Red Writing Hood --- A Short Story

Today's assignment for The Red Dress Club is:

Write a short piece of fiction about seeing an ex in the grocery store from the first person point-of-view. Instead of writing from the female perspective, we want you to write from the male perspective. Hopefully, this will help us in regards to character development and stepping outside of ourselves as writers. Have fun ladies!
(It's my first time. Go easy on me.)

The Jitney Jungle's automatic doors swooshed open and a welcome blast of Arctic air hit me in the face. I swiped my damp forehead with my sleeve and yanked a cart from the jumble near the entryway. Ignoring the open container of anti-bacterial wipes, I headed straight for the frozen food aisle. I opened the freezer door and stood there for a minute, still recovering from the brutal Mississippi summer heat. It was like a hangover that wouldn't go away. I slumped against the freezer door holding it open with my hip, hands jammed in my pockets, my eyes half closed, in a kind of trance.
"Anythin' I can hep ya find?" asked a pudgy employee wearing fuschia lipstick all over her top two front teeth. She looked almost hopeful. I hated to burst the bubble of chewing gum she was working on, but frankly I'm a guy, and aside from sex, my needs are simple.
Over the annoying sound of her gum snapping I said, "Nah, I'm okay. Just lookin' for some Hungry Man...Men...whatever," I mumbled, as I felt a reddish hue creep up from my starched collar to my stubbly cheeks.
"Right there," she gestured to the door I'd just been shamlessly cooling myself off in front of. Before I had a chance to thank her, she'd turned around to help an elderly woman with a walker who was asking where she could find the prune juice.

Shuddering, I tossed two weeks' worth of frozen dinners into my cart, hurried past the Green Giant vegetables, and strode over to the hygiene aisle to grab some deodorant. After I made sure no one was looking, I sheepishly scooped up several twin packs of Secret Shower Fresh. For some reason it's the only deodorant that works for me. I've tried other kinds before, believe me. And those were the only times I could smell my own special brand of stink. So for now I'll just keep Secret one of my secrets. My bathroom cabinet is full of barely used Right Guard and Old Spice, which are only good for show.

I wandered around Jitney a bit, not quite ready to go back out into the oppressive heat. I ended up throwing some other necessities into the cart---Doritos, Diet Coke, beer, and what the hell, a dozen Krispy Kreme donuts. Once I realized it was in my best interest to head to the checkout, there were only two lanes open and both lines were long. I sighed, opened the bag of Doritos, and munched away as I draped my forearms over the cart's handles.

Suddenly I glimpsed a head of honey-colored hair putting her groceries onto the conveyor belt. The familiar and deliberate tucking of her hair behind the ears, the dimple in her cheek as she smiled at the checkout clerk. My heart started racing and my armpits grew damp. No, no, no. This isn't happening. It can't be.

But it was. Sarah, the girl who had ripped my raw heart out of my chest, threw it on the ground, and stomped on it like she was under the chuppah at a Jewish wedding. I hadn't seen her since the night she told me she "couldn't do it anymore."

"Do what anymore?" I'd asked icily, caught completely off guard.

"This," she'd said with a sad look on her face. "Us. You and me. I just feel like I don't really know you, like you're hiding things."

I threw my arms up in the air. "What things?" I snapped, with clenched jaws.

"Why haven't I met your family after all this time?" she shot back, eyes blazing.

There it was. The secret of all secrets, rolled out like the red carpet. Only I didn't dare step on it. The secret I couldn't seem to share with anyone, not even my own girlfriend of a year. Because my dad is gay and lives with his lover, I answered her in my head. Because my mom's best friends are her box of Franzia wine in the fridge and her bottle of Prozac. Because you have the perfect little family and no one has any problems, while we can barely keep up with our psychotherapy bills. But I couldn't speak. Couldn't say one word of any of this. Fear had taken its hold of me again.

She detested my silence. "See?" she said and walked out, slamming the door behind her.


Pouring My Heart Out: A Bad Day in 1996, My Journal Entry

I'm Pouring My Heart Out today with Shell over at Things I Can't Say.

