A Stupid Flick

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A Guest Writers’ Week post by Donovan Smith

We were locked in an argument coming down the steps of your front porch. I don’t even remember the topic, I just remember you being mad that I didn’t open your door after. Childish of me.

The ride there was like so many others we took that summer. I hated giving you the cord. The thought of jocquees squealing through my speakers made me nauseous, though I knew the harsh sounds of Nirvana b-sides, odd future, or satanic metal would do the same for you. I jumped track to track through Because the Internet in search of middle ground. No complaints, but no conversation either.

You were dressed for passion. Short shorts and a loose fitting shirt that cut off right at the belly button. I didn’t know you neglected a bra until we were already seated and it pissed me off. I was possessive that summer.

Jealousy couldn’t beat out my lust though. I copped a generous feel during a makeout session that was probably discourteous to the other moviegoers. It was an R rated movie; they’ll get over it. We had done much worse in the same theater.

You didn’t know I had already seen the movie with another girl the week before. We were “broken up”. You didn’t know that girl was my ex either.

It was a funny, stupid romantic movie. I didn’t plan on enjoying the movie or the date to be honest. Whatever I was mad about had already eaten up all the reserved space for happiness in the thought region of my brain. While I recycled my laughs to meet yours, there were times we looked at each other and your eyes met mine, holding my gaze with an entirely different pull. Softness. I was wearing you down that summer. I was too inward to realize that.

On the ride back you pressed the issue of us getting back together. I wasn’t into it. An argument we had multiple times before the date played out again at a much higher volume. I screamed. You laughed at me screaming. That pissed me off even more. I remember going above 70 on the interstate yelling at you while you giggled like an amused child. The thought of hitting you crossed my mind. I wouldn’t do it. I hated you with all I could gather, but I loved you even more.

You knew how to be mean and how to emasculate. Chalk it up to girl power. I could never match wits with you when it came to being hurtful. I never wanted to. But my uneven, mostly mute attitude always lent me a darker element. I made a comment about wrecking and killing us both as the truck barreled across the pavement. The words were sarcastic, but wrapped tight in dry delivery. You didn’t think that was funny. Neither did I, and seeing you become visibly disgusted with me made made me feel like the biggest asshole ever.

You didn’t want to go home with me anymore. I realized my mistake too late. I tried to lighten the mood and talk sweet. You wouldn’t let me touch you. It was silent when I pulled into the gas station to let you out. Your cousin waited in a parking spot to collect you and bring you home. I remember wanting so, so badly to hug you and cry and tell you I was sorry, but I couldn’t. Anger and pride and so much more underlying shit kept me from breaking down. You gave me a sarcastic smile when you stepped out and I finally moved. I flipped you off and drove away. I made my way home with no music playing and hot water on my face.

I never should’ve took you to see that stupid fucking movie.

Donovan Smith is a twenty year old from Chaneyville, Louisiana. He’s a depression prone young dude who takes refuge in twisting words in artful ways. Connect with him on Twitter @Lame__O and on Instagram @ _lord.nasty. 

I Must Confess, You Broke My Heart.

I wonder how it's possible that you could have completely shattered my heart while I was still trying to protect it.

A Guest Writers’ Week post by Lauren Harbury

For weeks I have sat in front of this laptop trying to find the right set of words. Words that would expose just how deeply you have hurt me, while helping me get over you. Words that would make you realize how badly you have fucked up… at least that’s what I want you to think.

I sit here and feel ridiculous. There’s the knowledge that whatever it was that happened between us was merely a blip on the radar. A short two month stint. Yet in those weeks you managed to wind yourself so deeply into my life that the mere absence of your name on my cell phone seems innately wrong.

How you could have knowingly lead me to open up to you, to share stories, scars and facts that not many people are privy to. How you could have lied in my bed, weary from “making love” at night, knowing that soon you would pack up your ever present backpack, never to return. How you could have met my friends and parents and how you could have introduced me to your people when you knew I didn’t really have a place next to you.

