By Lea Anne Stoughton
These words overflow from my heart
For me, this is more than just art.
I must get them out,
Either write them or shout,
Or else my soul might blow apart.
By Lea Anne Stoughton
The pieces I write aren’t pretty
The topics I pick can be gritty.
I’m wicked, I guess,
And a woman no less!
You’d think that my life would be shitty.
By Nicole Cater
They call them roommates, but we all know they’re cellmates, so let’s skip the pretense, shall we? Oh, and did I draw a winner! Jessica - pardon me - Jessie, while being Schizo/Bipolar must also have had the worst case of ADHD in the world. Now, as you all know, the Pinkster is a progressive and has nothing but love for the GLBT community. But it did get a tad tiresome explaining that my cellie was not a man; she was, in fact, a woman in transition. She talked...a lot…Nonstop, in fact…About her love/hate relationship with her mom…About her hate/hate relationship with her stepdad…About how her being locked up finally cured his impotency…About her 72-year-old sugar daddy in Frisco. About her 9 years in the penitentiary for stealing a cop’s gun. She was nothing but charm.
Well, charm and ridiculous, uncalled-for outbursts of which she seemed unable to fathom the consequences. She would go off on her parents over the phone. She would go off on the nurses at their stations. She would go off on the other patients in the Community Room. She loved me, thank God, because she truly scared the fuck out of me.
And so we come to The Restraint. Its visiting hours, everyone is hanging in the Community Room trying to chill and spend some time with loved ones. She’s on the phone yelling at her parents because they promised to bring her an e-cig, and they didn't. Well, for starters, that’s total contraband. My mom smuggled me one in, but I sure as hell didn't tell her to do it at the top of my lungs in a crowded room.
After that meltdown, she proceeds to the nurses’ station and has another meltdown and starts physically abusing the nurse’s desk. Within 15 seconds, we’re locked down, three policemen show up, hustle her into our room, my best friend’s gone to the bathroom and gotten locked out of the ward and I am left to sit and look at my door and wonder what the hell is happening behind it.
Finally, after an hour, I’m allowed into my room. The police had tried to restrain her to my bed, which they mistook for hers, ripping the cover off my second best cookbook (not the Toba Garrett, hallelujah!) and just fucking up my stuff in general. They did this because she had one cop by the balls and one by the throat. Pleasant gal. They finally got her to her bed, sat on her, got the restraints on her and drugged her. She was promptly moved into a single room the next morning to make restraining her easier.
And all this was just my first full day. Exciting shit, right?
By Lilly Garfield
We weren't friends. We didn't even necessarily like each other. Yet, every Thursday I would knock on his door and expect admittance.
Once inside, we wouldn't speak. Instead, he would grab my face and kiss me like he hated me and it would continue from there.
On this particular engagement, he had left the side door open and I walked in unannounced. The condo was black but I had been there enough to know it by feel. The door to his room was closed but music played lowly behind it. A bit of soft light peeked between the door and the carpet.
Just as my hand found the knob, the door jerked open and a blindfold was placed over my eyes. The shock and immediacy knocked me off balance and into a wall. A hand on the back of my neck held me while another clasped my hands behind my back and tied my wrists with with something itch and uncomfortable. Two hands found my shoulders and forced me to my knees.
Candlelight snuck under my blindfold and was comforting for just a minute before I opened my mouth to take a deep breath and he forced himself between my lips. I heard my buttons scatter as he ripped my shirt open and threw me to the ground. Something hot dripped down my chest and between my breasts. This was followed by the cooling of ice and the heat of his tongue as it followed the line up to my neck. He bit my earlobe and I let out a slight simper which he answered by grabbing the back of my hair and planting my face into a nest of pillows.
He bit my shoulder as he entered me and the wetness of blood trickled down my back.
When he finished, he cleaned my wounds with a damp cloth and unbound my hands. As I reached up to remove my blindfold he whispered, "I drew you a hot bath."
Down the Express Elevator
I can feel it. I swear I can feel it. I don’t know if this feeling is real. Do other BPs feel it? I tried asking once on a BP chat room. No one seemed to know what I was talking about. Some even thought I was crazy. In a mental health chat, a crazy person, go figure.
