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The Part of the Story I Won’t Be Telling You

Story by Janet Frishberg (Read author interview) March 25, 2014

art by Emma Bailey

You were conceived during the first superstorm, when we first realized what the changing climate might really mean, when it started to feel like the earth was kicking us out, although of course humans had been feeling that way forever, but in the city sometimes we forgot we were animals.

There was still no power that night. I was on birth control but my phone had died, my phone with the alarm on it to remind me to take my pill at the same time each night. So I messed it up.

Even having sex then sometimes felt like too much celebration, too happy to do, but sometimes it felt like mourning and then we did it slowly and sadly and finally we had peace afterwards. In the last year, I had just lost my dad and he had just lost his mom, both to a lifetime of drinking and pain pills, no-surprise deaths, the kind that cause preemptive mourning for years before the person actually dies.

The night we made you we lit candles and it was romantic and solemn, but then it was too romantic and solemn, so we used the last of the power on the computer and put on this electrojazz album that he loved. We danced in the middle of the candlelit room, crazy dancing until I was sweaty and he was breathing hard and my hair was really tangled like we had already finished but we hadn’t even started.

Then he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and made barking noises like a dog—I’m not sure why, this wasn’t something he normally did—and when he put me down I fell onto the fake-wooden floor like a collapsed tent, face-down. He poured us glasses of water from the huge plastic containers we bought in preparation for what might happen and then he lay down on top of me, perpendicular, his stomach on my back like x marks the spot. And I thought maybe that was enough intimacy for tonight, until he moved his head to my feet and started kissing my ankle, and I thought maybe there was room for more if I really turned off my brain, if I didn’t think about the wind still blowing down fragile city trees outside, or the photo of the hanging crane threatening its way towards collapse, or his mom in the hospital with tubes stuck into her, not draining her but filling her, and the soft white whooshing of the machine that was her lungs, until we pulled out the power from it, and waited, watching with eyes that already knew the ending, until she, finally, stopped breathing.

About the Author

Janet Frishberg lives and writes in a light blue room in San Francisco. She’s currently editing her first book, a memoir. You can find her work in places like Literary Orphans; Cease, Cows; the SF Chronicle; r.kv.r.y quarterly; Black Heart Magazine; Revolution House, The Rufous City Review and Pithead Chapel. You can find her @jfrishberg.

About the Artist

Emma Bailey is an artist and media maker in San Francisco. Emma started drawing as a way to document the awkward and sweet moments of the day.

This story appeared in Issue Forty-Three of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Forty-Three

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