Poetry from C.C. O’HANLON

From unpublished notebooks, L.A. & Sydney, 2003-2005 Poetry – by C.C. O’Hanlon


i lie.
for me, brittle artifice
works better than truth.
like stolen money,
marked, easy to trace,
i stash reality in a hurry
and forget about it
until the heat is off.

From unpublished notebooks, L.A. & Sydney, 2003-2005 Poetry – by C.C.O’Hanlon
this fugitive gene: I live on the run.
unnamed crimes abrade
the edge of consciousness.
tell me all of it she asked me, once –
as if confession, a mere litany of sin,
might lift the stain of memory.

From unpublished notebooks, L.A. & Sydney, 2003-2005 Poetry – by C.C. O’Hanlon

bloodied, on the ropes,
how bad do i have to hurt
to get this fight stopped?

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 ***C.C. O’Hanlon is a traveller, diarist and lebenskünstler (‘life artist’), who was best described by Wild Culture Journal as a ‘wild polymath’. Over the past 30 years, he has published numerous essays, short stories and poems. His meditative essay, Northing, first published in the Australian Griffith Review, was included in Best Australian Essays 2005, edited by Robert Dessaix. His very first short story was also included in Best Australian Stories 2004, edited by Frank Moorhouse. The poem [submitted to Sick Lit] is the first piece he has published in over a decade. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ccohanlon ***



by Chris Milam


When she asks how I’m doing today I answer with a verbal yawn: I am fine. A standard response that should be laminated and worn as a deceptive lanyard. How are you handling the divorce? Well, read my neck, it says I’m fine. How does that dollar cheeseburger taste? Fine. We are shutting your electric off on Thursday. Fine. The toilet is clogged with dead hummingbirds. Fine.


She’s eating a caramel. I want to challenge that caramel to a street brawl for the right to be in her mouth. Be warned, delectable foe, my left hook is a funeral.


Tell me what you did this past week, she says. Slept like a pride of lions. Drew your image in a bowl of butterscotch pudding. Heated up too many bean burritos. Peed in the sink because why not.


She unwraps another one. Please stop, I don’t say. Quit chewing so enthusiastically, I don’t say. Get focused and analyze me, rip my inner-walls apart with dictionary words and textbook insight. Conversation is a plunge into affectionate waters. Let go and let me in.


She taps on her keyboard.


Writing about me?




How are the meds working? Fine. No, I don’t recognize my fucking thoughts. I am an empty microwave. I am a drained swimming pool. My brain is a field-dressed 20-point buck.


She asks me about reframing. Does it help? Yes. In my head I am no longer petrified and lonely and grotesque. Now, thanks to your trickery, I am only a solitary smudge because romance can’t decipher the story of blah in my veins; the thirst in my bashful throat. Romance is incapable of mingling with neurotic tendencies.


And my face has aged prematurely because I love hard. So hard.


How are you dealing with your feelings for me, any progress? I like the way you eat, is that progress? Your mind is a bag of smart. Your heart smells like a sheet pan of warm bourbon balls. I tell my online faux-friends that I have loosened the diamond coffin on your finger. I tell them about earthquakes of the soul. I tell them your eyes are liquid haiku. I have picked names for our future children: Sophia and Lily. They will be blonde, small-boned, and Mensa-like gifted. We will have a Family Night, when we play board games, get all silly in our matching pajamas, and devour pepperoni pizza and rainbow sherbet. We will be as happy as a caramel lounging in your mouth.


Have you heard from Jenny? Your children? No. They posed for the milk carton shot before being kidnapped by a rejuvenated life in a picturesque town. We turned to woe overnight, which carried me to this office. You care about me, talk to me without being distracted by the carpet, your phone, a tarantula crawling on the window. Can I go home with you? I will do the dishes, take out the trash, and paint your toenails a proper shade of turquoise. I will make duck à l’orange for you. I will cut the grass on the diagonal and trim the bushes with karate chops. I will clean the grout with my tongue. I can be useful, like a Swiss Army knife. Like cherry cough syrup.


