The Quotable

Her Epilogue


I’m not exactly sure what it was that led me to her. As a poet and writer I am normally an observer of life, watching instead of actively participating, but there was something alluring about the way she seemed to be using a concert performance as a meditative practice. After thirty minutes of watching the local musicians, I found myself wanting to go where she was, wanting to escape the wallflower life. I was tired of watching excitement bloom all around me while I withered away without nourishment or stimulation. Maybe that is why I approached her that July night when the air was sticky and smelled of freedom. Maybe that is why I found my feet dragging my insecure body toward her; why I felt my mouth opening against my will, allowing a voice similar to my own to speak the secret password that would grant me access into her world.


She turned to me. Her green eyes, freckles, and red hair lured me, and now I was caught. She seized my hand and we were off, darting through a crowd hypnotized by a band that broke up six months later.

We ran block after block until finally the music became a dull background hum. We were standing on the sidewalk of an art studio, out of breath and sweating, when she reached into her bag and retrieved a pack of sidewalk chalk. Thrusting it into my hand, she pointed down. I pulled out the blue stick and drew a circle, filling the inside with the same color. I surrounded the outside with a ring of yellow – the corona. Underneath it I wrote, “When the moon eclipsed the sun, the shadows had their fun”.

I must have passed her test. Her morose demeanor faded as relief replaced it. She told me she was concerned I was going to stick to the standard smiley face, the same thing everyone tends to draw when put on the spot with a pack of sidewalk chalk. Instead, she said, I drew her life. I asked her to share it with me. She said she would only break my heart. I told her I was willing to take my chances, and she told me her name was Mia.

For the next three years Mia and I rode Ferris wheels, wrote poetry, cooked vegan food, made love, painted with oils and acrylics, went to concerts, argued about stupid things, visited art museums, got tattoos, sang to each other, played guitar, visited Buddhist temples, argued some more and made up some more.  Then, while sitting on the balcony of my apartment under a moonless autumn night, the cool air smelling of burning leaves and cinnamon, I decided to follow the suggestion of a song that was playing on the radio. It seemed the perfect opportunity to finally ask her to tell me her story without being too straightforward.

“Let’s compare scars.”



Mia pointed at her left thumb, directing my attention to the diagonal line of pale skin just below the knuckle.

“It’s small,” I said, my eyes squinting in playful mockery. “I revealed my dog bite and the story of the 63 stitches it took to sew it up and you offer me this?

This,” she said, “is where the story begins.”

“Well then, Ms. Storyteller, if that’s the case…” I said as I lit a cigarette. I leaned my back against the side of the apartment, my bedroom window directly above me, and brought my knees to my chest. Mia plucked the cigarette from between my fingers as she prepared to open up old wounds.

“It happened when I was ten,” she started, and then took a long drag from her Camel Wide. I lit another for myself, exhaling a story into the evening’s breeze, a romance between smoke and wind drifting up toward the heavens.

“My friends and I had just finished watching a monster movie, The Lost Boys if I remember correctly, which persuaded us to become vampire hunters. It was stupid, I know, but we were certain there was a legion hiding in a cave nearby. If we could find the cave and exterminate the vampires, we could be local heroes. The headlines would be huge, our careers as vampire slayers would be solidified, and we would be rich before we were out of our parents’ houses.

“It was only noon when we decided to put our plan into action. The boys went off to locate the necessary supplies – food, rope, fence posts to use as stakes – while I stayed home and made garlic water.”

Mia paused, flicked the ash that had been growing on her neglected cigarette, and took a desperate drag.

“The previous night my parents had been arguing. I can’t recall exactly what it was about, maybe money or drinking, maybe some other shit that middle-aged people think is important. I remember being in my room, listening to them yell and cuss. Soon the verbal assaults died down. I remained in bed, hoping one of them would come in to soothe me and tell me everything was going to be ok. They never did. I’m not sure how long I was awake, I just remember staring at the moon, wishing it was a hole in the sky that I could slip through to enter some better world.”

Mia paused again as if digesting the recollection. I watched her as she searched for the moon. Her face held the same abandoned appearance I assumed a toddler would have if her mother left and never came back. I started to reach for her when she shook her head, dislodging the memory and tossing it to the side like a rotten apple.

