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Knot

Story by Tara Isabel Zambrano (Read author interview) December 14, 2020

Art by Marie-Paule Bilger

Content Warning: sexual abuse

I went to Neerja and Gaurav’s wedding and danced all night because the DJ started playing Punjabi rapper Yo Yo Honey Singh and one of Gaurav’s friend brought a drink, claimed it was a mocktail, oh yeah, and half a glass down, I realized a bitter aftertaste, but by then I was on the stage where most of my friends were dancing, screaming, whistling, their hands like confetti only I could not scream when I was fourteen and my uncle pulled me in a store room behind the kitchen while the rest of the family was watching TV, his mouth everywhere it made me gasp, pushing that scream deeper in my gut until it became a knot and afterward, he threatened to tell everyone what I did, so now I screamed until my voice grew flaky like a husk falling off the grain, and now another guy came with a drink which I gulped because he came close, oh so close, the hair falling on his face and the jut of his chin slicing the light, I kept laughing, laughing hard, leaning into him, feeding him my tongue, Are you done, no I’m not, and we kept spilling beer, breaking glasses and he started scream-talking as if he’d been keeping secrets, and because Neerja and Gaurav took forever to arrive, someone joked they’d already broken up so when they finally came, the room dizzied with flashing phones, the girls sucked in their bare midriffs, their necks hot from the foul breaths of boys standing behind them, I kept drinking more beer, throwing up in the trash can, stomping on the crushed glass, the slick floor long after they’d left for nuptials, I kept shaking to the music because I felt I had to and the knot in my stomach tightened and tightened until I could hardly breathe, the people toasting, drunk and rambling, Oh, I can’t believe my princess is getting married, I felt like crashing into their wedding cake but that would have been a goddamn disaster so I ran to the parking lot, fogging up every car window, looking for all I’d lost.

About the Author

Tara Isabel Zambrano works as a semiconductor chip designer. Her work has been published in Tin House Online, The Southampton Review, Slice, Triquarterly, Yemassee, Passages North and others. Her full-length flash collection, Death, Desire And Other Destinations, is out in Sept’2020 with OKAY Donkey Press. She lives in Texas.

About the Artist

Active on the art scene for many years, Marie-Paule Bilger has developed her multidirectional and protean works in the image of her personal journey, her travels, and her interests. Born in Mulhouse, France, she began her creative development with classical dance training but then studied visual art at the University of Strasbourg, becoming a painter and visual artist. In her work, she summons both personal and collective history and places them at the heart of a social and political debates in order to interrogate recent global changes. Her painting is in tune with the zeitgeist: the events and conflicts that took place beginning September 2001 have galvanized its trajectory. Her experiments with painting on transparent media (plastic, plexiglass, and glass) led her towards a use of video; she likes to relate visual “oxymorons” through this medium.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Nine
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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Next Date to Join: December 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.