the sound of breaking glass put a rather pointed punctuation to the moment.
“Now what I want you all to do is look each other in the eyes and tell the truth for once in your miserable lives. I'm leaving, because I've said my piece, and I'm tired. Happy Thanksgiving, and thanks for the meal.” He staggered out to his car, where his wife had already had it running. From the house, the dead silence he left began to melt into twittering and giggling. Allen and Frank were rolling around in the grass, yelling sonofabitch at each other. Bill sighed and a slight smile crossed his lips.
By Nicole Cater
Let’s talk about meltdowns. I’m not sure what they mean to everyone else, but I know what it is when I’m having one. They come as a reaction, all out of proportion to the situation. Or they come for no reason at all. There is sobbing, hair pulling, clothes renting and an overwhelming sense of the worst dread. I am paralyzed by fear, anxiety, and uncertainty. I can’t act. Even trying to act could make situations worse. Granted, it could make it better, but in the throes of a meltdown, better is as foreign as Sanskrit. A meltdown involves doctors, medications, sometimes trips to lockdown. It is a serious business. And it’s one I try to avoid at all costs, even though I have no real control. If my brain says “meltdown” there is not much I can do to stop it from happening.
So why detail what a meltdown is and what (seemingly nothing) causes it? Because when you have Bi Polar Disorder and are not secretive about it, you become something other than human; less than human, with people just waiting for what they can label a breakdown and then smirk and say “I told you so”.
But I’m human, just like everyone else. And that humanity is expressed in emotion. And I have the full range; BPD has done nothing to hinder this. Sure, I think differently, and maybe you don’t understand my thought process. But maybe I don’t understand yours. I don’t hold it against you. But you sure as hell will hold it against me.
I learned in grade school that a temper was not an asset. So I worked hard to control it. I have a long fuse. So generally, I taught myself to be, if not happy, at least quietly accepting in most situations. But anger is an emotion and since I’m human, I have it. If you light my fuse, eventually the bomb will go off. I’ve strived to keep my temper in check my entire life, until it reaches righteous indignation. But since I have BPD, the struggle with my temper and the anger that I eventually feel is completely invalidated. I’m not angry; I’m having a meltdown.
This is an awfully convenient ploy, especially for those whom my anger is directed towards. It couldn’t have been something they did that eventually pissed me off. I’m mentally ill, so it’s a meltdown; it’s my own illness, not any external factors.
I get to be mad. Because I am human, and I have a conscience, I get to be pissed off. And if you tell me it’s just a meltdown, I will be even more pissed off, because I know what my actual meltdowns are. You have no clue. You just don’t want to take the blame for making your friend righteously angry. And if you do this, I most likely will discount you as a friend. You have invalidated me as a person with a full range of emotions. Furthermore, you have minimized me down to a diagnosis, an illness which you probably don’t even understand.
Worst of all will be the eventual excuse “I didn’t mean to offend, don’t get upset”. But I’m already upset.
Without giving it any consideration, you have judged me. You have found me lacking humanity. And you have reduced a well rounded person into a mere product of illness. Tell me how your disregard for all of that makes me in favor of a lie (that you tell yourself to feel better). How is this not offensive to me?
I get angry. As a person, I am entitled to this emotion just like any other person. Since I was young, I have tried to keep anger in check, to not overreact. And it’s hard work. But I’ve been rewarded with a slow fuse and a temper that blows over quickly. How many people can say the same?
When you call my anger (or anyone else’s with a mental illness) a meltdown, you take away from us as people. Not only is it not truly a meltdown, you are also denying us the feelings that belong to the whole human race. The fact that you probably caused it and are trying to mitigate the blame makes it even worse. I understand that anger makes people uncomfortable. It should, because if someone has done something wrong enough for a person to get angry, everyone starts questioning how they feel about a situation. But my illness is not your easy out. My anger is for a reason, and I get to own it. I’m entitled to own it. You, on the other hand, do not get to use my own illness as a scapegoat for your shitty behavior.
So be warned: I get angry. And you won’t like me when I’m angry. Because despite my BPD, I am smart, devious even. My fuse is long and you can avoid making me angry. But if you do, know this: I will win. Despite whatever excuses you throw in my way, or maybe because of them, you won’t stand a chance. Meltdowns are about me. Anger is about you. And you have to answer for it.