Session is over, she says. See you next week, Henry.


At home, I log in and type that it’s official: We are going on a date. Mediterranean for dinner followed by ice skating and café au lait downtown beneath the city lights. Hands will be held. And maybe more…


I wait for the wireless machismo: Your woo game is strong! Don’t break her, H-dawg! Get that shit on video! They are brutes, but their digital chest-bumps are like buckets of sugar melting in a non-stick pan. Neanderthal confection is on the menu this evening, with a goblet of silence to wash it down.


North of midnight, the house is a mausoleum. The only sounds are the pulse of the refrigerator and the slap of angry curtains. The plop of a bleeding faucet. I climb inside the strain, burn my armor, and rest a cheek against the cool side of darkness.


The delusion becomes a lullaby; a swarm of lethal hoofbeats in a collapsed mind. I am fine. I am fine. I am fine.


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***Chris Milam lives in the bucolic wasteland that is Hamilton, Ohio. He’s a voracious reader and a brooding introvert. His stories have appeared in Bartleby Snopes, Molotov Cocktail, Maudlin House, Spelk, and elsewhere. He also has a story forthcoming in WhiskeyPaper. You can be wowed by his retweets @Blukris. Please find him on Twitter and delve into the world that is Chris Milam at: https://twitter.com/Blukris ***

Our Death/ To be Catholic – by TOM BLAND

Our Death


Night rain taps harshly against the house. Windows stream.

You smile with white teeth. Mine golden.


You’re like an angel. Green eyes. Pale cheeks. Ginger curls.

I paint your picture with a glance.


Your fingers pull away

each layer of my skin to know the ether of the bone. My hands

claw into your body to see bitter bright galaxies.


It’s still raining. Our death. Teeth glitter in the empty space.





 To be Catholic


The white lines hadn’t stabilised

my drunkenness

more drunk and more acute. My heartbeat


out of the station

even though being or driving the tube

was utter fear. I

shouted at the Rocket bouncer who threw me out. Had she punched me? I

lost half a gram in the toilets.

Edges were so sharp they were bendable, flipping like ballerinas.


I was lying on my bed when sparks or ray guns or the confusion of being hit over the head in a cartoon darted around me. ‘It sounds like you were visited by aliens,’ my therapist said.

At Rocket, I told a man, ‘There’s nothing to steal in my hand,’ and held up my palm, stuck out my tongue, tried to take off my loafer to show him my sole.


‘It might be the hole in your heart.’

‘What the void?’ But my therapist said it was when I first time saw

a vulva

appearing like a question mark.

It questioned me!


I didn’t know how to smile

so I gripped the mattress and declared –










***Tom Bland is a writer and performer who lives in Hackney. He studied psychotherapy and dream analysis at SOPH/Middlesex University and edits the online magazine, Blue of Noon, at:  http://blueofnoonpoetry.tumblr.com/  You can follow him on Twitter at:  https://twitter.com/TomBland_Story  ****


Dolsen’s Dream Comes True – by CHRISTOPHER IACONO

Dolsen’s Dream Comes True

By Christopher Iacono

Ever since his mother had read him Dr. Seuss’s If I Ran the Zoo as a boy, Josh Dolsen wanted to be world-famous. He had already opened a successful zoo in the northeastern United States, but even though it had made him rich, he despised the fact it was more renowned than its owner. Never one to sit on his laurels, he was working to change that perception. Not only was he making his zoo bigger and better, but he was setting out to capture the creature Dr. Seuss had introduced him to so many years ago, the Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill, or the Cuculus draconem, as it was known to scientists.

As he was sitting in his private jet, waiting for it to takeoff, he gazed at the only photo ever taken of the elusive creature. The real-life version didn’t look anything like Seuss’s wacky amalgam of animal parts: It looked more like a winged dragon, except its body was covered mostly gray feathers instead of scales, and it had bird-like feet underneath its white belly with black stripes.