It’s the cycling down. What goes up must come down, right? Deep into the prison of depression. It’s called Rapid Cycling, generally defined as four or more cycles between mania and depression within a year. This happens to me as little as every two months to frequency of a few weeks. People tell me I’m lucky. BPs can get stuck in a depressive cycle for months. But I’m the opposite. I fly mostly in a hypomanic state. Hypomanic is a less severe form of mania. No hallucinations for me. Never had them, never want them. But I don’t know. This feeling, the feeling that I’m going through this very minute as I write this, is so horrible. Even though I dislike the depressive moods, I can roll with them. But the switching, changing from right side up to upside down, cycling, is painful for me, both mentally and yes, actually physically too. I don’t think I could describe the feeling accurately if I wasn’t going through it. In fact, I’m not sure if I can describe it now. But I’ll try. Come with me.
It begins with a flutter of unease. But I can brush this aside in my mind. Surely I am just having a specific problem. What? We nutters have everyday concerns too. But the feeling grows, builds, and doesn’t stop. And then the denial begins. It is NOT happening again, I won’t let it! Then come the symptoms you can’t ignore. No longer warning signs, I am taking this long trip down and there is no emergency stop. My muscles ache. They bounce between uncontrollable muscle contractions and equally uncontrollable tremors and spasms. I’m hot. I’m cold. I can’t decide. My body won’t let me. Short sleeves are too cold. Long sleeves never seem to be right either. A robe or sweatshirt is far too warm. Both hot or cold, my face is flush and I sweat. I feel odd creepy-crawlies all over my skin. I call them my meth-bugs, though I’m sure it’s nowhere near as bad as the real thing. I don’t scratch my skin to pieces. Usually a hard rub of the palm does the trick. My back hurts. Well, it hurts more I mean to say. My heart feels like a heavy stone lodged in my chest. It hurts to breathe deeply. I breathe shallow. My jaws clench. It shoots thunderbolts through my head. I want to drill a hole in my head to relieve the pressure. My Fibromyalgia kicks in and suddenly hot needles are piercing the soles of my feet, my toes, my knees, my thighs. This is my body cycling.
I have people around me, people I can call, even more people who would be running to my side in a hot second should I need them. But I feel alone. I want to go home. I’m already home. They are all “out there” and I am trapped “in here”. I feel only anxiety, agitation. But otherwise I am an emotional blank slate. There is no happy, sad, mad and I can’t really fake it no matter how hard I try. And I try very hard. I don’t have the feelings, but I’m not stupid. I see how others are reacting. I see that I am not. But I don’t want others to see I am not. I can happily stare off into space for an hour or more, seeing, and yet seeing nothing. I hold Fredo on my lap and press my face against his. He is so still. I try to be still like him. Although I want to breathe shallow, I push myself to breathe deep, to pull in the cleansing air that will float through my brain. I try to retreat, struggle against the before, the after, the now. I fight to crawl through the cave deep in my mind, until I come out on the other side in my happy place. I picture it. I try to be still, so still. I must focus, and focusing on anything is hard. I rub my lips and cheek against Fredo’s velvety fur. I’ve brought him with me. I want him here, I want for us to share my happy place. Focus, focus…
We are standing on a dirt path. Ahead is a sleepy little ivy covered cottage. To my right is a burbling stream. It is the end of May, and the sun is just beginning its descent. The burgeoning trees and bushes burst in a firework display of spring’s showiest colors. The gentle breeze brings me their heady perfume, swaddling me in the glorious scent only a riot of blooms can bring. Wisps of smoke float above the chimneys, beckoning me. This is my happy place. Most people know this lovely little spot. But no one ever trespasses here. It is Thomas Kinkade’s “A Quiet Evening”. And that is exactly what I want. Quiet, peace, still. I press my lips to Fredo’s fur again.