By Michael Merline
He was different, that's all. Different enough to matter, to tell her friends off, to piss of her folks. She left home with a small bag and a couple tapes. They drove out of state, and when he asked her for money for gas, she paid. When they stopped, she checked them in.
In the morning, after he had gone, she found the bus station and stared up at the big board full of destinations. They all looked exotic, like a list of fairy tale places. She bought as much ticket as she could afford with what was left. Then she waited for a time, and finally boarded, looking straight forward from her seat, and never looked back.
By Lea Anne Stoughton
He is talking to a woman, a regular I do not know, about other regulars I do not know. I have come to this place every day for a week, but I am still an outsider.
There will be a wedding later, so the waiter brings special plates when we order coffee. I offer them to the woman, but she has her own.
He tells me he loves me, but I pretend not to hear over the music. The guitarist has curly red hair. He catches me watching him, so I close my eyes and smile.
By Michael Merline
My dad died when I was eight. I mean I found out he did. I'm ten now, and mom said i was old enough to know. I guess I already knew, because other kids at school had dad's that didn't ever come home with the rest of the dads and they told me it was because they were dead.
Anyway Sister Helen took me out of class one day and asked me if I was ok. I said yes. She said are you sure. I said yes. She sent me to the nurse and I had to sit there til mom came and got me. She didn't say anything, but I could tell she was sad about something. I stayed out of school until summer and then we moved to Temecula. Grandpa lives there. Next year I went to a new school. It had a big playground. Mom got a job at a Burger King, which was cool because sometimes she would bring back some chicken fries. I love chicken fries.
She says maybe next year I have to go to a different school. In the same town, but different.
Last week I got in trouble because I set the shed on fire. It was a accident but I still got in trouble. The firemen were cool. They let me go in the fire truck. I have to go now to the doctor. I'm not sick or anything, he's just a talking doctor. Bye.
TRUE! --nervous --very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am? There isn’t a writer I know of who hasn’t, or hasn’t wanted to quote Edgar Allen Poe. I feel I get bonus points for doing it accurately. But truly, I am nervous. I’ve never volunteered for anything in my life; unless that volunteerism was directly related to my job, and then it was more like slave labor for a good cause than volunteerism, in my opinion. Never have I walked into a place, unannounced, unexpected, unknown and said “Hi, I want to volunteer.”
Nervous? Indeed, I was terrified!
In all honesty, I had no reason to be. Around a big round desk worked other volunteers who greeted me a hearty hello. The volunteer coordinator was as chipper as could be and was thrilled to have “another one”. I was afraid there would be formal training. I brought a change of clothes in case volunteering took place on the spot. I was handed a sheet of paper and told to check everything I would do.
Landscaping: Unless someone was pouring a bag of dirt into a three foot pot meant for a pretty flower, this was beyond what my back could handle. I guessed this wasn’t actually the job description and I did not check it.
Paperwork: Yes, I’m the queen of that.
Folding towels? Also know that by heart.
Website management? One of my umpteen majors was internet communication, I so got this. Coordinator lady, whose name is Megan, was extremely impressed.
Now for the holy grail of Humane Society volunteerism: Cat and dog socialization. Can I get an AMEN! This is why I’m here. Oh yes, right, I’m here to interact with people and enrich my life in Clinton. But the doggies, the kitties! How can you say no to those gorgeous little faces? I fell in love about fifteen times during my tour.
The first was Smokey Jones, an adolescent male cat looking for some lovin. He was a purrfect silver grey except for this white stripe running down his nose. There was too much tour left for me to smuggle him out. Not to mention the wrath of Jeremy when I showed up with a cat.
Next up was a pitty mix named Smiley. I don’t remember his real name; things were moving fast at that point. Smiley actually had a home to go to, which was perhaps the cause of his ear to ear permanent grin. A happier dog you wouldn’t meet. (I’m including my own, which would look at you serious as a heart attack if given a Whopper and say “What, no cheese?”)
There is a “get acquainted room”, which is similar to a space my mom came to love her Trevor, but it has an outside, so the dogs can “take a break.” There is similar neutral ground in a dog park of sorts. You bring your existing dog, the shelter brings their potential dog over, and if play or ignoring happens, you have a match! Other wise there are eleven acres for the dogs to romp and roam.