Besides giving an inaccurate description, the famous author and illustrator also got the location of the creature wrong. It didn’t live on the Island of Gwark but in a mountain cave on the island of Crete. Finally, the monster didn’t eat pine trees and spit out the bark, as Seuss had written; it feasted on sheep, goats, and any other animal that wandered near – or into –its cave.

Despite the errors in his favorite children’s book, though, Dolsen could relate to Young Gerald McGrew, who, like him, refused to stop until he had the creature in his zoo. After the photograph appeared a few years ago, Dolsen committed millions to building its future home, a full-scale reproduction of the creature’s natural habitat. Because he wanted to keep his special project a secret, he made each of his employees sign a confidentiality agreement.

But as he continued to stare at the photo over the roar of the jet leaving the runway, he thought, “Soon, I will finally be able to reveal my greatest accomplishment to the world.”

His partners in the zoo were nervous about this venture, but Dolsen didn’t care. He had plenty of money that he was all too willing to spend on anyone who could help, from crooked politicians to the squad of twelve workers accompanying him on this journey. As far as the possible dangers, he told his partners, “The only thing that’s going to stop me is death.”


After he and the workers arrived on the island, they passed through customs and then took several vehicles to the mountain, including a flatbed truck and a crane. Fortunately, the opening of the cave was near the bottom, so they didn’t need hiking equipment. Instead, they brought plenty of rope, a canvas tarp large enough to cover the creature’s body, and an arsenal of tranquilizer guns. The plan was to subdue the creature, load it onto the flatbed using the crane, wrap the tarp over it, tie it down, and transport it to a cargo ship that will be waiting for them at a nearby port.

After Dolsen and the workers parked the vehicles, they followed a guide to the opening in the mountain. Standing in front of the mouth of the cave, Dolsen was filled with a youthful exuberance. He rubbed his hands together and smiled. “Let’s do this.”

They entered the cave. Because the creature supposedly had excellent hearing, they crept in as slowly and quietly as possible; however, they didn’t have to walk too far. The creature was only about a hundred feet away, sitting inside a nest made of giant stones. Its eyes were closed, and its head was burrowed into its fluffed-up plumage.

While Dolsen was staring at it in total disbelief, one of the workers was making what would be a grave error in judgment. He took a selfie with the creature prominently in the background. As soon as another worker heard the whirring sound from the phone, he slapped the first one and whispered, “What the hell are you doing?”

The creature opened its eyes.

But as the workers were pointing their tranquilizer guns, the creature rose to the ceiling. Drowning in its large shadow, they started firing at it. A few of the tranquilizer darts pierced its belly, but it just shook them off. “Oh shit,” Dolsen thought. Then it dove toward one of the workers before chomping off its upper body, leaving just the legs. Everyone else but Dolsen tried fleeing from the scene. Some were able to make it out, but others were crushed in the creature’s talons, squashed under its belly, or eaten alive.

Dolsen reached for a rope and made a loop in it. “It’s now or never,” he thought, twirling it above his head and then tossing it toward the right foot. He managed to lasso one of the talons. The creature turned to him and screeched before it glided out of the cave and soared a few hundred feet above a village. Dolsen held on, his hands burning as they were slowly slipping down. As he looked at the people gawking at him and the creature, he thought, “At last, I’m famous.”



***Christopher Iacono lives with his wife and son in Massachusetts. Besides writing fiction and poetry, he has written book reviews for Three Percent and the Neglected Books Page. When he is not writing, he copy-edits and proofreads marketing materials. Find him on Twitter at:     https://twitter.com/ciacono1973      ***

What’s a Body to do – by TOM GUMBERT

What’s A Body To Do?

Tom Gumbert


For the past six months I was looking forward to it, the promise of peace and quiet. So here I am in my cozy confines, simple yet elegant, built to last. Hoping and expecting to enjoy my hard earned rest—but no.

Sure, there was a lot of hullaballoo when I first got here, that was to be expected, what with the well-wishers and teary eyed friends and family obligated to participate in your send off. But after that, my expectation was for peace and quiet. Not a chance.

It started with the first rain, a real gullywasher! I could hear the mud and rocks scraping against my home as things settled around me. For a time I feared I might slide right off the hillside and into the river, but fortunately that did not transpire.