“Anyhow, I was tasked with making the garlic water except we didn’t have any fresh garlic. I found some bottled spices in the pantry, and, lucky me, one happened to be the secret ingredient. The bottle had one of those 5-hole sifters attached, and when I tried to pour the powder out, it clumped up, preventing anything from passing through. If we were going to save our town before nightfall, I needed to find a way to extract it, and quick.

“I looked around the kitchen for anything that would help remove the sifter. My eyes landed on the knife caddy and, being ten years old, of course I grabbed the largest knife. Once my hand slid around the handle, my mind brought back the events of the previous night.”

Mia snubbed her cigarette out, grabbed the cup of water beside her, and drank. My cigarette was gone before hers, but I actually smoked mine. I think she was just holding onto hers for comfort. I offered another. She accepted.

“So picture the scene: I’m trying to insert the tip of a butcher knife into the millimeter space between the sifter and the garlic jar. I wasn’t focused, and the knife slipped. The tip imbedded itself into my thumb. Blood gushed out. I became scared of what I was going to tell my mom. Somewhere below the fear, however, was a sense of calm. It was as if the wound was an exit for the hurt and loneliness. I realized in that moment that maybe cutting myself could help bleed the pain out. It was four years before I started to cut myself on purpose.”

I wanted to speak, to apologize for being such an asshole earlier when I laughed at the scar. My mouth shut tight, trapping my words, preventing them from escaping. It was apparent to me now that sometimes the roots are bigger than the trees.



Leo the Lion stalked the night sky, moving gradually through the fields of space. The crickets continued to chirp; the sound of traffic was minimal for a Saturday night. We sat in silence on my balcony for a short time after her confession. Partially to process all that was said, partially because I still didn’t know what should be said.

“Let’s order a pizza.”

We remained silent as we waited for our delivery, watching the bugs fight for dominance within the glow of the streetlight. Once our order arrived we ate hastily, the food delivering the nourishment needed to further fuel our conversation.

I was still leaning against the apartment with my knees propped up. I pulled her between them, her back against my chest, and wrapped my arms around her waist. We told jokes, smoked cigarettes, kissed. We weaved in and out of plots and themes, touching on the humorous (my first bad LSD trip), to the serious (her parents’ divorce, her mom’s newfound boyfriend and unfounded time for Mia, her dad’s twelve new friends which took the form of beer bottles). Finally, leading up to the big moment, she told me about how her dad blamed the divorce on her, about his hatred for her, about his fists. This was the first time that she had ever mentioned him to me.

I wrapped my arms tighter around her and kissed the back of her head. Her hair smelled of strawberries. She lifted her left arm in front of us, lit the lighter with her right, and illuminated a large, thick, bump of raised scar tissue.

“Want to hear the climax?”



“It happened when I was 16, three years after my parents’ divorce,” Mia said as she snubbed out another cigarette. “Three years of being told daily that it was my fault and that I was a whore just like her and that I would never amount to anything came crashing down. I was dating a boy named Mark. Jimmy –my dad– had gone out to some bar, but not before informing me of how worthless I was. After Jimmy’s words, I found myself needing something to soothe the hurt, to stitch the inner wound Jimmy had yet again inflicted. I called Mark.

“We were on the couch. Jimmy came in just as Mark was beginning to reach under my shirt. Jimmy hit the roof and Mark hit the door, literally. He was up and running so fast that he never really stopped as he opened the door and connected with it, hard. He stood dazed for a second and then escaped into the night.”

She smiled at this. It was the last time I saw her smile. Then her eyes closed as she shifted from past to present tense, as if everything were happening to her now.

“Jimmy is yelling at me, the same old B.S. as always. I am yelling back. I am telling him I don’t blame mom for leaving. The familiar red sting is rising around my left eye as his fist is coming away from it. I am pushing him, warning him that if he ever touches me again I will kill him. He is laughing. I run to the kitchen and grab the largest knife I can find – a knife similar to the one I had used so many years earlier. I walk back and warn him again. He is staring at me. Now he turns to leave. I hear the car start and squeal away as he drives drunk down the road. I hope he dies.

“You can get used to anything after a while. Being yelled at, being called a whore, being told you are worthless, having the shit beat out of you. It is when something interrupts the routine that things start to fall apart. I had never fought back. I always played the victim. Now the roles had reversed, and he was the victim. I didn’t take this well. It changed everything, and I felt a little sorry for him. Sure, he was abusive, but he was still a human. It’s complicated; I don’t expect you to understand – I still don’t think I understand completely. Suffice it to say, however, my confusion and conflicting emotions ended up getting the best of me.”