The cats don’t have it so well. Some earn privileges in a play room with staff. Despite the business brought by various factories and establishments, Clinton is still a rural area. There are many feral cats to contend with. It is the job of the Humane Society to get them when they are young kittens and young adolescents, and socialize the crap out of them. Some of the adults are just too far gone; they can never be domesticated, which is a sad reality of the job. Not that the workers don’t try. They give it their all. But farm cats might always want to be farm cats, and dumping them on the doorstep won’t change that. But it will be part of my job to try and change these cats, young, adolescent and old, to give them all a fair shot. It’s what they deserve.
I will also get to help socialize the pups, young and old alike. I’ve done a lot of training with Fredo, but he’s smart and willing to learn. Hopefully some will be too. But if I can train stubborn Miss BrieBrie to sit with a mere hand signal, I think I can work with some of these dogs. I don’t believe in any certain dog training program, but my vet did give me a good piece of advice. Dogs want. They always want. Make them work for it. So, dogs, get ready to work, there’s a new sheriff in town.
I’m sure I will have to do my fair share of nasty cleaning as well. Dogs don’t come with a self clean cycle. They drool, they pee, they poo and they love to roll in the nastiest things. I’m okay with this. Ever since I had my tonsils out, my gorge reflex has nearly gone away. If I can pull desiccated chipmunks out of Fredo’s mouth, I can handle what these dogs throw at me. Or throw at the floor, or throw wherever. I’m good.
Cats are a different story. I can’t clean cat boxes. Cat poo is the ultimate no-no. Sorry fellow workers and volunteers. Toxoplasmosis happens and it ain’t happening to this immune compromised chick. You go ahead and have fun cleaning that stinky pile of poo while I snuggle with Mr. Cuddles over here, m’kay? But seriously, it is a dangerous disease and if you don’t believe me, there are warnings right on the box. I’m all for being love bombed by kittens; I’ll just skip the painful and possibly deadly pathogens.
The one thing I do know about today is that I have no idea what is going to happen today. I’m nervous, I’m scared, I’m exhilarated and I’m ready. I hope I like it. I hope I don’t come home complaining what a waste today was. I hope I’m ready for more. I just hope. And that is all any of us can ask for.
By Nicole Cater
Why did I move to Clinton? Love? Pssshh… not good enough. I know no one. I sit in my house I slave over so that it has become just short of perfect. Perfection requires money. I have none. This means I also cannot leave this prison to socialize were there anyone with which to socialize. There’s not. My main form of socialization is watching the Wal-Mart cashier flirt with my boyfriend.
I have no hobbies. Not for lack of trying. My baking skills are rusty. New hobbies seem to crash and burn before a decent attempt is made at starting them. I have no money, so I can’t buy more books. And I’ve read all the books over and over again.
I don’t want to cook dinner and do the dishes but if I don’t, no one will. I don’t want to play taxi to my teenager but it’s the only thing that gets me out of the house. We never go where I want. We only go to the video game store or to pick up his girlfriend. This isn’t exciting. This isn’t even interesting. On a scale of one to ten, this is a negative five.
I’m sad. I’ve been here less than a month and I hate it. My friends are not here. True, I’m sure their lives are just as mundane. But they are mundane without me. Is this life? No friends, no hobbies, and endless dinners I don’t eat, dishes I didn’t dirty, car trips to nowhere? Did all our parents hit this point and think “This…I struggled and screamed and begged for this?”
I don’t want it. This godforsaken area is so isolated even the birds think twice before taking a shit overhead. Shopping? If you count Wal-Mart, which I don’t. How long can I shuffle through Walgreens pretending to look for nothing before security is called? There is only one coffee house that that isn’t the size of a hut with windows on both sides. Ice cream comes in one flavor; Dairy Queen.
Sure, this seems like big time living to someone used to a one-stoplight town. But I’m stifled. I hate it. I’m used to a stop light on every corner. This is a pioneer village. And I just want to leave.