The brochure touted the maintenance crew and upkeep of the grounds and that, my friend, was no exaggeration. Those guys are relentless, dawn to dusk with their mowing and mulching and trimming and digging. A few rows over they’re putting in a new road and talk about noise!

Even before that it was difficult to get a moment’s peace. For one thing, there is the constant traffic. Sure that makes it convenient for loved ones to visit but jeez, what about the residents? Was there no consideration for us? In retrospect I wish I’d picked someplace more rural. Too late now.

Today is Sunday, a day of rest. Ah, but not here. Here it’s a veritable open house with so many people talking and crying, sharing their confessions and loneliness. Of course I listen quietly. What choice do I have? Rest in Peace my ass—I should have been cremated.


author photo

***Tom Gumbert lives near Cincinnati, OH with his wife Andrea (Andy) in a log home overlooking the Ohio River, in an area that was an active part of the Underground Railroad.  An Operations Manager by day, he has been writing for over a decade with an eclectic taste in what he reads and writes.

 His work has appeared in over a dozen publications in the U.S., U.K. and Australia. He co-authored the anthology, “Nine Lives,” which was published by All Things That Matter Press in March 2014, and he is currently editing his novel. He tweets at: https://twitter.com/TomGumbert  ***




by Gavin Hedaux


I just want to get home, I just want to get home.


Work was behind me, another day dead and done. No more forced smiles, no more static conversations, no more fear of the sirens’ coarse blare and then….


I just wanted to get home…


The subway station was full of the same people. We see each other every day and never say “Hi”. A cursory nod maybe, a wry smile, never words.


The rumble of the train in the tunnel is like a marker for us, that hot rush of stale air pushed like a plug from the Earth hits us and we feel one step closer to where we need, where we all want to be.


The clock on the wall ticks away eating seconds like it has no concern for its diet, the cameras on the walls buzz like fat black flies feeding on the carrion of our privacy.


Don’t look up, don’t look up.


Somewhere, down the halls, down the tunnels the train pushes closer towards us. Buried under this I swear that I can hear the call of the siren. Someone, somewhere won’t be going home.


Oh Jesus I just want to get home, just let me get home!


This is the part of the journey that I hate the most: the train erupts from the tunnel in a rush of air, a rush of heat, a rush of noise.


That’s when I hear it, the excited chatter of the commuters, not everyone, not in volume, but those foolish few that need interaction.


I don’t remove my eyes from the train doors in front of me but I know that there is a tepid lake of blank faces stretching out either on side of me, some sweating, tenser than the rest as, like me, they wait for the sirens call.


Others have perfected indifference; these are the robots of survival that persist in our world.


Some, the minority, wear the same expressions as everyone else, brows maybe wet with sweat, cheeks dusted with the undergrounds’ dry and dirty air, but their eyes tell their tale, sparkling slightly like arcing power cables, like misfiring neurons. Their eyes are alive with fear and excitement and interaction. They move like the robots, talk like the robots, act like the robots, but they use the noise to create their cover, they exploit the moments in the continuity within which they can express themselves.


And they will get us all killed.


There were more talkers tonight than before.


The doors in front of me open like the arms of an old lover, welcoming, safe.


I want to get home, I want to fall into that warm embrace and be carried safely home.


We step, one foot in front of the other.


I want to get home.


There are five steps to the carriage, I know this because it is my routine, it is my safe passage from work to home.


There were more talkers tonight.


Each step becomes heavier, seemingly slower as the weight of fear becomes greater the closer I get to my target.


4 steps


There are only cameras on the trains


3 steps


And gas


2 steps


No alarms


1 step




The alarm sounds behind me as I step on board; the red glow casts rigid cookie cutter shadows against a bloody background.


No-one looks around, we all keep moving.


No-one looks around when the air is filled with the sounds of machinery…..


And screams.


The train doors seal shut as they die out. The alarm falls silent. The redness fades. The tunnel takes us all….


