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Painted Red This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

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This is not my home, it is just my address. I may sleep here, but it will never be my bed. This is simply the place I lay in wait of a revelation after drinking my night into a softly colored blur.

This is not, I promise, an often occurrence. Nights like tonight are a rarity. Nights where I not only have time to breathe, but time to choke. Most importantly, I have the luxury of time to look around me and smell the roses that aren’t there on Valentine’s Day.

The ceilings above me are a dark blonde dull wood, much like my natural hair color. They have become my friend, confidante, and a familiar image burnt into my retina every time I make dispassionate love. A fluorescent cylindrical light fixture serves as a reminder to stay grounded; my boyfriend allegedly was taken by a flight of mania and named it Excalibur. If I were him, I would have laughed all the way to the psych ward.

In front of me stands a closed door, rickety and dysfunctional in its old age. Hung upon it is a Buddhist prayer flag that Tommy bought for us, hoping it would bring us peace. I’ve never said a prayer in my life, and I was skeptical of any prayer flag with sequins in its folds. Nonetheless it looked nice, and art in an empty room always makes me feel less isolated.

A pang in my stomach makes me rise. I have a hunger for visual stimulation; I have a need to feel less alone. I get up from the sagging mattress, a cacophony of springs creaking. I walk to the tree of lights meant for theater. Two of the bulbs are plain and white, but one shines a deep sexy red I find all too kind to my body, which I like only forty to sixty percent of the time. Frequently I find myself staring at the full length mirror, letting the soft red light wash over my like a late night shower. It always seems to hug me closely, like a lover I missed for far too long. Longing for the stage, I bite my tongue and turn on the lights.

Marilyn Monroe is illuminated. I’m in awe. Her painted red lips are in a smirk and her eyes deep and azure. When I first met Tommy, sitting in a bar watching my ex play an acoustic set, he introduced himself quickly. His stare lingered, and I grew far too comfortable with his dark brown eyes. The sadness in his gaze and his oversized nose reminded me of a young Leonard Cohen, who I found very attractive.
“You remind me of Marilyn Monroe,” he said gently, slurring his words and almost shaking with nervousness. “I’m mesmerized.”

He hasn’t said that to me in quite some time.

The cracks in her lips weren’t stained burgundy with Pinot Noir.

Where does love go? I speculate it might be in the oil lamp I’m clumsily trying to light, but instead knocking it the floor and watching expensive glass shatter. Glass can crack and remain intact for years, but when it falls it does so with such a bang it leaves no option for recovery. I distance myself from the explosion and watch for the shards covering our bare wood floor. My small footsteps make it creak with the same weary hostility Tom shouted at me with.

I’m drunk, impossibly so, and thinking about Anne Sexton and Sylvia Plath. How can these girls from Massachusetts, fairly pretty and clearly dislodged, do so f***ing much? Why not me? I’m sure I can cut my hair or lose some weight and fit the mold. How can they go on to fame and glory and I’m stuck here in Haverhill? We live in the run-down attic of an extravagant Victorian home. His parents came from money, and once and a while the luxuries of the house make me squeal like Cinderella after the ashes have cleared. It’s a far cry from times like these, when I’m shitfaced and crying over confessional verse. Instead of the ever-so-pretty Cinderella, I feel like the animalistic Bertha Mason. It is worth note that, even as a madwoman in the attic, Jane Eyre is the worst book I’ve ever read.

Tommy’s parents are old money, and this house is even older. There was ample time for a madwoman in the attic.

My boyfriend’s out drinking too, probably. We just can’t stand to do it in the same room. I sometimes guess that he, and all men, want nothing to do with me. My filled notebooks and empty promises and goddamn confessional poetry mean nothing to him or them or anyone. I myself mean nothing inside these foreign walls when I’m alone, surrounded by cheap furniture and possessions of man I barely know and his rich family who doesn’t even begin to understand me. I stare at a framed photo of a girl once familiar to me, who was seventeen and still had dirty blonde hair and a cocky smirk, painted red. I consider making that glass shatter, too, but instead reason to start pouring myself another glass of wine.

When I’m sober this will all be a bad dream.





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