By Nicole Cater
Slut! What do you think of when you hear that word? More importantly, WHO do you think of when you hear that word? Because what is a slut? Is it a woman who has a lot of sex? Is it a woman who has a lot of sex with many different men? Are sluts only male oriented or can lesbians be sluts? Is it just a woman who dresses provocatively?
A Google search yields two definitions for the word slut. One: A woman who has many casual sexual partners. Two: A woman with low standards of cleanliness.
Let’s take a deeper look at these definitions -- plus some time honored accepted others.
First, a woman with many casual sexual partners. I get it, we’re descended from Puritans… sex is bad. But the truth is, sex is great. Sex is fun. Sure, monogamous sex is awesome. But we’re all animals and you don’t see a lion shunning five of his female pride members for the sake of monogamy. The truth that no sex educator wants you to know is that as long as you take the proper safety precautions, casual sex with multiple partners is completely safe. Just ask men. They certainly don’t have the problem with it that women are taught to have. Don’t know you; want to hook up? My penis says no problem. And it should be pointed out that men are having consensual sex because, dammit, they like the way it makes them feel. So it’s time to drop the hypocrisy and admit that women can like the way sex feels too. If we didn’t, none of us would even risk getting pregnant.
So let’s review. Sex feels good. Consensual means both parties agree. Despite eons of oppression, women are just as allowed as men to own their sexuality. Sex can be had safely. Ergo, women who like to have sex and like to do it with a variety of men are following the natural order of things. They are not sluts. If you want to continue calling them sluts, fair is fair, and call that man a slut too.
Moving on… a woman with low standards of cleanliness. This is vague as hell! All of a sudden I’m a slut because I don’t give a rat’s ass about the dust bunny colony under my bed. I submit the following proposal; take away “woman” and you are going to have more sluts that you know what to do with. My boyfriend is a slut because he will let dishes sit in the sink for a week. His son is a slut because he can’t possibly get his clothes into the laundry hamper. My mom’s dog is a slut because she tears toys up and leaves them everywhere. I didn’t was my hair today, I’m such a slut. Sluts, sluts everywhere.
But do you see my point? These definitions are so ridiculously arbitrary that they are hard to defend. And those are the actually definitions. I overheard, “She let a guy finger her and sucked his dick; she’s a slut.” Whether said teen caved to peer pressure or truly enjoyed her minor sexual escapades, this foray into adulthood doesn’t exactly a slut make. “She slept with my man; what a slut.” Nope, your man slept with her, he’s the slut, sorry. “Look at that short skirt; she’s dressed like such a slut.” Even if we were to claim the word slut as valid, it has absolutely nothing to do with style of dress. You, however, are dressed like a moron.
Like the fine feminist I am, I’m going to cap this off with anything men can do women can do too. Sure, maybe we can’t always do it better. But you can’t do it as well as us. But there is only one set of rules here, rules for the human race. Male supremacy is a joke. But the saddest part is that they aren’t even in on the joke. Your penis allows you one thing and one thing only; peeing standing up. Whoever lied to you about the rest of the benefits it earned you, go find and address them. We’re sick of your shit.
By... Lea Anne Stoughton
The Easter grass on my Christmas tree skirt
The itchy tag on my favorite t-shirt
The spot on my back that didn’t get sunscreen
The mosquito bite on the back of my knee
The white cat hairs on my little black dress
The pimple right in the crack of my ass
The fly that I thought had already been swatted
The nick from leg shaving that I thought had clotted
The smoke alarm’s “Oh my god! Low battery!” beep
The thing rolling around underneath my car seat
The tee pee I didn’t know was stuck to my shoe…
And in spite of all this, I’ll always love you
By...Lea Anne Stoughton
Bodies, skin, blessing, sin
Do you love the skin you’re in?
We shave and pluck, nip and tuck
Sweat and gasp and bust our ass
Eat this, not that. Bad hair? A hat!
Don’t you think my thighs look fat?
Do you use the skin you’re in?
Bodies are made to be broken in.
They play and hug and kiss and fuck
But never, ever often enough.
Time and use will leave their marks
On every one of us, dear heart,
No matter how hard you try to stay
As flawless as a newborn babe.
Worrying is such a waste
When death is staring in our face.
Instead, let’s use the skin we’ve got
To flesh out life’s simplistic plot.
