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Why I think of you every time I bruise

Story by Madeline Anthes (Read author interview) August 31, 2020

Art by Xiaoying Cui

Because we were young enough that we rarely made it to a bed big enough for two, and instead we loved each other in cars, on the floor, on rigid dorm-room beds with plastic coverings, in the shower. Because we were young enough that we didn’t care if other people heard, if they were on the other side of the wall laughing, and we would smile about the things they heard in the morning, because that made us feel wanted and powerful and satisfied and seen.

Because we bruised our backs on the tile of the basement floor, and you rolled away when we were finished, the blanket we shared pooled at our feet, my pajama bottoms thrown somewhere in the dark. Because I could only see the outline of your neck in lamplight, and because I could feel your goosebumps as I ran my fingers along your shoulder blade, and I felt connected to you, your body responding to me even if you couldn’t. Because I was cold and your body was warm, and I couldn’t stop shivering even as I pressed my chest against your back, curling my head against your spine.

Because this wouldn’t be the last time, there would be many more nights of shallow breathing, of watching your outline in the dark. Because I would let this happen again and again, but this is the night I will remember, the night something shifted between us, the night I whispered to you turn around, turn around, turn around, until your breaths collapsed slower and slower and I only stopped whispering when I grew tired of my own voice.

About the Author

Madeline Anthes is the Assistant Editor of Lost Balloon. Her chapbook, Now We Haunt This Home Together, was published in May 2020 with Bone & Ink Press. You can find her on Twitter at @maddieanthes.

About the Artist

Xiaoying Cui is a Chinese Swiss painter living in Basel. She studied oil painting in Central University for Nationalities, China, and Ecole supérieure des beaux-Arts de Genève in Geneva Switzerland. Her father was a writer and theater director, and she spent her teenage years as his assistant-director, accounting for the ongoing influence of Chinese theater in her paintings. Because her mother came from a wealthy family, she and her family experienced cruel persecution during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, and her painting has explored this theme for the past two decades.

This story appeared in Issue Sixty-Eight — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction 2020 of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Eight — The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction 2020
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Important

The SmokeLong Quarterly Comedy Prize 2021!

This competition is no longer accepting entries. Watch for the long list coming soon! The four winners of the competition will be featured in Issue 74 of SmokeLong Quarterly coming out near the end of December.