1 stop


I want to get home


2 stops


I NEED to get home


The doors open and cold air filters in. I am close. The stairs, the gates, the alarms, the clocks, the cameras, they all give way to streets and street lights. The tunnels and subterranean world have gone. The alarms and cameras remain though, high on their perches beside the streetlights.


We light your world, we light your way.


We watch.


My hand is upon my door handle.


I want to be home.


I am one foot across the threshold of my two worlds.


I NEED to be home.


An alarm goes off in the distance, but it is in the distance and I am home.




This is my respite, this is my peace, and there is this one breath in the day, this one moment when, between worlds I stand, half in half out, where I can just be…..


I close the door behind me.




The control panel blinks as it registers my presence, the house springs into life, the TV in the living room starts its evening state mantra, the oven starts auto cooking its state mandated protein meal.


The speaker beneath the camera crows into life.


“Good evening Sir, please take a seat. Broadcasting is as normal tonight; I will bring in your meal when it is ready.”


The door lock clicks without me touching it.


I want to be at work.


“Please Sir, SIT.”


It is only when I am between these two worlds that I actually am…



***Gavin Hedaux spends his time in Cornwall, England where he repeatedly tries to convince the locals that he is actually one of them despite his vague cockney twang. He likes poetry and prose of all kinds and has an irrational fear of the word yokel and the colour yellow. He is a regular contributor here at Sick Lit Magazine. He tweets at: https://twitter.com/GavinHedaux ****




It is just after ten a.m. on a weekday. I’m sitting in a booth by a window in the diner on the ground floor of The Standard Hotel, on Sunset. I’m sipping an iced latte but mostly I’m studying the geometric pattern of the blue linoleum tabletop.

“You hiding out? Cos’ if you are, let’s order breakfast. I’m starving.”

A slender, mocha-skinned woman in a white t-shirt and jeans is standing at the edge of the table. Without waiting for an answer, she unslings a leather bag from her shoulder and slides into the booth alongside me. She moves with the sinuous angularity of a snake.

Her name is Aisha. We met in a café on Abbot Kinney a couple of months ago.

“They’re looking for you back at your office,” she says.

“Did you tell them where I was?”

“Baby, who knows that anymore?”

She relaxes into the scuffed vinyl cushioning of the banquette with the weary grace of someone who, at age 26, has played most of the supporting roles in the repertoire of L.A. cautionary tales. She’s was once the too-young wife of a successful hip-hop artists’ manager, flashing a black Amex card in the fashionable bodegas off Rodeo Drive. Now she’s a divorced, single mother sharing a ground floor apartment smaller than her ex-husband’s garage with her young son on the edge of West Hollywood. She’s an an actress, almost too old to hope for a break, so she does what she has to make ends meets: even, she confessed, hooking with a girlfriend who offered her a thousand dollars to do a threesome with a well-known director. “I didn’t mind it much,” she told me, “I was pretty desperate then.”

There’s a faded tattoo, blue-black like a bruise, on her right shoulder. I haven’t asked her about it but I know it’s from a life before the ones she’s told me about.

“You OK?” she asks.

“I don’t know.” Actually, I’m free-diving into a deep, aqueous depression. With luck, negative buoyancy will hold me down until I run out of air. “I lost it today.”

She shrugs. “It’s not the first time.”


A pneumatic, not-so-young blonde waitress with a tangled perm and creamy flesh that billows from a utilitarian, faux-Fifties yellow cotton dress puts a Caesar salad in middle of the table.

“It’s this town,” Aisha says. “It does it to all of us.”


The aging English pop star is silent.

He’s performing tonight but his voice is strained, so he communicates through mime and when that fails, phrases scribbled in pencil on paper napkins. His hands are always in motion, rotating and flicking lightly from the wrists, like a percussionist working the inside of a beat.

There are three of us at a table beneath a bleached calico umbrella on a terrace of the Argyle Hotel. It’s just after midday. Beneath us, partly obscured by a sooty, carcinogenic haze, is West Hollywood: a symmetrical grid of boulevards and streets lined with grubby terracotta roofs, palm trees and eucalypti. Here and there, the glistening, crystalline surfaces of swimming pools.