By Nicole Cater
I’m 26 and all is right with the world. I just got married. I love my job at a local bank. I’ve grown from teller to lead teller, to receptionist to commercial loan assistant. I have a hand in making multi-million dollar deals happen and at the same time, making small-time dreams come true for basic consumers. I’ve won a Service Person of the Year award. Well, co-won, the other winner was my best friend. No one in the company doubted we deserved it. I was an up and comer, a Jill of all Trades. Any questions that needed to be answered, just ask Nicole.
Eight years in, I knew this business and my place in it like a well-oiled machine. And that machine was about to get an upgrade. I was in training for project analyst, one step below loan officer. I was doing all this, enjoying my honeymoon, and putting myself through college. The one and only complaint I had was an ever-present pain in my back that would sometimes hinder my movements or shoot burning pains down my leg. I was in physical therapy for what doctors guessed to be arthritis, but it didn’t help much. I was put through so many blood tests, I felt like a pincushion.
And so it was another ordinary day when I went to the doctor to get and update and a refill of the medication that was giving me an ulcer. Instead of those routine issues, lightning struck. I learned that one of the many blood tests finally told the doctors something. They found HLA-B27 and antigen on chromosome 6 that causes your immune system to attack your spine, causing vast amounts of arthritis that can never be cured. My new friend had a name - Ankylosing Spondylitis.
I grieved. I grieved for the life that would never be. I grieved for the person I was that I would never be again. I fell into a deep depression.
Doctors, not knowing what to do, and lacking a Bi-Polar Disorder diagnosis, put me on anti-depressants. They didn’t work. I snapped. I lost my job. I lost my husband. I lost my house. I even lost my dog. Another two jobs, another two freak outs. It turns out, lightning struck again. Not that it is ever pleasant; but this time I was prepared. There would be doctors. There would be pills. I would suffer and adjustment period. But I also knew I would survive.
After all, the first strike didn’t kill me; change the course of my life...absolutely. But I’m still here, and I'm still fighting.
By Nicole Cater
What’s in a name?
What does the word conjure?
Zoosiana: both wild and timid animals, delight and rapture.
Enclosures built to resemble all of nature.
Care is taken to use wisely every acre.
Alligator feeding time is the most popular,
Keepers trot out chickens that couldn’t be deader.
Louisiana is hot, and Lafayette even more so.
Few of the animals feel like putting on a show.
Friendly otters in their fake river ignore the heat.
They draw crowds who “ooh” and “aah” over every feat.
But danger lurks in this innocent childhood joy land.
Not every creature is nice, beware where you stick your hand,
Ah, the petting zoo, harmless little creatures, hoping for some love.
For a quarter, you can feed them pellets and watch them shove.
But a monster lurks amidst this false Utopia, hidden in plain sight.
We’re talking about Llamas, and it’s time people saw the light.
Truly, is a petting zoo filled with children the place for a Llama?
Berserk Llama Syndrome is real, it’s dangerous, and it’s full on drama.
You may not believe me; you may scoff at my dire warnings.
But in Zoosiana, a llama has tasted blood, my blood, and now he has cravings.
I don’t know what to do with you.
You invade my thoughts, my personal space, and at moments, my heart.
I feverishly push you aside because I know how easily I can fall.
I think I can keep you on deck; in the batters cage, waiting to have a turn.
Yet, when I give you a turn I want you to stay there. I want you to be more.
I’m selfish with the time I get to spend with you, thinking of no one but myself and my own needs.
You fill those voids with your words, your touch, and your tongue. You quiet my endless chattering by pulling me close and all I can do is surrender. It’s your touch, the way your hands feel, the taste of you on my lips … they all combine together and it becomes overwhelming.
As we depart from one another I leave with a high. Are you my drug of choice right now? When will I get my next fix? How do I not become addicted to you?
I take a moment to gather my thoughts and not so gently remind myself that I’m the boss of what we do. I don’t need you, I want you. I could have many just like you. You just happened to come along at a time I was looking. You won’t be staying for long and that’s by my choice. Lust is a powerful drug but the shelf life is short and your expiration date is quickly approaching.
By...Lea Anne Stoughton
I’m sitting in the family room watching TV.
I hear the garage door open and someone walks in.
It’s Mom. She looks like she’s been shopping.