Most of you know my dad is gay and came out of the closet when I was 15 years old. If you didn't, please peruse some background herehere and here. I believe his revelation will always impact me in one way or another, and over the years how it has affected me has ebbed and flowed. The major blow was the day he told us his secret and the few weeks/months afterwards. Next came college, where I lived on my own for the first time and really began to process the issues that resulted from his revelation. Below is a very graphic journal entry written from that time period; a time when I had so many powerful emotions swirling around inside that I didn't know what to do with them all. I took my anger, depression, anxiety, and confusion out on myself. If you are not familiar with the concept of self-harm or self-injury, you can read more here. 

The most important thing to realize is that self-mutilation is not about suicide, and I have not harmed myself in over 10 years. If this is too disturbing, please do not read it. And as always, remember that you don't have to like me or agree with me, but you do have to respect me. This is my space. My blog is growing, changing, and soon you shall see less randomness and more reality. This is life, people. We all have skeletons in the closet whether we admit it or not. I am admitting it here.

Moving on. Below begins the actual journal entry from Fall, 1996 (I was 20 years old):

The brand new silver blade bit into the white, trembling skin of my left wrist.

I crouched on the green bath mat just outside the shower stall, trying to make myself small.
My hair was freshly washed, still wet and clinging to my cheeks and the back of my neck. A whiff of Herbal Essence shampoo. It was late on a weeknight, I'd planned it out somewhat.

My heart thundered in my chest and I felt the searing, slicing and it felt good. So I did it again. And again. With immense relief and disbelief at the same time.

Blood, red and thick, flooded to the surface and ran down the side of my arm, dripping.

Drip. Drop. Drip.
Plit. Plat. Plit.
Watching. Like slow motion. Numbness. A separation. Pieces of myself. Breaking off.

Red, paint-like splotches on the grey tiled floor of the shower. My nose was running and tears blurred my vision. I wasn't crying for the pain on my arm, but for the pain in my heart, my soul. Each time the razor sliced into my flesh I felt relief, release, rebirth, a newness. I felt purged and holy and clean. Bloodletting.

The blood flowed freely as I stayed quiet, hovering. I heard nothing save the sound of my own breath and the throbbing beat of blood pumping in my ears.

Pain---what is it, after all? This was a self-imposed pain, so it didn't count. There was a gauzy bandage wrapped around the site of my pain for a while, and now there are long sleeves conveniently covering my pain. But still, that's just the outside pain. There are two kinds, you know. The other is internal, deep inside my heart. It never goes away. I tried to make the inside pain go away by creating a pain on the outside. But that pain proved to be only a temporary distraction.

I'm tired of pain. I think a lot of people don't understand where my pain is coming from. Maybe I don't really understand, either.

It's hard to write about pain. I know it by heart, but I've always had trouble putting it into words, vocalizing it. Yet I don't mind putting words on paper. It's easier than talking about the pain, that's for sure.

Pain is a looming, growling monster that gallops after me. He chases me until I am too tired to run anymore. I trip and fall down and he jumps upon me, howling and writhing and fierce and mad. He won't let me get up and he chokes me, latches onto me. He follows me everywhere, taunting me in foreign tongues. I try not to listen.

I know his words are bad.

(end of journal entry)

And here is a Sylvia Plath poem that speaks to me in many ways:


What a thrill ----
My thumb instead of an onion.
The top quite gone
Except for a sort of hinge

Of skin,
A flap like a hat,
Dead white.
Then that red plush.

Little pilgrim,
The Indian's axed your scalp.
Your turkey wattle
Carpet rolls

Straight from the heart.
I step on it,
Clutching my bottle
Of pink fizz. A celebration, this is.
Out of a gap
A million soldiers run,
Redcoats, every one.

Whose side are they on?
O my
Homunculus, I am ill.
I have taken a pill to kill

The thin
Papery feeling.
Kamikaze man ----

The stain on your
Gauze Ku Klux Klan
Darkens and tarnishes and when
The balled
Pulp of your heart
Confronts its small
Mill of silence

How you jump ----
Trepanned veteran,
Dirty girl,
Thumb stump.

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