Honorable Mention, February 2017: “Monster”
When the bear pokes herself, there isn’t a point in tiptoeing past her glaring form and praying to a god you don’t believe in you’ll make it through. Your existence bothers her, and she loves saying so. You’re too ugly, quiet, happy. Happier than she ever will be.
But you take it. It’s been this way since you were born. She’s your mother, after all; she nearly miscarried you twice. By some miracle, she pulled through and gave birth to you. A daughter she wishes were a son. Everything about you is a joke to her, from your plentiful freckles to your enormous breasts. She once made it a point to say you could poke your eye out if you went down a flight of stairs too fast. You’ve never been kept clean of her poison. You’ve been drenched, dried, and ironed in the stuff.
Your escape is the realm of characters you loan yourself to. Only when you imagine yourself as a gentle incubus, an exasperated vampire, an anthropomorphic fox, can you feel good about your humanity. None of those creatures has the same fate as you. You always give them enough money and lovers to make it all better anyway. At school, you’re an outcast for it, but you’re used to rejection. Besides, the bear only vaguely knows about this side of you, so at the very least you’ve succeeded somewhere.
Then you come over to my house, lie down on my bedroom floor, and close your eyes. You whisper to the ceiling, ignoring my dog as he licks your feet, telling me without really telling me that sometimes all you want to do is swallow something that will kill you. You think your only purpose is to return home every night so your mother can tell you you’re a perverse mistake.
I don’t reach for your hand or offer you a tissue. I don’t do anything but deny this conviction. I rip open the world and show you the carpe diem surrounding you. I tell you to leave her. You don’t need her or her “love,” as she calls it. But your fear is everything. You thank me and wipe your eyes, suggesting we watch The Avengers.
After you leave, I contemplate reporting your mother and getting you somewhere safe. Offering you more than words—a room, maybe.
Instead, I open my laptop and drown my Sims for the hell of it.
Triptych does a wonderful job of shifting both the focus of the narrative and the tone in a few quick transitions. Similar to the winning piece, Triptych understands that NOT doing something is just as powerful a choice as any. I love how the last lines remind us that the traits we loath in others exist fully in ourselves.
Jillian Kovach: Currently affixed in Amsterdam, Jillian Kovach is a third-year English major from the University of New Mexico. She has worked on two of her university’s student publications, Conceptions Southwest and the nationally-recognized Scribendi, and is set to have her poetry published in the former later this year. Upon graduating, Jillian plans on pursuing a Master’s in creative writing or publishing and carrying on toward a career in editing. She is also an ordained minister through the Universal Life Church and intends to perform weddings “on the side” so she can eat.
When not contemplating throwing herself into the void (she’s been screaming into it for years), Jillian can be found haunting the underbelly of the Rijksmuseum, thrashing to symphonic metal in her pajamas, and watching planes land at the nearby Schiphol Airport. Her hobbies include volunteering with miniature horses and arguing with Microsoft Word. She simply adores The Sims.