Alina Stefanescu was born in Romania and lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her partner and several intense mammals. Recent books include a creative nonfiction chapbook, Ribald (Bull City Press Inch Series, Nov. 2020) and Dor, which won the Wandering Aengus Press Prize (September, 2021). Her debut fiction collection, Every Mask I Tried On, won the Brighthorse Books Prize (April 2018). Alina's poems, essays, and fiction can be found in Prairie Schooner, North American Review, World Literature Today, Pleiades, Poetry, BOMB, Crab Creek Review, and others. She serves as poetry editor for several journals, reviewer and critic for others, and Co-Director of PEN America's Birmingham Chapter. She is currently working on a novel-like creature. More online at www.alinastefanescuwriter.com.
Someone Failed This Man
The client laid his cheek against his palm and said it was like having sex with your mother. It's always the mother for you people, he announced. I glanced down at my clipboard when he said you, then back up again when he said people. It was like listening to song lyrics that said nothing was red except the coffee mug perched on the windowsill. I felt a cup when I needed a cardinal. There was this failure, now, between us.
Someone had failed him. Someone fibbed. A mother. An aunt. A best friend. Someone failed everyone, no exceptions. Someone carried the weight of the story. Someone else told it. No one knew the truth.
This isn't about the client's truth or his mother. This isn't about truth. Nor is it an essay about how to write fiction while smuggling in some Truth. I'm not writing for the story-as-vessel crowd. I can't satisfy the compartments of magnificence. Nor am I preparing a lecture on the topic of truth as it touches us dimly, wantonly, subversively under the table in an Italian restaurant where it brushes its thigh against ours and smells of green soap or faux shamrocks or forlorn footsies.
I am preparing to brush my teeth and lie to my children about what color my teeth would be if I hadn't brushed them. When I was their age. I never brushed my teeth. Instead, I used the sleeve of my jacket to wipe my teeth clean with tenderness. A little bit of white cream deposited on the navy blue sleeve and it was more satisfying than toothpaste. It was prophetic. I was Cassandra. I don't have anything to say about truth that I can't write on a mirror in Coral Reef lipstick.
Sometimes the best way to be fully present is by becoming a heat-seaking missile, namely, lying on the bed in your husband's bathrobe and imagining how it would feel to have a beard. Or scratch your balls in sad earnest. I scratch my scrotum and wait for the world to brush its teeth. Someone will lie about it. A literary scholar will call the lie suspense.
The Boyfriend Story
Shifra Sharlin- Potluck
Zach Peckham- Cryptobiosis
Alina Stefanescu- Someone Failed This Man
Rachel Cochran- Girls Kissing Girls
Teresa Milbrodt- Body Painting
Sarah Cavar- Again Soon
Tango With God
Maryse Meijer- ESSEN
Bruce Owens Grimm- Inventory of a Haunted House, No. 3
Jordan E. McNeil- What i Mean When i Say Empath
The Life Cycle of a Storm Cell Lullaby