Breadcrumb #453

QASSYE HALL

She tastes it as her tongue slides around the inside of his mouth. Stench’s sharpened nails weave into each thread of her jacket as his palms embrace her cheeks, his fingers caressing her ears.

“How does it taste?” His finger traces the back of her left shoulder blade and up into the bottom-lining of her hair.

She says nothing as he takes another hit, placing the lit pipe back in the empty box. “That’s not safe,” she mumbles softly; her bottom lip crushes in between his teeth, his breath –sour and sweet.

“How is this not safe?” His eyes display curiosity while his fingers mock safety as he packs the pipe again.

Her cheeks heat up. The seat, surrounding, swallows her. Her eyes and shoulders follow

the passing lights of a car on the street.

    His fingers trace each vertebrae of her spine, from the bottom to the top, meeting the bottom-lining of her hair once more. Tangling clumps of her hair in between his fingers, his hand massages her scalp – right below her crown.

“There’s only one thing that I can think of that will make you even more beautiful than you are right now.” Her head parallel with her left shoulder; his hand still rubbing, in circular motions.

She leans in closer, staring at his lips. His smile slips from one cheek to the other. She can feel his breath stroking the hair of her upper lip.

His fingers trace each vertebrae of her spine, from the bottom to the top, meeting the bottom-lining of her hair once more.

“What would make me more beautiful?” Her gentle words slowly feed into his open palm.

“If you take this from this box, put it to your mouth, and breathe in.” His soft smile stints a smirk.

She readjusts her head back towards the window, yet her hand migrates around her – a simple signal of acceptance.

Knowing what is at risk here, “Sure.”

She rubs her fingers against the tread of the lighter, igniting it to life, combining flame and plant to produce ash and smoke.

It rushes with striking attacks against her throat. The smoke sending signals to cough, but she resists, refuses to let him see her weak. Holding it in only makes it worse; her tear ducts filled to their rim.

His eyes dart back; she lets it go.

His eyes dart forth. “Another hit?” She stares at his lips with an impulse that beats against the desire of saying no.

Before pain and release can break free of their wet chambers, he rushes in for the rescue. His lips against her lips, he sucks in the smoke, birthing it into the world.

“How does that feel?” His fingers stroke her hair behind her ear. “Tell me how you feel?” His words bounce around an empty mind, echoing with pings and pongs.

He pushes himself forth for another kiss, another make-out session, and she begins falling deep. “I feel amazing.” She spills into existence. “I love it.”

He continues to feast on this, giving her more kisses. Her hands now wrapping around the base of his head, pulling him in closer. One tongue fights to suffocate the other. Soft moans purposely slip; she kisses deeper into him. His bottom lip now her teeth’s new toy – gently pulling on it. His hand reaching up the back of her shirt, fidgeting with the conjoined bra strap. Her laugh fills their combined mouths.

She lets go, pushes back. “Tell me what else can make me beautiful?” He smirks again, but he doesn’t answer. He continues to stroke that one clump of hair behind that one ear.

For her, there’s no anticipation; no desperation for an answer, but she detaches herself from his embrace.

Her cheeks inflamed, but there is no worry. The seat stops swallowing her. Her eyes gaze into his, and she smiles. He’s a fool to believe it’s real.

XXX

The smallest hand ticks loudly in the hallway as it crosses ten – eleven – twelve past two o’clock in the morning, just returning home from work.

She freezes; her father is in the living room.

He says nothing. Eyes are glued to the television. It’s Family Feud again. In his hand, she sees his pen and his yellow legal pad. That legal pad that he uses to play along with this game on television.

She goes onto her room, rips off the clothes that reeked of sweat and grease, and hides it at the bottom of her hamper.

Sitting bare-naked on the toilet seat and waiting for the shower’s water to heat up, she scrolls through her messages until she hits the last one, the last conversation dated for October 8th, 2016.

This is such a hard question to answer, but if you weren’t so lucky, darling, to have me in your life. ;)  Haha. But you’re cute when your eyes stare into mine after I’ve irritated you, but words can’t describe what makes you beautiful.

He had taken a long time to answer her question after he had dropped her off back at home, and it was in a text.

Her thumbs rub against the keyboard on the screen as she continues to read the last message that she didn’t know would be the last, Stupid Answer.

Tears run down her cheeks, catch themselves at her nose, but quickly drop to her screen.


He died in a car accident that night. Some drunk asshole ran through a stop light. T-boned his driver’s side door. The impact immediately killed him.


