What Comes After

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hey enrolled her in a grief course, after she left him. Stages of denial and sorrow and pleading, but for her her grief was nothing more and nothing less than the wonder that her husband might do what she now saw he had done. It was nothing to do with her own lost self. Down below there was a certain camaraderie among them, this shared feel of their selves ripping away from their selves, as if part of them was being held somewhere they could not ever access again. They assigned themselves new names in place of the ones they had forgotten, and she took “Violet” because it felt like the world to her, or the world as it should be, or the world that he would one day discover but so far had not.

By the time she came back it had been years since he’d seen her. She could not say how many, just as she could not say how she had found him or how she knew she had found the right him. She sat in the arm of their old oak tree, legs hanging and crossed at the ankles. She leaned forward, let her left breast rest against the bark, her arm circling the branch. There was a physicality to this act, something so pure she could not believe she had forgotten it. She watched him with a woman and though they never touched, just stood there talking, with their coffee mugs, she could know, she could know, that there was a long and comforting past between them, that there was more of value there than she had ever offered him or could ever offer him again. She didn’t know how long he had been with her, but they had had only had two, three years together; she couldn’t remember exactly, though her inability to remember was a persistent worry to her.

The weather that day was like it was down below, only not as dark. The sun might have warmed her back if not for the leaves above; the wind had gone elsewhere; the temperature was neither hot nor cool but just was. This absence of weather, the way things that should not be comforting become comforting. She could forget where she was as she watched her husband casually touch the hair of some spoon-banging toddler not her own. There was a comfort and correctness in the tree, in the spider she watched walk along her arm and in the bugs so small she saw them not for themselves but as miniscule rents in the world around them. There was a comfort and correctness in the tree that she did not want to detect between her husband and that woman.

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own below there was not weather and neither was there time and neither was there tiredness. When she found herself yawning and legs and shoulders aching and a boredom layering under that other feeling she had forgotten, she did not know what to do. Every time she moved the bark pressed into her in new and uncomfortable ways, leaving its brown crumbs across her dress.

He had gone to work, the blond woman staying home with the girl. She had thought to go down, to ring their doorbell and to say, “This is my house, that is my husband, this is mine.” But she could not think of what could come after that, so she stayed in her tree. Could she push the woman aside, step through that peeling red sunburned door to wait for her husband to announce his arrival home with the one-two hop of a man attempting to remove his loafers without his hands, as he had done before? If she flipped over the sofa cushions would she find the one with the cigarette burn, the one thing she could remember doing in that house?

When he came home it was dark, she was cold. He sat in the coupe she had helped him pick out, door open and feet on the pavement, unlacing his shoes and balling his socks in one hand, stretching his toes. He looked up at her tree as he walked the lawn to the door, but just once, just long enough that she could feel the lack behind his gaze. Her old car was gone from the drive, and she could not remember enough to know where it had gone – if it had become an absent thing the same night she had, or if her husband had sold it. From the neighbor’s yard, a cat mewled.

Her husband went home and she climbed down from the tree. She cracked her neck, she stretched her arms above her head, liking the feel of her body for that moment. She went back down below, by a path she might be able to describe but would not even if you were to ask. She went back down below, not to the place where she belonged but to the only place she knew to go.

* * * * *

Ellen Rhudy is a Peace Corps Volunteer serving in the Republic of Macedonia. Her short fiction has previously  appeared in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, SmokeLong Quarterly and Hanging Loose. She writes a blog about literature, Fat Books & Thin Women. Her other posts at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Boxed

Untiring, massive, adamant, the two –
hardness of steel machines belied by silk —
adrift in time, like dinosaurs, step through
into a world unready for their ilk.
A world so small, its voices hum like bees,
take wing like butterflies, their colors bright;
reproach the ancient lizards, walking trees.
Insist that all is dance now, no more fight.
Though once they ruled the earth, their names are lost–
their faded pictures blurring soon to dust.
Their roars wind down, a by-blow of the cost.
The fight has changed us all, as fighting must.
So in the forest clearing’s green array
the boxer bows his head, and steals  away.

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Lydia Ondrusek’s other posts at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Trees: a new series at the Snake-Oil Cure

Knotty tree, photographed in New Hampshire, Ilford HP5 black and white film, kitchen sink processing by Ed. EEJ.