I want the sweet release of depression. It’s not a thing to be wished for, but when I’m cycling down, I yearn for it. Depression brings sleep, always a valuable commodity for me. The sleep brings…nothing, absolutely nothing. There are no feelings in sleep. And there is no guilt about not feeling. Sleep is the warm embrace of a cuddly blanket, a soft pillow, a snoring dog pressing gently against me; Artie curled at my head, making gently mewing noises in her own sleep. Sleep is suspended animation. There is no now. This world does not exist there. But there is peace, happiness, adventure and yes, even horror. It is escape. It is the passkey to the prison of my mind, the locked cage of my body slowly tightening around me. Escape is bliss.
But I’m not there yet. I’m still cycling. I know every moment brings it closer, and this is what I count on. But no, not there yet. In the present, in the now, there is cycling. There is despair. This life of mine has more than its fair share of pain and anguish. I am so tired of clawing my way through it. I am not strong. I am weak. I don’t want to fight anymore. I want to be gone. I know this feeling isn’t real. I know it’s merely faulty synapses in my brain over firing and misfiring. I know it is not real and it WILL go away. But it feels real, so incredibly real. As the agitation mounts, I take the dose of Xanax I’ve put off too long.
Did you come with me? Did you follow? Did you feel the itching? Was your heart as heavy as mine? Were you alone, yet not alone? Home, but not home? Could you hear the stream and smell the flowers? Do you want to sleep? It isn’t time yet. Feel the elevator learching. I don’t know when we’ll reach the bottom floor, but I know this lift never lifts, only drops. The destination may be welcome but the trip is taxing. So be here and now. Try and quell the mounting panic as we plunge into the abyss. It will stop, that much I can assure you. But until it does, feel the silky fine fur against your lips. And try to be still.
by Jamie Walker
All the pretty colors
And soaring hearts
From your lips they
As easy as a summer breeze
Pretty lies that shimmer
So full of hope
Filling the ears with silk
The soul with cream
But all they are
Are pretty little lies
Meaningless and untruthful
The mindfulness manipulation
Of a true love
A loyal woman
She had a steadfastness
But break her you did
Just for fun
For your gains and worldly things
With no second look
At her or in the mirror
The pride of a man
Who can only tell
His pretty little lies
She broke down on a lonely road. Night was coming, maybe a storm. A truck pulled up behind her on the shoulder. She squinted against the glare of the headlights as the driver walked up.
She could smell the rain coming as she rolled down the window. A man, harshly lit by the dashboard lights, bent down to look in the window.
“Need help?” He had faded eyes, and was older, but trim, strong.
“Yeah, my damn car died.”
“Open the hood.” She groped for the release in the dark but couldn’t find it. He reached in beside her leg for the lever, and his hat fell in her lap.
“Sorry about that,” he said, popping the hood and grabbing the hat. He disappeared around the front of the car. She bit her thumbnail.
“Try it now,” he said.
The rain started but the car did not. “Might be your module. No way to fix that on the side of the road.
Anyone you can call?”
“No, not locally.”
“Want a lift?”
He opened the door of the truck for her, not out of gallantry, but to clear out the trash from the seat.
“Don’t normally have passengers,” he said.
He gently gripped her elbow as she climbed in, then shut the door.
“Where to, ma’am?”
“I don’t know. The nearest phone, I suppose,” she answered.
“There’s a motel up the road. Nothing fancy, but clean. I’ll drop you there.”
“Are you sure it’s not out of your way?”
“It’s just about a mile from my place. Next little road on the right, then about a half mile on the dirt road.
Just a shack, really.”
“I sure do appreciate it,” she said. “What do you do out here? It’s so lonely.” She glanced over at his profile, outlined against the rainy window. His eyes never left the road.
“A little farming, some fix-it-up work.” They pulled up to the motel.
“Wait.” He turned to reach behind the seat, almost brushing her shoulder, and retrieved a worn denim jacket. The fleece lining was redolent of hay, animals and clean air. “Here’s a coat.”
She stepped out. Rain ran down the motel canopy in streams. “What about your coat?”
He leaned over the passenger seat. “Tell Darlene you know me. She’ll take care of you. I’ll call over in the morning.”