She throws her phone onto her bed, drops her towel, and lays on the floor. The last night in the car with him on a continuous loop of replayed memory in her head.

She groans to herself and wraps her body around the pillow she dragged down with her.

Her phone buzzes, but there is no budge, no desperation that draws her to see who wants her attention, so late in the night.

Headlights pierce their nails across her ceiling, distracting the candle light of her room with its beam of light.

She gets up off the rug, puts on clothes, plucks her phone from her thick sheets, places it on the charger and heads to bed.

• • •


Breadcrumb #446

MICHELLE WHITTAKER

The thought of my Grandmother’s death likes to visit
the idea of a Jesus cleaned and dressed after dying

even when the clanging of cymbals or catechisms
against prayer wheels in the brain no longer lay sick.

The thought of an oncologist sketching disorganized nodules
dislikes how sleeplessness does not return the countryside I love

or my family -- who escaped to their own islands
when consuming turned into dire consumption.

The thought of the obeying silence often interrupts
this drinking, this dunderhead, who often masks abdominal pain.

Where I was made born again crawls in-and-out bed --
certain positions seem prone to restless anger.

When loving someone depressed, dying & in self-denial,
deeper the daily routine for creating art -- like a constant

circling around my Grandmother’s bed, who sings
about the imaginary violence of disease,

thinking itself mapless -- or ageless
like a luminary obedience, or the tormented knowing,

when virtue subsumes the blade ready --
soaked clean.

• • •

Breadcrumb #302

SAMANTHA SETO

He’s walking, a plaid flannel and blue jeans
and – Oh my Lord – we’re in the middle of nowhere,
close to Phoenix, AZ: home of the desert,
the nation’s cactus, and sequoia trees
that shed light on the rivers or lakes preserving
a resource of nature. I breathe the fresh air.
You send a couple to travel with each other
for days, carrying bags and books and too
much luggage filled with clothes and ivory soap,
their different selves begin to intertwine
a peak or the end of a good relationship –
and essentially the death: we’re both mad.
Who made you the best? I say. He says,
talking may turn around to fire at you,
and then he throws a hard, white pillow at me –
to hit my body. He won’t care for months
after he hurts me, yet in every single case,
it pierces my heavy heart, a thunderbolt
before it drops to my feet on the beige carpet,
that forces our lives to diverge in separate ways.

• • •

Breadcrumb #149

JEN WINSTON

You text me the link in the morning while I’m still half asleep so I only think I see it. Then I wake up and definitely see it, but now I’m running late and don’t have 15 seconds to load an article. Then my commute is cold so I forget about anything else, and then I’m at work, busy paying attention to a different screen.

    Acknowledge, you text me two hours later, the lack of punctuation intended to show your impatience. A few minutes pass, and when I still don’t respond, you send one single space. It's a blank text, sitting on my iPhone like a gray balloon, all full of helium with nowhere to go. This is a bump, the least punctuation possible, the most impatient text of all. I tuck my phone in my back pocket to sneak it into the bathroom, duck into a stall, and click.

    “Fallen Construction Plywood Kills West Village Woman,” says the headline. I sigh, realizing the sound was probably audible to Janet, my boss, who is washing her hands. Yesterday you sent, “Two Taxis Collide In Front Of Williamsburg Bridge.” The day before, “Bronx Bodega Owner Slain In Gang Shootout Misfire.” The stories’ protagonists all are — or were — 28-34. It’s the same age as us, but also the same as the people I’m supposed to be selling body wash to right now. I send a blue balloon back to you, Acknowledging, and leave the bathroom without washing my hands.

     Janet shows me a cherry-colored shower gel and asks me to write taglines for it. The gel has little beads in it, so the taglines must convey the importance of exfoliating. Back at my desk, Janet gives me a cherry-colored shower gel and asks me to write taglines for it, making sure to convey the importance of exfoliating. We have to motivate people, she says. They will thank us later. I consider that I haven’t exfoliated since I ran out of apricot scrub two months ago. I haven’t gathered the strength to make a drugstore run because a drugstore run is a thankless, exhausting errand. This is why Janet and I can’t change consumer behavior — because all target markets have one thing in common: They are lazy.

     Hi, you text me that night. A text without a link is much easier to deal with. I know you know this, so I know this text means you simply want me to Acknowledge, to tell you you’re not alone here.

     Hi, I respond.