Today sees the beginning of a new series at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure. We were inspired by Byron Barrett’s series of trees back in September and have decided to run a series of your work inspired by or featuring trees. The work can take the form of visual art (photography, as here, or other artforms) or words (poetry or prose).

As always, send submissions to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com. Images should be 500 px across. Alternately, add your images to the Snake-Oil Cure Flickr group!

Exposure № 052: Pequeña estatua de terror

Photographer Naama Sarid tells us: “This photo is an homage to African tattoos and body paintings. The model – Viviana Bovino – is a great actor from Italy who founded the Residui Teatro, where the photo was taken.”

Camera: Pentax. Film: B&W 400asa + texture.

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Naama Sarid is an architect. She began an intense career as a documentary and conceptual photographer in Madrid (2008). Had contributed to numerous magazines and publications in Europe and Israel. She has participated in numerous exhibitions in Ukraine, Spain and Israel. Her sustained challenge as an artist is the desire to “build dreams” in visual codes. Her publications at Dr. Hurley’s Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Dr. Hurley’s Digest, Week 39

We made way this Sunday for the final part in Will Henderson’s “Humpty Dumpty” series, which means that you may have missed a post on Saturday. But never fear! This week’s Digest is here to fill you in.

Fictional

Non-fictional

Poetical

Smithsonial

Artistical

And keep your eyes peeled for news of our first ever print edition, coming up later this week.

Humpty Dumpty: Sunday


text. I have made a mistake.
I text. Talk to me. I text some more. I text until I realize you are not responding.

I tell Murdock I have to go. I tell him I should have left two hours ago. I tell Murdock that I fucked up again. I am slurring everything I am saying. I see Murdock’s mouth moving in response to what I am saying, but I cannot hear him. Finally, he hugs me and screams into my ear that he’ll see me later. He says that he’s happy things are over. I ask him how he knows.

I see a man Murdock introduced me to last week. Murdock is behind me as I am walking toward the door. The music is loud, even though I am now walking through the dining room and there is no music playing. I think the room has been painted since I got there. I ask Murdock if his friend is single. Murdock says that the man’s partner is sitting beside him. I say, OK. I stop by the man, and I can’t even tell if he is cute or old or even looking at me, and I grab his face and I kiss him. I kiss him with tongue and I look up and open my eyes and Murdock’s mouth is open and I realize what I’m doing and I stop kissing this man with tongue and the man looks at me and says wow and I say thank you and I tell Murdock I have to go and I leave.

I walk to my car and I try calling and you don’t pick up and I realize I can’t remember leaving the bar. I get to my car in what feels like record time, and I open the car door, and I sit inside and I think I don’t feel well, but I want to go home and get on the couch and fall asleep and in the morning, I think, everything will fix itself. I turn on the car and I drive.

I realize about 10 minutes into the drive, when I’m in a tunnel, that I don’t remember entering the tunnel. I feel that I’m too close on the right and I overcorrect and end up in the lane beside me. I realize I could have hit someone. I realize I shouldn’t be driving.

I text some more. You finally respond.

I can’t deal with mind games. I am done. Thank you for letting me see Ave one last time. Goodbye Rabbit. I mean it fully this time. Please leave me alone. You will not make me cry again.

I text and I know I am texting but I do not know what I am saying and I do not know how to stop texting. I feel like the phone is the only thing keeping me together.

Goodbye. Do not call me again. Do not text. You need to stay away for your health and for mine. I seriously have a restraining order on you, and if you continue to contact me, I will be forced to use it.

You send me the picture of the extended restraining order.

Leave me alone. Really.

I feel my head throb each time I read the words, and I stop understanding the words, and I stop understanding English.

I get home and I go upstairs and I am loud coming in the door and I wake up Holly and she asks me what’s wrong and if I’m safe. And I am crying and I hand her my phone and I say this is what I keep losing. Read. And she reads some of our texts and she gets to the picture of the extended restraining order and she says, what the fuck, Will. Why would you want to be with him? I thought you said you hadn’t seen him this week.