I sit here and wonder how you fucking sleep at night, but in the same thought, I wonder if I cross your mind before you fall asleep. I wonder if, like me, you wake up during the night and think of me, or if it causes a weird pain when Lil Dickey comes on.

I sit here and wonder how I let my guard down for you. I knew better. The words on your lips as you left, “I think you’ll find that I have been hurting you,” were as true as anything I could ever write. The way you brought me into your life and convinced me to stay is staggering. You made me feel safe, wanted, treasured, while simultaneously making me feel unstable, jealous and needy. You lifted me up, telling me that I was ingrained into your mind, sharing pictures and videos of your time with your son, talking about a future where I was there with you. You tore me down, waffling, waiting, playing games and pretending to be innocent.

You told me you were “leaning toward me”–something I should have recognized as beyond fucked up from the moment it left your lips. Asking if it was really “bad” to be lying next to me and texting I love you guys to someone else. Wrapping your arms around me each time a piece of my heart broke off on the jagged corners of your life. Convincing me that I was something truly special, not only to you, but to the world. Something cherished.

You knew that you were going to break my heart, yet you kept coming back because it was easy. I was nothing more than a vacation from what had become a hard life for you to live. I was a fun pit stop on the highway of life, a layaway where you could find adoration and support. A layaway where you could find someone to fuck. Where you could find someone to love you. Where you could feel safe.

There are so many worst parts of what happened, but the sense of being used is overwhelming.

You told me you were falling for me. You told me you wanted me to meet your brother, and more importantly your son. You spent so much of your time here, with me, holding my hand, kissing me, making love with me. You seemed so genuine, so happy. You seemed so honest, so caring. You seemed so funny, so brilliant.

You said you loved my mind, how smart I am. You said you had been looking for someone like me for so long. You said that you were ready. You said you loved that I was interested in your mind, in your stories, in your work, in the things that made you tick. You said I made you feel safe and wanted and important.

Was it just a lie? Was any of it true? Or did it just not matter?

Was it a game that you wanted to win? A trophy to put on top of your dresser? Was it nothing more than a joke, watching me make a fool of myself for you? Was it just fun to have a “rich girl” take you out for massages? Was it just a moment of weakness?

I hate that I miss you and I hate that I give a shit. I hate that today I read an article about the negative effects of giving your children melatonin and the first thing I thought about was Sean*. I hate that I listen to Sia’s House On Fire and Halsey’s Ghost and think that those two songs capture my feelings completely. I hate that every house I enter and every book store I pop into has The Goldfinch on display. I hate that you think you have the power to tell me that I can’t write about you, when you’re just afraid of the things I could say.

I hate that you think you know me, know exactly how I’ll react and what I’ll think. I hate that you had the audacity to say that you couldn’t have the pressure of knowing that I would wonder if you are coming back. I hate that you said you would miss me, but that you wouldn’t tell me. I hate that you cried. I hate that you made me feel like I needed to comfort you. I hate that you found me endearing, if your words are to be trusted.

I hate that you invited me into the relationship you have with your son, having me sit next to you while you FaceTimed. I hate that you played house with me; I hate that I know how you take your coffee and exactly how toasted you like your bagel. I hate that I know what your living room looks like and that on Thursdays I picture you sitting at the table working. I hate that after reading the first thing I wrote about us, you said that you never wanted me to feel that way. Then you did exactly the same thing.

I want to hate you, but I can’t. Instead I am trapped in this mind of mine, wondering where you are and what you are doing and if you are ever going to figure it out.

Lauren is a twenty-something who can often be found searching for the perfect IPA. An ex-Portlander, she is enjoying the warmth and sunshine of the East Coast, while acting as the glue to this network of amazing, talented individuals. She is the proud parent of a perfect rescue pup named Snugs, and just recently checked off the 14th country on her travel list. If she had it her way, she would wear lulu lemon every day, and always have a beer at lunch.

Connect with Lauren at www.twentysomethingliving.com and on Twitter @laurenharbury. 