     One week later, I’m in the West Village. I think of the woman, then, obviously, of you.
In west vil rn, I text, and you reply almost immediately with another link. I click it while I’m walking, causing me to almost step into traffic, but I see the cars just in time and jump back. I sidle against a snowy mailbox, quickly forgetting how scary the moment almost was, and read “Elevator Accident In Midtown Kills Two.” You’ve given me a new neighborhood to fear, a different man-made object to avoid.

     Thank you, I text back. That helps.

     Between us, we are inexperienced with death. We have lost no parents, no siblings, not even a grandparent during our lifetimes. We dumb to it, which means we are lucky. And we know this.

     I guess I do have one story, but it’s never felt right to tell it to you. An acquaintance from my high school, someone I kissed once at a party. He was found in his college dorm, electrocuted after stumbling into a high voltage chamber. He was drunk. You need to know this story, I think, because you and I are often drunk, so it’s relatable, the way the other stories are because of 28-34. But unlike the others, I knew this person. I kissed him. And I don’t want us to use someone I kissed to imagine ourselves. Every time you act out a play, it becomes more theater than reality. It’s not fair to your characters to kill them again.

     This is the point of sending headlines to each other: I get to imagine what if it were you, you get to imagine what if it were me. But we both only imagine these situations from our own perspectives, from the vantage point of the person who stays alive. This is why I like you — because even in hypothetical situations, we stay realistic. We know that, in the back of our heads, we would be pissed that the funeral meant we couldn’t work out that day. Sending the headlines to each other is a way of giving the other person permission to think like this. This, I’m sure, is the real reason we send them.

This is the point of sending headlines to each other: I get to imagine what if it were you, you get to imagine what if it were me.

     When I imagine you in the headlines, I imagine me as a wreck. I know I would keep texting you, and wonder if my iMessages would mark as delivered. The texts wouldn’t contain headlines, of course, because the purpose of those — the imagining of you in them — would be gone. Instead, they would just say Hi. Much easier to Acknowledge, though you never would.

    I imagine my office wouldn’t even give me bereavement days, since we’re not dating, or married, or related by blood. Most people don’t even know we’re friends because we text more than we talk, and screenshots of those texts would be shitty evidence — out of context our links and blank balloons would seem almost illegible, like a code concealing something of little to know interest. Maybe this is because of the acquaintance I kissed, but whenever I imagine death, I imagine it without blood. Cold and empty, almost purple. Anything but red.

     Janet likes one of my lines: “Scrub now. Shine later.” Millions of people will read these four words on billboards and our product’s bottle, and I realize this is only kind of story that anyone wants to hear. My boss says this product is a big deal — if just one of those people age 28-34 starts exfoliating, we have them for life. Think of all the dead skin that will fall, making ceramic shower floors look like marble.

    On the way home from work, I walk past a Duane Reade. I have fifteen minutes, just enough time to pick up more apricot scrub, cotton swabs, and other things I sort of need. But then snow begins to fall and my fingers go numb, and I imagine freezing here on the street corner. I wonder who it would hurt more if I turned into ice and never saw you again. I decide I don’t want to go inside, so I stand there until I only have five minutes. Then, my whole body stinging, I walk home.

• • •

 

Breadcrumb #48

ROBIN WYATT DUNN

Every corpse I ever loved I found in Bethlehem, down below the darker
tragedies of life is the eternal balm of death, and its milder
horrors, of decay.

Each skull I rap my knuckles on brings luck; each skeletal shield,
helm and sword I've made from the charnel is lucky. I am the luckiest
of men. In my basement. In my saddle. In my village. In my nation.

In my nation all men are equal; the women more so. In my nation we
await death as eagerly as children await ice cream — which is to say,
not at all. We shove it into our mouths.

I eat death with heartache, with resolution, and with force. I eat
death, my balls tucked handily into my trousers, ready to spill out
when the party finally begins, when the dead finally rise, when God
finally shouts us to our feet.

But I know the dead are always rising. And I know God is always
shouting us to our feet. Every morning. Sometimes at night. Or even
crepuscularly.

Crepuscularly I await meaning on the edge of my bone-sword, the same
way Napoleon awaits the moving of the spark to the fuse to the anus of
the cannon.

Like him, I am short, and angry. Like him, I long for death, and the
murders which precede it. Like him, I dream of Corsica like one might
dream of a river, eternal, running under the wood and the stone and
the earth, and running over it too, like it runs over my heart, and my
balls, fluvial love eternal, a river bigger than death, is the one I
dream of. Even when awake I dream of it, when I pop my head out of the
nuclear shelter, to threaten the tourists.

• • •