Mia’s eyes glazed over as she began to stare up at the night sky, at the emptiness that tried to hold everything in balance.

“It only took one second of courage. I raised the same knife I had threatened Jimmy with ten minutes earlier, and brought it down on my wrist. I separated from myself as the knife separated my skin. I was suddenly watching everything from above. I could see the blood squirting out at each beat of my heart. It reminded me of Morse code, the squirt then the pause – SOS. I came back into myself and realized, maybe too late, that I didn’t actually want to die. I wanted the situation to die, the pain and loneliness to die, maybe even Jimmy to die, but I never wanted to die.”

She was crying at this point. I wrapped my arms around her waist tighter; she squirmed to release them.

“The tip of the knife was all that got my arm, which is why I was able to call 911 instead of passing out from blood loss. The ambulance arrived, the paramedics asked the standard questions, and then I was on my way to the city hospital. I was placed in the hallway, still on the gurney, in line with all the others that didn’t have medical insurance. A doctor finally came and grabbed my arm. Examining it, he shoved a fat, stubby finger into the gash. Oh Christ, it hurt! He smiled and said ‘Next time, go lengthwise’. ‘Thanks for the tip’, I managed despite the pain.

“They stitched me up, called my mom, and I spent the next four months in a psych ward.”



After reading the two chapters written on her skin, Mia revealed the conclusion. She pointed to an empty space on her arm, completely void of scars, which went from her wrist to her elbow. It reminded me of the sky as viewed from a city with too many lights – empty and starless. She told me that she was saving this place for when I left her. I told her I wasn’t going to leave. She said everyone left. We went back and forth like this until she enlightened me to the fact that she wasn’t going to let it happen. That was three years ago.



The room appears darker than it actually is which is made possible by the oversaturation of dark brown creeping out from all of the furniture. The hour of my first visit is almost up.

“You see this scar,” I say, leaning over, pointing to my wrist. The leather chair groans in protest against my movement. “This is from when she left me.”

“She killed herself?” The doctor asks. He has salt and pepper hair; more pepper than salt. He is a large man better suited to be a chef or a food critic. Somehow he became a psychiatrist.

I nod my head.

“Tell me about that.”

“Ok.” My feet shuffle. I don’t know where to begin. I have never once been asked about it.

“I have her epilogue – her suicide note – memorized. ‘So that you will never leave me,’ it says. I keep trying to fit myself between the words, to try to find the world Mia was in when she wrote it. For the past three years I have weaved myself in and out of it, yet I never find her.

“Her words – her scars – went so deep that she could never uproot them. I think that night at the concert she was trying. She had realized that in order for her to be okay she could never feel again. She was practicing numbness while watching the band. She was Buddha in that moment. She had moved beyond attachments and then I came and attached myself to her. Sometimes you don’t need malicious intent to kill. Sometimes all you need is love.”

“Do you feel that this ‘love’ will kill you?” The doctor asks. I can hear the quotes he puts around the word and it angers me, his condescending approach to therapy.

“It’s a funny thing with stories,” I continue instead of answering. “With the really good ones, you tend to get so lost in them that you never want to leave. Sometimes the worlds are happy or inspirational. Sometimes they are sad, which is the case with Mia’s story. It is one I never want to leave, and so I find myself revisiting it every day.”

I gently lift my left sleeve, exposing the scars on my shoulder and arm, along with the fresh cuts I did this morning when I woke up – my personal act of cleansing.

“How do you feel about being admitted,” the doctor asks.

I ponder this question. I heard once that if you want to become a good writer you should rewrite the stories of authors you admire. By doing this you can gain a feel for structure and pacing. I am already rewriting her story, but what I am lacking is her place of influence, the place she was when she received her final idea. This was my chance.

“Do you think it could help?”

“I don’t see how it could hurt.”

And so, following in the footsteps of the one who brought me into her world, I find that I am no longer lost. Maybe I never was. Maybe now my own story can begin.



Jason Huff is a writer, artist, activist, and father. Some of his articles can be found in the online magazine Modern American Weekly, in which he was a regular contributor. Jason currently lives in Virginia, and is slowly learning to appreciate it as much as his home state of Texas. “Wow, man, look! They have seasons here”, he says at least four times a year.

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