Dana Sukontarak Revives Dating/Relationships Writing With Debut Collection “Men”

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“Though I take full responsibility for my life, the men I’ve shared parts of it with have had a huge impact on the way I think, the way I love, and especially the way I write.” –Dana Sukontarak

It is difficult, if not impossible, to find fresh and nuanced writing about dating, relationships, and love. There are writers like La of Liquor, Loans, and Love who inhabit quiet corners of the Internet and do the genre justice. However, for the most part, the dating and relationships writing niche is dull at best and dead at worst, relegated to half-baked listicles and essays that reek of more righteousness than reality.

But, then, there’s Dana Sukontarak.

In her debut collection of essays entitled Men, Dana chronicles her coming-of-age love stories, filled with jagged edges, uncut footage, and the kind of candor that’s too quickly becoming extinct. Her voice is equal parts enchanting and irreverent as she writes her way through both the splendor and stupor of true human connection. In a new age that sums up love through filtered Instagram photos and #relationshipgoals hashtags, Dana challenges the notion that such an emotion is so clear-cut and candy-coated. Instead, her narrative reflects that of most twenty-something women I know, self included. In short, sometimes we dig for love in all of the wrong places, but end up with answers about ourselves to questions we never even thought to ask.

Meet Dana and get a glimpse into her world of Men.

TU: What is one thing you believed about human connection in your early twenties that has since changed?

Dana: I used to think that the end of a connection was the end of the world. In a way, it is the end of a certain world you’ve built with somebody, but it’s never really gone. Life happens in cycles, and a lot of it is repetitive. The people you have actual meaningful connections with will never go anywhere.

TU: In the intro of the book, you write something I’m sure many other writers can identify with: “I often feel as though I have no choice as a writer other than to selflessly divulge every detail of my personal life.” Despite how forthright you are in the collection, is there anything you left on the cutting room floor? If so, why?

Dana: Sure, there are details I left out for different reasons. I wanted to tell my story without coming too close to trying to hijack someone else’s story. It’s hard, because the stories do intersect, but to a certain extent I tried to be mindful of other people’s privacy. I am a really open book, but I understand everyone else isn’t that way. I didn’t want anyone I wrote about to feel embarrassed when they read their chapter, unless they should feel embarrassed. Then it doesn’t really matter.

I also published this book at a time when I’d been dating someone new for only a few months. I wanted to write so much about him and our connection, but I also wanted to preserve the sanctity of our blossoming relationship, and not interfere too much with my probing, writerly ways. So, I wrote about him, but certainly not to the extent that I really wanted to or could have. That story is still developing, so it would have felt wrong to try to capture it prematurely. Or maybe he’ll be the one person I never really write too much about. I’m not sure.

TU: One of my favorite pieces in the book is the first essay, “February Seventeenth,” in which you depict the push and pull of falling both in and out of love, simultaneously. How do you believe this piece potentially challenges a reader’s assumptions about infidelity?

Dana: I’ve read that piece over and over, trying to imagine how someone might perceive me after that story, if they didn’t know me very well, or at all. There are a lot of different answers. I think it’s apparent that I am a smart person who doesn’t always do smart things. People tend to look at infidelity in such a black and white way. It’s usually either “fuck it, cheat” or “fuck all cheaters.” There is a story behind each seemingly heinous love crime, and this was mine. I feel bad about how things happened, but I’m happy for even the slight chance of someone reading this and realizing either that they’re unhappy where they are and need to make moves, or that they should quit fucking around before they fuck up a good thing.

My intention wasn’t to fuel the inane debate over whether men or women are bigger cheaters. Everyone is imperfect in their own ways. Some of the most loyal lovers are as boring as boulders. Some promiscuous people really are kindhearted and well-intentioned. Most people will cheat or be cheated on at least once. Even Beyoncé.

danaTU: In “February Seventeenth” you also address love as an artist, referencing the “idea of a whirlwind creative passionate romance that would propel me leaps and bounds as a human and a lover and a writer.” Why do you believe artists are drawn to this kind of romance, and is it ever sustainable for us?

