In this week’s New Voices, we present to you: “Hey, Stop Blaming Your Dead Father’s Fists,” by Vincent Anioke. This flash, written in the second-person, employs short sentences designed to create a staccato rhythm that reflects the narrator’s unease with themselves. The story holds a mirror to its narrator while still distancing them from the emotional heft. “Your friends are a relic of the past,” Anioke writes. “There’s a room full of them in your head.”
If you squint through the fog, you’ll find a door. Baby steps take you there. Knock. Even if the hardwood does not budge.
There’s an unsnoozeable alarm clock in your head. Your room has a lopsided bed and no sheets and unscuffed running shoes near the wilted hydrangeas. Sushi Paradise rolls float in greasy mold. The journal on your nightstand has a shiny golden latch in front. Its pages are scrawled with I wills that never were: Will swim thrice-weekly, will call your mother, will run your skin under water, will find your front door, will breathe.
If you pull the curtains, there’s a gold ball in the sky. Baby steps take you there. Force the rise. Sweep lube-stained wads into a bag. The bottles too. Dial your mother’s number. Wait for voicemail. Call again. Apologize. Hear her soul rekindle. Hear her corny jokes about the Holy Ghost. Laugh. Like you mean it. Find a sidewalk. Inhale. Yes, there’s a mulchy sort of rot from the construction near the lake. But do you feel how the wind makes you more?
Your friends are a relic of the past. There’s a room full of them in your head. They’re passing around croissants and sour grape juice and trading stories about you. No one is perfect, they say, but there’s a tolerable kind of badness. They describe oceans between texts, your empty chair at a small cottage-side wedding, missing necklaces from the night you slept over, a blackened pipe in the trash from the morning you left. Without a word too, nada, until the resurfacing, the sorry-sorry-sorry, but also I need, just until payday, the slamming of a door, the shower afterward, them scrubbing and scrubbing to wash off your stench.