Today’s story was written by Kia Carbone, a  photographer, writer and soon-to-be teacher. Untitled‘s rocky cliff face and its precipitous drop mimic the narrator’s frazzled and lonely mindset, as she contemplates life and the recent deaths that have driven her to this graveled edge.



Kia Carbone

The gravel under my bare feet tosses dust around my ankles before cracking apart, dropping, spinning, falling into the water below. Five feet, fifteen feet, twenty… who knows from up here. My sandals lie next to me, one on top of the other, one upside down, one on its side, twisted together, dusty, one strap broken, the soles dusty, sitting, immobile, waiting, waiting, waiting. The dust in my eyes goes ignored. The ringing in my ears, the crashing of the waves, the wind in my head, these ambient sounds twisting together like mangled steel beams. The big toe on my right foot is rubbing the gravel, pushing the sand, inching its way to the edge, waiting to fall, waiting to fall, waiting, waiting, waiting.

Stick of tobacco sits lightly in my fingers, flirting with the idea of drifting to the ground to its ashes. My hands tingle with each flake; they’re covered in dust, covered in scars, scratches, marks, mistakes. I knew I should’ve ended when I could, should’ve stopped when I could, walked away when I should, drifted, faded, disappeared. I don’t smoke because I want to, I smoke because I can, because it says more than cheap words, because it looks sexy, because it makes boyfriends angry.

Hood pulled tight around my ears, blocking peripheral vision, hiding from the outside, fingers tap, tapping, ashes burning through my lungs. There’s a howling, a humming, a whirring in my head. Memories forgotten, buried, ignored, nagging, nagging, won’t quiet down, won’t ease the regret, the guilt, the anger, the fear. My eyes squint into the glare, squint against the dust, looking down into the waves. My gaze rolls across the rocks dropping from the ledge, stares after the falling pebbles, pebbles pushed by my calloused feet.

“You need to come home.”

“I need to tell you something, but come home first.”

“I’m sorry to call you so late, but something happened. Come home.”

Come home, come home, come home.

The first time broke my heart, streaked my face with tears, burned my eyes with shock. A lame excuse of a boyfriend sitting in the pew, checking his watch, clicking his tongue, sighing when a stifled sob slipped through my throat. We walked to the car together, hand in hand, keys jingling in his pocket, cigarette hanging from my lip. “It’s his fault, really. He asked for it, so don’t blame yourself.” Cigarette dropped, drifted, fell to my feet, ashes showering onto my painted toenails. It landed the same time the sound of my hand across the weak stubble on his chin exploded, landed and burned a hole in my shoe as I stared at him, through him, past him. “Give me the fucking keys.” I left him in the parking lot, didn’t look back, didn’t look back, it’s pointless to look back.

My shoes always make too much noise from the car to the doors of the funeral home. I smell a little too strongly of whiskey and cigarettes, my face stains a little too deep with tears and anger. The bottle of Tylenol bulges unnecessarily and rattles from my bag even though I try my best to keep it still. No one will come back to life, no one will dig up the truth, say the late-apologies on time, unspeak the crushing words, take back the slaps and pushes. Rewind.

Two months go by, two years, two weeks, two days. Two best friends, two overdoses, two suicides. Always walking alone from the church, alone from the parlor, alone to the car, alone to the subway. “It gets better,” he promised me over the phone. “This will get easier, these things will be more bearable…” He talked to me as though he knew, he understood, he could feel the pain, the guilt, the nausea that overcomes me every time I tuck a mass card into my purse, and put a warm hand on top of the lifeless. He doesn’t know why I feel guilty for the warmth of my skin, why my head throbs with the “why not me? why him?” mantra.

“The reception is terrible,” I lie. Digging through my purse to find the lighter, something to make a tiny flame with, something, something, some match stick of comfort. “I guess I’ll just talk to you later.” I hang up and drop the phone into my bag before his half-assed words pour through the earpiece, the obligatory “I’m here for you” when he’s really just heading home to crack a beer open with his friends. The chirp of my car keys fools me to think he’s calling back, promising to be there, to hold my hand, to sit silently, to love each other, to crack open a beer together. I climb into the front seat and sob, alone, driving, alone, speeding, desperate to feel something, any physical pain, permanent pain, real pain, telephone poles blur by, fences, parked cars, sides of bridges, it’s so easy, it would be so easy, so easy.

I end up in Montauk, the end, the tip, isolated, quiet, alone. In a daze I called to say goodbye, called to tell him to fuck off, to enjoy the beer, to enjoy the friends, to do whatever he wants because I’m done. “I can’t understand what you’re saying, just slow down,” he sounded desperate, afraid this would make him look bad, afraid for himself and not for me. Just tears falling into the mouthpiece, sighing from his end, sobbing from mine.

Swerve off the road, rest-stop, stopping-point, breaking point, breaking down, melting down.  Grab my purse, ugly and falling apart, searching through it desperate for a lighter, digging around for the laminated cards, throwing them into the dust, into the gravel, into the ground, silent, wordless, tearless. Watching myself kick my shoes to the end of this dumb hill, a Long Island hill that drops drastically into the water, rocks, dust, trash. It would be so easy.

Fifteen minutes… thirty seconds here and there, an hour. I can’t tell how long I’ve been here.  Can’t tell how long it’s been since the tears stopped. How many cigarettes I’ve lit and hardly smoked. I lost count of how many rocks clattered off the edge and how many birds circled and drifted and screeched over my head. My knees are burning, aching to bend, begging me to have a seat, have a rest, relax.

Car tires crush the gravel behind me and the engine stops. I imagine the key resting in the ignition while he sits in the driver’s seat, looking at me, watching me, studying the back of me and trying to figure out what to say this time, what to do now, how to avoid me. It doesn’t matter what he says, what he does, nothing will change. He just sits there, and watches, digging through his mind for the right thing to do, hoping I’ll just turn around and make this easier for him. It could be that easy, I could go to him, he could come to me and push dust around our ankles, step over the sandals in a heap, useless, waiting to be worn, waiting, waiting, I’m just waiting for him, waiting for this to be over, waiting for this to pass.


4 Responses to “untitled”

  1. Ooh, nice. I like this one. You can really feel what she’s going through and understand her frustration and anger.

  2. The story evokes an alienation that so few things can bring upon a person. it feels so universal because death is a large part of life and at the same time when the author frantically repeats waiting the reader really is there with her, waiting (even though we’re all waiting for something different). i enjoy the movement yet the stagnant feel in this piece. i really empathize with her because sometimes we don’t know what we need from others or ourselves and sometimes the need is the need itself (if that makes sense). a painfully beautiful piece

  3. kia, you wrap up so much of what i have felt in my life. reading this i remember to feel so much more connected to life

  4. this is a beautiful story. very well written with a unique and refreshing style. it was heartbreaking, yet i found i could relate to it more and more the further i read. well done.

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