She watched him drive off. One of the tail lights was out on the truck.
In the room, she called her husband back in San Francisco. No answer—poker night.
She turned on the television but the reception was terrible. She lay on the bed. There was a picture of generic mountains over the dresser. She looked over at the jacket draped over the chair. She pulled it to her face and inhaled deeply.
The rain was coming down sideways by the time she found the turnoff, now a sheet of mud. A tiny yellow light flickered down the way. She stood a moment, face buried in the fleece, then headed down the road. She saw his truck with the cracked tail light. She knocked. A dog barked. A horse snuffled and snorted in the darkness nearby. She pulled the jacket tighter and knocked again. The door opened. He was shirtless.
“Hey,” he said. “Hey, what brings you out here in the rain?”
She was dripping on the step. “I don’t know.”
“Come in, then,” he said, shutting the door. “You can’t stay here, I don’t have anywhere for you to—“
She grabbed him, hard, her face in his chest. He lightly held her shoulders. “You all right?”
“I am now.” She smelled him, the salt-sweet tang.
“Hey,” he said.
“I don’t care,” she said. “I want to be here. Tonight.”
The jacket fell to the floor.
She lifted her head, met his faded eyes. “Now.” After a second, “Please.”
The bedroom was tiny. He slipped off his pants, looked at her. Then he reached over and placed his rough hand along the side of her neck. Fingers tangled in her wet hair. His thumb stroked her ear. “Take off your clothes,” he whispered.
She undressed as if she were under water. Naked in front of him, unafraid.
He reached for her. “Just tell me when to stop.”
“I don’t think I ever want you to stop.”
It was slow, deliberate, a lazy conversation, a low rumble of thunder. They found its rhythm, the ebb and flow, the song of themselves.
By morning, the rain had stopped.
My soul and my legs he splits wide.
From him I have nothing to hide.
It sounds so cliché
To say to this way,
But this man—oh, I need him inside.
I love when you get that sweet grin,
And the feel of your breath on my skin.
My hands long to trace
The curves of your face.
Ah, love, soon I'll see you again.
She Won’t Cry
by Lindsay Quist
You see the pain that lies in her eyes,
But, alas, her eyes are dry.
She won't cry.
No, she won't cry.
You see the anger that burns from her gaze;
The madness that sets her eyes ablaze.
She won't cry.
No, she won't cry.
You see the fear that closes her eyes
The smile she wears is but a disguise.
She won't cry.
No, she won't cry.
You see the hope that is finally dead,
She cannot trust for her heart has been bled.
She won't cry.
No, she won't cry.
You see the love that lies within,
But she shall never love again.
She won't cry.
No, she won't cry.
You see death's hand that has glazed her eyes,
No one saw her die inside.
They won't cry.
No, they won't cry.
Waters calm and clear
A crocodile lurks below
Unseen it swims
Its scales shrug aside
the waters calm and clear
I am swallowed
She's Been My Everything
She's been my rock when I needed strength.
She's been my mother and my best friend.
She's been my father when I didn't have one.
She's been my confidence when I've lacked esteem,
and my only bridge
when I've burned them all.
She's been my voice
when I could not speak,
and my crutch when I could not stand.
She was there for me when I was alone
and was my enemy when I had strayed.
She's been my mentor, whom I admire,
and in her face I see my image...
A hopeful glimpse of who I am.
** Lisa Quist is a talented, creative QC native. She loves to cook and spend time with her family. Lisa has two grown children, and four grandchildren.
He walks through the door.
The light reflects off the glass, flashes in her eyes. She looks up from her book, brows trying to meet, as she squints against the glare. He pushes his sunglasses up on his head, and his t-shirt pulls tight across his shoulder.
Her eyes follow him as he walks to the customer service desk. He asks a question. The clerk points at something across the store and smiles. She can see a dimple appear in his cheek as he smiles back. He turns around.
Her eyes drop back to her book. Her face is hot.
She looks at the page as he walks by, close enough that she tucks her feet further under the chair. She catches a faint scent, like pine cones and salt water and leather. His jeans hang loose on his waist. The shape of his wallet is worn into the fabric of one pocket, a crooked white rectangle. He turns a corner and she loses sight of him.