Dana: It’s tricky, for sure. We’re drawn to that kind of love because we see ourselves in it, and people really are narcissistic creatures like that. I’ve been in relationships where the guy just wasn’t interested in what I do. It’s not a deal breaker to me. Everything isn’t for everybody. You find other things to share and bond over. But it’s so much more beautiful when you can share your passion completely, and have someone genuinely excited and interested in your art.

Artists are crazy, though, so the question of sustainability really just depends. I think it’s possible to find a likeminded creative individual that is willing to love and adore and commit to you. But most likely, they’ll be weird and panic when they start to feel like you’re stifling their art. You’re never really stifling their art, though. Artists are just weird like that. You’ll always be sort of secondary to their craft.

 TU: In your essay “Too Much Magic” you write, “I must partake of you in moderation because you fuck with my head, my heart, and my soul.” Why do you believe it’s in our nature to gravitate toward dysfunction and chaos?

Dana: I’ve found that a lot of people would rather feel something than nothing at all. So, that means that many people may accept sadness and drama and turmoil because it is exciting. That includes me, too. We welcome problematic situations when we don’t know, or don’t try to know any better. Not many people are protective of their peace. It’s a hard road of acceptance. Even when I look back at that chapter, I wonder how I let somebody dictate my emotions and actions in that way. I was a willing participant, the aggressor even. It’s weird to think about.

TU: What are three things you would you tell 22-year-old Dana Sukontarak about men?

Dana: The first thing is that not all men are worth all of you, so ration yourself accordingly. The second thing is that men are usually threatened by outspoken or otherwise bold women. They might not say so, but they’ll show you so. The third thing is that men cannot be forced to change. Whatever change you think you’re enforcing is only temporary, a load-bearing band-aid over a deep, deep crack.

TU: The book alternates between personal narrative and pieces that are more poetic and conceptual. How did balancing writing styles help you better tell your story?

Dana: I think the different writing styles not only kept it interesting, but were also indicative of a real-time shift in my identity as a writer. I’m big on variety. So, if I experimented with poetry, or maybe writing in a more nebulous than specific way, it was just based on how I felt at the time. I think it’s all worth sharing, and the diversity of styles shows the reader that I’m unfinished. I’m still growing as a writer. There are lots of different ways to tell a story, and for a book like ‘Men’ that’s really like an early mixtape in my rap career, I think it’d be unfair to just showcase one.

TU: Define love.

Dana: Love is farting really loud, unflinchingly, in front of each other. We do it every morning. No, really, love is acceptance. Love is a willingness to please someone through and through, because their mere existence pleases you.

Dana Sukontarak is a 27-year-old Washington, D.C.-based writer, editor and author. She likes snail mail, Moleskine notebooks, Murakami novels and fresh produce. ‘Men’ is her first book available for purchase here. Follow her on Twitter @peachesjordan and connect with her further at www.danasukontarak.com

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Too Much For You

I am too many walls to break down, too many questions to answers, too many tightropes to traverse, too many risks for the average man to take

When I meet him, I let my fingers rest on his back for two seconds too long. He’s leaning over the bar, trying to wave the bartender down. But once I arrive, the allegiance of his attention shifts. 

He introduces himself, offers up his seat, and orders me something I’ve never drank before but would like to have again. And then the night begins to unwind the way most nights like this do, with a pair of hands that find themselves lower on my spine as one hour bleeds into the next. We laugh. Exchange stories. Say yes to the shots even though in some creek of our judgment, we know it’s not the best idea. I joke with him that he’s dangerous because I’ve never matched up well with fellow libras. He retorts that libra women possess an intoxicating kind of charm, one that he keeps referring to as The Inveigle. 

When he kisses me, he does it slowly and with intention, an art I’ve found most men never learn. And when we part ways, two dim bars and one late night pizza later, I decide that I like him and want to see him again.

It’s the kind of evening I want to collect and save in a bottle for some 25 degree night next winter. But this little thing unraveled, the way most little things like this do. Something he said only an hour into our conversation that sweet spring night kept sending an unpleasant electric shock through my memory.

He told me he was ready to settle down. Have a wife. Make some babies.

I knew I wasn’t ready for any of that, but I kissed him anyway. I also wondered if the same men who unwaveringly say they are looking for a wife are just as sure they’re ready to be a husband.