“You’re dead,” I say, and crush her to me.
She holds me as I weep. “It’s okay,” she says.
As I cling to her, she starts to fade.
I can feel her going.
in my kitchen,
By Nicole Cater
I’m done with the pain.
I’m tired of proving to you what an asset I could be to you.
I’d rather die a death of a thousand cuts then bare the constant rejection I receive from you every day. And it is every day.
You don’t want me, because we’re friends. But that ship has sailed. You are not my friend.
Friends don’t insist on spending the night together to cuddle.
Friends don’t tell people that when the time is right, you will marry them.
Friends don’t make plans first thing in the morning so I can show up and find you in bed with another woman.
I may be lonely.
But I’m better than you.
I am true… to others… to myself… to my heart.
When I say something, I mean it.
You lie, and you hurt, you use, you manipulate.
I’m saddened and ashamed that it took me so long to figure out the truth. But there it is.
You are a horrible person who cares only for yourself and – perhaps - your flavor of the week.
I am an honorable person. I love deeply and don’t apologize for it.
I would do anything for those I love. I would do anything for those in need.
And though I loved you, yes, deeply, I will certainly leave you.
The pain will be excruciating.
But only in the beginning.
And I am strong. I will make it through the worst part.
I feel foolish for wanting you in the first place. But I am only human. And humans want company.
I thought that could be you.
I hate the idea of being alone. But I hate the idea of being with you more.
And I hope when you think of me, you will always remember not just the woman who got away, but the woman who ran away.
Maybe it’s aging, perhaps maturity? No, it can’t be either of those since I’m not getting older and I will never mature.
This body of mine blows my mind. The strength, energy, and ability of my body have become a source of awe to me. The way my waist curves in, the muscles in my shoulders, the strength in my thighs. The curve of my neck that leads into the determined jawline that tightens when I am concentrating.
This body of mine walks with such confidence that it borderlines on cockiness. I don’t just walk, I move with fluid confidence and I feel like I have finally come to own everything about myself. Some see flaws, I see battle scars. Some see less than perfection, I see brilliant progress. Some see a 40-something year old woman. I see her as well, and she is fucking amazing, beautiful, insightful, confident, and strong. I will never pull her down again, never put her down again, and will always be her biggest fan.
By Nicole Cater
Look at me.
What do you see?
Do you see the blue eyes?
Do you notice the short, pink hair?
Did you notice the four earrings in the left ear where only two reside in the right?
Backing away from my face, surely you can’t miss that I’m a woman. Even if I wanted to bind my breasts, I think the only benefit would be a constant state of dizziness from lack of oxygen.
Look at my stomach, smaller then some, larger than others, prone to shape shift depending on medication.
Look at my hips. Wide-set, child-bearing hips that will never issue forth life.
And my legs, well proportioned. My shapely calves lead to slim ankles. All this supported by ridiculous elfin feet. It’s hard to look cool in footwear that has Barbie or Hello Kitty plastered all over it.
But look at me.
Do you see the slight limp on a good day. It’s impossible to miss on a bad day.
Look at me while I sit at any event. Have you ever seen someone fidget so much? Do you say to yourself “Why doesn’t she stop fidgeting?”
Look at me.
Do you see me walking in front of you? Do you feel satisfied with yourself because you didn’t pass me when I offered to let you? Do you regret that decision now that you realize I can’t move any faster than I already was?
Look at me.
Sitting on the floor of a Big Box Store because I just can’t move anymore. I’ve run out of stamina. I’m even too tired for your dirty looks.
Look at me.
Do you see a happy-go-lucky woman enjoying her life?
Because that might not be true.
I am filled with agony, depression, anxiety. But these attributes are forbidden in this world. So I take a pill. And if it doesn’t work, I take another pill. And then I put on my mask.
So look closely.
Do you see what I see?
Do you see the limp, the exhaustion, the constant movement that denotes a comfortable position is not to be found?
Look at me.
Do you see the mask?
Then I’ve done my job well.
By Nicole Cater
I’m 38 years old. I’ve never had children. Ideally, looking back with 20/20 hindsight, I would have had them young. I would have been able to keep up with them. Even when I was married, I still would have been able to keep up, mostly. But my husband made the decision for both of us that I would not be having children. I divorced him. I wanted children. I looked with great hope to my future romance. There would be children.