She bites her lip. The book laying open in her lap, seen but not seen. A minute passes. Two.
The book snaps shut. She drops it on the table next to the chair and, standing up, slides the strap of her bag over her shoulder.
The scent has faded but she follows its path, fingers trailing the shelves, lingering on a title here, another there. She stops at the corner where he disappeared. Hand still on the shelf, she leans her weight a little to the side and tilts her head.
He’s there, close, flipping pages of a hardcover. He cracks his neck—left, then right. She can hear the pops. He squats down to replace the book. She notices the blonde hairs curling around his watch, the rim of pale skin just visible inside the neck of his shirt, the stubble that catches the light along his jaw.
One of her hands finds its way to her hair, tucks a piece behind her ear.
He stands up with a paperback in his hand. He sees her and the dimple appears again. The corners of her mouth twitch. The paperback tumbles to the floor. They both bend down to pick it up, and the pine cone scent returns, stronger this time and warm.
Their fingers touch.
Her clothes feel tight. She is aware of the fabric moving against her skin as she breathes, the thickness of the seams in her jeans pressing into her thighs. A prickly tingle rises up her neck.
By Lea Anne Stoughton
She glances up at the clock. 2:24. As she watches, it blinks over to 2:25.
She wraps her hands around her mug and stares down at the contents. The cooling coffee coats the sides in little waves. She starts swirling, trying to get it up to the very rim, higher and higher.
She flicks her eyes to the clock (2:27) and her distraction lets the coffee slop over the edge. She sets the mug down hard with an impatient noise. Shaking her hands, she pushes the chair back from the table and grabs a dishtowel from the hook by the sink.
The clock catches her eye.
She manages—almost—to suppress a sigh. She looks out the window, her hands still twisting in the towel. Through the curtains she sees the neighbor’s dog barking at a squirrel in the yard’s only tree. She loses herself in the dog’s fury, the squirrel’s twitching nonchalance. Somewhere a lawn trimmer zings to life. She shakes her head at the noise, blinking firmly. The towel, now forgotten, drops to the sink.
The clock says 2:36.
She stands with her back to the window now, leaning against the sink. She bites a cuticle. Her eyes dart to the pantry, to the stove, to the doorway, to the table, everywhere but the clock. A piece of skin she has been worrying tears free and a fat drop of blood takes its place. She sucks in a breath through her teeth and plugs the oozing finger into her mouth. The salty iron tang doesn't last long.
Abruptly she walks back to the chair and sits down. 2:41. A few drops of coffee decorate the table. With a finger she paints with it. Connect the dots. 2:43. She dips her finger into the now cold coffee in the mug and adds spirals and stars. 2:47.
Getting close now.
Wiping her fingers on her shirt, she reaches into the back pocket of her jeans and pulls out her cell phone. She sets it on the table, away from the coffee art but within easy reach. She pushes the power button to turn on the screen, which brings up the current time. 2:48.
The dog has stopped barking, and the only sounds are the buzzing of the lawn trimmer and the humming of the refrigerator. Her fingers tap the mug a few times, then stop. Her head bobs a little to an unheard rhythm. The coffee designs grow, becoming creamy brown curlicues that reach halfway around the mug, stretch out to the phone like vines, like kudzu.
Eyes wander to the phone, but the screen has gone dark again. She pushes the power button.
She grabs the phone with both hands, knocking the mug with her elbow and sloshing more coffee out on the table. The patterns disappear into a spreading puddle.
Before she can tap the chat icon, the phone bleeps.
By Nicole Cater
Pain is an awful boogery bitch.
It gets so bad you have to pull the switch.
Reach for the little cylindrical bottle
And bolt down a couple pills full throttle.
Sweet, sweet codeine with a Tylenol back,
Letting you walk, dance, and hit the rack.
Though you are feeling wonderful, this is true,
Pesky little opioids are working other magic too.
Deep in the pit, far away from your brain,
The station's backed up, stop every train.