The tightly knotted coils of that night disentangled rather quickly, folding into a blur of text messages that made me scoff more than they made me smile. And it was the last thing he said that has been singing a miserable love ballad in the back of my head ever since.

I understand if I’m too much for you, Tyece. 

There are things we never get the chance to say, so we write them instead.

He was not too much for me. But, perhaps I may have been too much for him, with my unruly spirit and mess of a self. I may have been too much with my unwillingness to quietly nod yes and fit into his mold. I may have been too much when I did not fall into praise dances at his urgency to start a family. I may have been too much because the reality is that most days, I am far too much. Most days, my heart is ten sizes too big for my body. Most days, I lose hours traipsing through the broken boulevards of my mind. Most days, I don’t have the tolerance for the dead end road of “What’s up?” text messages or interactions that insult the depth of human connection. Most days, I am too many colors and too many lights and too many sounds. I am too many walls to break down, too many questions to answers, too many tightropes to traverse, too many risks for the average man to take.

Funny how this life works. Because most days I’m the one forced to reconcile the reality that I’m far too much for you.

Xoxo,
Tyece

The Spark

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He was six feet of godliness and danger. When we met, my fingertips begged me to write about him. They already knew how neatly he would fit into my lines, how seamlessly I could string him into my sentences. Entire patches of my skin stood at attention and sang symphonies any time he smiled. I wanted to hear about his past, listen as he dissected his childhood wounds and offered them to me gratuitously. He was the kind of man I could get tangled up in, the kind of hurricane I so foolishly thought could be my refuge from the storm.

I have written this story before. At least that is what my heart told me the day we walked away from the coffee shop and I still couldn’t summon the chills to back down from my spine. I have written this story before. That is what I reminded myself the night I got home and glanced at my phone every so often, wishing on shooting stars for a “Had a great time today, do it again soon?” text message. I have written this story before. This was the truth that tugged at me that afternoon when I put too much faith in the spark of the moment and not quite enough in the reality of the situation.

See, I have written this story before. And on that particular March afternoon, as wind ripped and roared through the sky, I told myself I wouldn’t write that story anymore. I’d put a period on that page and move on to the next chapter, one where I didn’t barter my sanity for the high of the spark.

I spent the greater balance of my late adolescence and early twenties living off of the high of the spark. Seeking the spark. Fighting to sustain the spark. Letting the spark light me on fire and leave me in a pile of ashes. Chaos was normal; sleepless nights and I were well-acquainted. Because somewhere along the line someone taught me to believe in the instant chemistry that bubbles over in the laboratory flask, even when it means all of the buildings are burning and hell has broken loose. It’s the kind of chemistry that leaves your pupils dilated and your heart zooming and your mess of a self returning to Dante’s Inferno for one more round of whatever’s being served. It’s also the kind of chemistry that, when misunderstood or mishandled, can burn you alive.

That was the spark. Red hot and addictive, irrefutable and fatal. I didn’t want to live, and surely didn’t want to love, without it. At least not back then. And maybe not even right now.

But now my burns have sharpened me. They’ve forced me to wisen up. Those burns have taught me to believe in things other than the spark. They have taught me to believe in things like a man’s kindness, his heart, how he treats his mother, and how he speaks about his sister. Those burns have made me crave more than ruffled sheets and hollow pillow talk. Those burns have required me ask myself whether or not I want to sit in bed with a man on a Sunday morning with our fingers wrapped around warm coffee mugs and our eyes scanning whatever we’re both reading. Those burns have made me believe that there is someone out there in the cosmos who will match my spark, whose connection will not come attached with terms of agreement and expiration dates. And because of those burns I now know that the spark is not the only compass in love, nor does it always signal “go.” In fact, sometimes that very spark tells us to stop. Falling rocks ahead.

Xoxo,
Tyece

WYAO April general promoThis post is part of Write Your Ass Off April, a 10-day writing challenge to create your most naked, brave, and no holds barred writing. Learn about the challenge here and share your work on social media using the hashtag #WYAOApril.