I don’t even bother to take in the view. Too much of my life has ebbed away in hotels, restaurants and parking lots around here. Whoever it was that said “Hell is other people” must not have lived in L.A. Here, hell is the shiny, empty places, from which all care has gone.

The other guest is English, too. His hollow-chested reediness and nasally Liverpudlian twang, along with the red Prada slacks and black Prada boots he’s wearing, mark him as a common music industry archetype. He has none of the pop star’s long-practised charisma. His name is Nick and together with the pop star he owns a music company in Tokyo that produces elusively pre-pubescent music acts called idoru for an adolescent market weaned on Sony Playstations.

“I was talking to someone this morning and he said I shouldn’t have anything to do with you,” Nick tells me.

I wait a beat before replying. “He’s heard the worst, I guess.”

“So have I,” Nick says. “How much of it is true?”

“Most of it.”

“You don’t seem too fussed.”

“Not much I can do about it.”

And that appears to be the end of it because as we eat, Nick tells me about the pop star’s plans, still in their early stages, to re-form the group with which he gained a rarefied stratus of fame in the Eighties. An hour later, the pop star himself scratches three words on a tea-stained paper napkin: “Come to Japan?”

I peer into the pop star’s famous blue eyes for a moment, then past them, over the low terrace wall, to a grassy reserve verge below that local residents use to exercise their dogs. Police in bicycle helmets, white golf shirts and blue shorts, are rousing several vagrants who were asleep, bundled in blankets. Disheveled, faceless figures rise and begin to wander away like refugees, trailing layers of threadbare wool, flannel and nylon, towards the scrappy suburban flatlands north of Melrose. A few stragglers, probably stoned on cheap crack or Thunderbird, are hurried along with the prods of batons.

I wonder if the hotel pays the police to do this so its guests don’t witness the only mortal sin you can commit in America: poverty.

I am so fucking tired of this place. The realization is abrupt and unexpected.

“Sure,” I say to the pop star. “When do I leave?”


I drive until dusk. With no particular place to go, I helm my reconditioned ‘63 Chevy Impala SuperSport like an elegant boat down La Cienega to Highway10, then west to the turn-off for the Pacific Coast Highway. From there, I follow the wide ribbon of four-lane blacktop north as it unspools along the beach. At Big Rock, the ocean’s shining, stainless steel surface disappears behind fragile homes of wood and stucco clinging to the eroded foreshore; it’s glimpsed again only in shimmering slivers until I reach the old Malibu pier. I hang a u-turn and re-trace my route on PCH until I reach the Topanga Canyon intersection. Turning my back on the Pacific Ocean, I alter course inland towards the grim sprawl of Hollywood.

There’s sometimes a curative mindlessness in driving around this way, a kind of meditation – a mechanised zazen, if you like – in which time and space pause, consciousness stops, and there is just being, a solitary samadhi experienced on the road. Except it’s not like that this evening. I can feel the persistent itch of psycho-toxins seeping through my brain, corroding reason. I’m unable to slow my racing thoughts. Incomplete images and addled phrases assemble then disassemble in my mind like arcane cryptography, impossible to break. My body is tense, as if expecting a blow, and every sensation, from traffic noise to a draft of air on my skin, is an unbearable irritant.


A rusted, cast-iron gate, framed by a scraggly bougainvillea, opens from the sidewalk onto a metre-square patch of bare concrete. Four steps ascend to Aisha’s front door. An unprotected bulb at the end of a length of duct-taped flex burns a pale yellow above the door. The windows of the apartment are dark.

I knock on the door. Shuffling footsteps inside, as light as a child’s. The door opens. Aisha’s hand appears, then half her face, to beckon me in.

“Hey baby,” she whispers, smiling, closing the door behind me. She turns on a lamp. Its light is diffused, candle-like, beneath an earth-toned Moroccan veil. “I was waiting for you, but I couldn’t stay awake.”

She encircles my waist with her arms and presses her head against my chest.