And though you might take on minimal freight,
You can't get rid of any of the weight.
No matter how horrible you might feel
There are worse things thrown into the deal.
So, sweet codeine, you I must quit.
Because I really really need to take a shit.
by Lea Anne Stoughton
This is bigger than anything I’ve known before.
This could hurt.
But still I unfold myself for him.
And now he’s in me.
I mean, he’s in me.
He’s knocking on the door to my innermost places.
He knocks and knocks
but that is a door I cannot open.
Sometimes I feel him withdraw, and I wonder,
will I bleed?
It’s the lie that they fed me
The lie that I’ve swallowed whole
And it’s not worth it
With this pain making canyons of my soul
It’s the sweetest strawberry wine
That slithers down my throat
The Eastern wave thrashing and crashing
And beating my boat
It’s the bedtime stories of hazy white nights
While tripping off shrooms
That finally led me to these pleasantly padded rooms
It’s the pretty white angels with outspread wings
The chains that bind me to my
Deepest darkest purplish dreams
The circus tigers roar
Rippling through my brain
And the summer night you held me
While dancing in the rain
It’s the shattering of walls by that one shotgun shell
And it’s the wind that sleepishly blows
Nightmares straight from hell
It’s my life of wishes, and stories told, untrue
It’s these memories of my life
I’ve shared onto you
**Lindsay Quist is a Quad City native, full time college student, and all around bad ass writer. :-)
by Lea Anne Stoughton
Our love is thunder. Not the bright, sharp thunder that flares from nothing and is gone just as fast. Not the thunder that startles you awake in the night. That thunder is painful. It cracks you open, leaving phantoms in your eardrums. No, our love is the thunder that rumbles just above the surface of sound. It creeps into my sleeping, blurs dreams into waking. I feel it throbbing in my very center. It resets my heartbeat. Delicious and frightening is its power, immense, a purring lion. This thunder continues even in the silences between.
*Lea Anne is a freelance writer and mother of two. She enjoys pina coladas and getting caught in the rain.
by: Lilly Garfield
It was obviously a bad day. He was sitting at his desk, whiskey in hand, Hendrix on the stereo. I entered the room just as he exhaled, a plume of smoke from his flared nostrils.
He barely acknowledged me as I sat on the bed. The collar of his flannel was slightly wrinkled and I detected a slight sweat breaking on his neck. Without a word he stumbled to the bed and laid back, clothes lining me, pulling me down with him. His palm went across my face and he turned my head to look at him.
He pried my eyelids apart so I had no choice but to look at him. His eyes were slightly bloodshot and there was something happening behind them. He got up clumsily and walked to the closet. Kneeling, he grabbed a pair of ratty boots, pulling the laces from each one. He grabbed a red bandanna from a drawer.
Again, he stalked over to the bed where I lay completely still. My eyes followed him as he bent over me and grabbed my ankles. The electricity in the room told me not to move or speak. He spread my legs and tied them to each bedpost. My heart thumped.
He grabbed my wrists and followed suit. My brain screamed; it told me to struggle but I remained still. He carefully lifted my head and placed the bandanna over my eyes. What dim light there was shining in from the street went dark. I whimpered as he stuck a cloth in my mouth, securing it with tape. Darkness and silence took over my senses. I waited.
Cigarette smoke filled my nose as his tongue found its way from my shoulder to my ear. A rough hand grasped my breast. He moved lower and my jean button snapped. There was a pulling and a rush of cold air that cause my flesh to crawl. Then a ripping...
I felt his weight as he entered me fiercely. As he thrust, my mind wandered and a tear wet my cheek. It wasn't from fear or sadness...it was complex - a feeling of excitement and anxiety. It's so true that when one sense is limited the others pick up the slack. An animal rummaged outside the window. Footsteps descended the stairs.
Just as quickly, it was finished. He moved off of me and laid on my side. Cigarette smoke again filled the room and I coughed. He removed the cloth from my mouth. Whiskey and cigarettes...We lay in silence.
This is our showcase page, containing various submissions from various Authors. Please look for snippets about the Authors following their pieces.