But as the years crept past, as my next relationship went nowhere, I gave up. I would not be a mom. At 35, I made peace with this. Besides, my genetic material is hardly worth passing on. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. To give up one dream when so many have been taken from you involuntarily is hard. Once again, I was shedding tears for what would never be, the life that wasn’t. But this time it was my own doing. I could blame age. I could blame my illnesses. But I know, ultimately, if I wanted the dream to come true, I could have made it happen. Instead, I killed it. My dream did not have to die. I murdered it.
But then J came along. His wife had passed away after a lifelong illness and he offered me the same unconditional love that he gave to her - I grabbed it with both hands. After all hopes had been dashed, long after all dreams had died, here came a new one. True love, at long last. True love is such a cliché; I hesitate to use it. But I use it in a different way. It was not the falling instantly head over heels that we all think of. It was the giddy infatuation that led to a slow burn. The building of a friendship first, love creeping in softly, overcoming my senses with passion.
Did you think I was speaking of J? Oh no, certainly not. It is S who has captured my heart and hasn’t let go. And though I’m not his stepmom, it doesn’t matter to him. I am mom. My bouncing baby boy came into my life at 14. Now at 15, his love for me is as complete as mine for him. We talk about everything and nothing. I dispense advice on topics from homework to bullies to girls. He brings his problems to me. Because I am Mom. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
By...Lea Anne Stoughton
We began in the garden, you and I. We explored together in the cool morning light, turning over pebbles and peeking under leaves. Ants bustled about their little ant business. We laughed.
Morning melted into afternoon. Pebbles became rocks, leaves became trees. There were beetles. We whispered.
Shadows stretched and the sky turned red. I led you to my secret place. We held hands.
I showed you the giant rock, the one in the deepest darkness, untouched by light. In the hush, I turned it over, exposing the dank hollow beneath.
You saw what lay there. I showed you willingly. I thought you understood. But night fell heavy on me, and you filled your pockets while I slept.
In the morning I found you in the marketplace. You stood behind the auctioneer, who waved my desperate treasure at the salivating crowd.
“Muck! Filth! Maggots! Putrescence! Death!” she cried. Her eyes rolled. “Look! See!”
The crowd roared at the sky.
I return to the garden sometimes. The pebbles are dull, the trees limp, but I am drawn to this place like a tongue to an aching tooth.
The hollow under the rock holds no treasure now. The deformity it held is gone. I birthed it, yes, but I killed it too, and I buried it.
You made me a monster.
By...Lea Anne Stoughton
You kissed me the way a woman wants to be kissed
Frought with paradox
Push and pull
Yes and no
Desire tempered by reason
Reason overridden by desire
A simple act with a thousand meanings
I kissed you like a man wants to be kissed
Pressed up against your truck
The taste of beer on my tongue
By Lea Anne Stoughton
Ooo, I forgot we had these cookies.
You don’t want to eat that.
Yes I do.
No, you don’t. Remember what you said this morning?
You said, “Today is the day I start eating healthy.”
Didn’t you say that?
So why are you opening the cookies?
I’ll just have one.
Nothing tastes as good as thin feels, you know.
That’s not true at all.
Yes it is. Thin feels AMAZING.
Thin is far away. Cookies are now.
You don’t have an ounce of self-control.
I’ll just have one.
One will lead to two will lead to the whole sleeve.
No, one will satisfy my craving and then I can stop.
What kind of example are you setting for the kids?
Moderation. Healthy attitudes about food. A sense of self-worth that's not dependent on physical appearance.
I don’t want to hear you complaining about being fat anymore.
Fat, thin, who cares? I shouldn’t care about weight anyway.
You’re choosing fat.
Happy is more important than thin.
You’ll be happier when you’re thin.
Yeah, and that’s not right, is it?
Hey, you’re eating a cookie! Stop it!
No. I’m enjoying my life. I like cookies; I’ll eat cookies.
There, you ate it. Are you happy now? Did you enjoy it?
Well? Was it worth it?
I don’t know.
This is our showcase page, containing various submissions from various Authors. Please look for snippets about the Authors following their pieces.