“I’m sorry,” I tell her. She looks up at me, expecting me to continue, but my eyes are focused somewhere just short of the wall beyond her head.

“I’ll make us some tea,” she says.

The apartment is a large single room. A deep alcove, separated from the rest of the space by a hand-sewn curtain, painted in abstract, earth-toned patterns, serves as a bedroom for her son. A timber daybed in a distressed whitewash, across which are strewn several cushions and lengths of colourful East African fabrics, is set against a wall facing an open kitchen. A djembe, an African drum, is next to it and supports the veiled lamp on its desiccated skin,. In front of the daybed is a blood red timber coffee table, of the sort you can pick up cheaply in Mexican furniture stores at the less fashionable end of Third Street.

I kick off my boots and my socks, and lie on the daybed, my head angled so I can watch Aisha in the kitchen. She’s wearing a plain, black satin slip that clings to her skin as she moves. She’s not wearing anything else; her coarse pubic hair ruffles the fabric’s easy flow above the hem. Her slender legs are unusually long.

“Come here,” I tell her. The voice isn’t mine: there’s a gonadal rawness about it, disconnected from anything sensual. Aisha stops what she’s doing and turns to look at me. She doesn’t move from the kitchen counter.

“Come here,” I repeat, less urgently, holding a languid hand out to her, as if reassuring a wary animal. She walks over and takes it. I try to draw her down onto the daybed but she balks.

“Let’s just talk for a while, OK?” she says. I try again to pull her towards me again, moving my body deeper into the daybed to make room. This time, she joins me. She lies with her back towards me, his shoulder blades against my chest, her ass pressed into my groin. She positions my hand where she wants it across her stomach.

“How was the rest of your day?” she says. Anxiety ripples through me. Unable to speak, I bury my face in her hair. Then I thrust my hand between her legs. I slide her light body up the mattress so my mouth can reach the side of her neck and her exposed, tattooed shoulder. “Baby, don’t,” she insists. “This isn’t what I want.”

I ruck her slip up over her belly as I turn her onto her stomach. I take in her exposed body with the clinical indifference of a mortician as I unbuckle my belt. There’s no tenderness, no desire, just this nagging emptiness that I want to caulk with sex.

“This isn’t what I want,” she says again, more softly – a last attempt to assuage what she senses is the worst of me.

I fuck her hard from behind, my fingers probing, bruising, as she lies still, silent, not even breathing hard. When finally I roll away from her, she stands, strips off her slip, and without looking at me, runs to the bathroom.

I think I hear her crying. I wait for an astringent of self-loathing to sting me but there’s nothing, not even care. Fifteen, twenty minutes go by, then the shower sputters. I get up from the daybed to wipe myself with kitchen paper and get dressed.

When Aisha returns from the bathroom, she is covered by a plain, ankle-length djellabah, with a white towel wrapped loosely around her head. She stands in front of me, just out of reach.

“What the fuck was that about?” she asks. There is an unnerving calm about her.

I want to answer but I can’t find the emotions around which to form the words.

“I am trying to understand – really I am – what would make you think it was okay to treat me like that.” She studies my face like it’s evidence of some un-nameable crime. Contempt flickers in her eyes.

I meet her stare but say nothing. A tear threads down her cheek. She turns away. I want to hold her, to console her, to tell her that I am sorry even though – I realise then, with a sickening jolt – I’m not. I’m not anything. Something is broken inside me and I don’t know how to fix it.

Without saying a word, I go to the front door, open it, and walk out into the empty night.



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***C.C. O’Hanlon is a traveller, diarist and lebenskünstler (‘life artist’), who was best described by Wild Culture Journal as a ‘wild polymath’. Over the past 30 years, he has published numerous essays, short stories and poems. His meditative essay, Northing, first published in the Australian Griffith Review, was included in Best Australian Essays 2005, edited by Robert Dessaix. His very first short story was also included in Best Australian Stories 2004, edited by Frank Moorhouse. The poem [submitted to Sick Lit] is the first piece he has published in over a decade. He currently lives in Berlin, Germany. Find him on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/ccohanlon ***