And I am crying and I say I lied and that I had seen you and that we were back together and now we aren’t and why do I keep fucking this up and she says that you are an addict and you act like an addict and there is no rationalizing how an addict thinks and acts and I am crying and she asks how much I’ve had to drink and I tell her I don’t think I had finished one martini. She says I’m acting like I’ve had much more than that.

I am still crying, and I think she should focus on me. I think she should listen to me and help me. I think she is my wife and I am in pain and where is her commitment to for better or worse now. I tell her I am upset and she doesn’t seem to care.

She says, this is not my problem. This is not my relationship. You keep doing this to yourself. What do you want me to do about it?

I can make life hard, I say. I will take Avery away. If you want a bitter custody battle, I will give you a bitter custody battle.

Holly laughs and tells me to go ahead and try, and she disengages. She doesn’t talk to me again. I leave the loft and I go to Walgreens and I buy a Gatorade. I come home and I pass out.

I wake around 4 a.m. and I am more myself, though my head and stomach hurt. I don’t remember getting home. I don’t remember how I got home. I look at my phone and I see your last texts. I re-read our conversation from the first text to the end of the messages, and I start to cry again and I think, I keep fucking up. I keep fucking up. I keep fucking up. I feel like throwing up.

I send you my final text. I tell you I will cancel your meetings with the people at my job. I tell you I’m glad you have your best friend in your life. I tell you to ignore the invitation to Avery’s third birthday; I put it in the mail that morning, so I am sorry.

I press send.

I turn off my phone.

I hope you believe me.

* * * * *

William Henderson has written for local and national newspapers and magazines, including the Advocate; the Boston Globe; and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He earned a Bachelor of Science in Journalism & Communications from the University of Florida, and a Master’s in Fine Arts from Emerson College, where he studied creative non-fiction. He earned a Hearst Award in profile writing in 1998, and various awards from the Washington Press Association, Florida Press Association, and the New England Press Association. Currently, he is a freelance writer, editor, and copyeditor, and a full-time father to his children, Avery and Aurora. He can be reached at wil329@yahoo.com and through his blog, Henderson House of Cards.

His other Snake-Oil contributions are here.

MACSJ0717

Cosmic Heavyweights in Free-For-All: One of the most complex galaxy clusters, located about 5.4 billion light years from Earth.

By Chandra X-Ray Observatory, 2009.

Millennia ago, I stared into space
the man selling hot dogs beside me
and my mustard moment
threw the night sky at me.
And an ageless poem.
And this photo.

MACSJ0717
sight unveils
a thousand questions

Smell the breath of the galaxies.
Be a Superman, with no breath.
Invisible royal purple man,
pick up paperclips and Van Gogh’s ear
give me back every millennium’s climax.

MACSJ0717
sense unveils
a spangled ocean

God has sex with us
by creating galaxy clusters
and our small faces
ofttimes so emotional we stuff
blue and purple tree-shaped
fairy floss; as if God was on
one knee, simultaneously caressing
energy and chewing gum.

MACSJ0717
being unveils
the myriad life

I have seen you.
I have honoured you.
Day forever brightens in my pocket.

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This post is one in a series of works inspired by the Smithsonian Institution’s photo archive, made publicly available on Flickr. If you would like to, choose an image from their collection and create something – be it prose, poetry, audio, or visual art – inspired by it, and send it to snakeoilcure [at] gmail [dot] com.

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Michael Fitzgerald-Clarke is an English-born Australian poet who lives in Townsville, Queensland. At present he is working on a MS titled Five Faves, Five Least Faves. He blogs here. If Michael could have just one wish, he would give the wish away.

His other contributions to the Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.

Impression № 038: Taurus

Gaëtan Vanparijs brings us this rather affable fellow.

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A native of Brussels, Gaëtan Vanparijs is a student in Art School St Luc. He frequently exhibits and enters competitions to spread to share his universe. Through “l’étrange vie des autres” (“The strange life of Others”), he inserts a touch of the absurd in everyday life scenes, leaving each reader to his own interpretation. He is currently working on a book about illustrated Monsters Biographies. He is influenced by  movies and the Belgian surrealism that surrounds me. He can be reached at  touffffu@yahoo.fr and more of his work can be seen at Flickr.

His other contributions to Snake-Oil Cure can be found here.