Back to Issue Forty-Five

The Bear of Memory



The burn of my skin under the hot shower rouses me. It hurts a little bit at first, but as I continue testing my tolerance, lukewarm does not feel hot enough. My skin craves for the itch and the sting. My belly button tingles. My nipples become sensitive to touch. I stop just before the water scalds. Small red dots blossom on my skin and that’s my sign to switch to cold water. I step out of the tub, a little red all over but satisfied.

In bed, Sal touches my skin and it feels delicate. There is excitement in his touch again. He says to me, “You just glow every time, huh? What’s your secret, honey bear?” I touch his face and lightly pull on his patchy beard. The winter slows the growth of the curly beast.

“This is exfoliation, my dear.” I say to him. I want to add of seven years. As in my dearest of seven years, but it is always just an afterthought. I’m afraid he will think I’m counting.

Our cat, Penelope Cruz, jumps on the foot of our bed and begins kneading her sharp claws on my sensitive feet. “Ouch, Penelope. Stop,” I say to her and I kick her softly to the side. “Can you please cut her nails? She’s been scratching on that new couch.”

Penelope looks at me and Sal, cat owners and residents of this yellow A-framed cabin in Tahoe for a year, and then she licks her paw. She yawns to reveal her ribbed throat and exposes her pink belly in comfort.

“Do you think it hurts her tongue when she licks her claws like that?” I ask Sal.

“I don’t think so, honey bear. She knows to stop when it hurts.” Sal closes the Big Book he keeps by our bedside table. He kisses me and I turn off the lights, but I leave the string lights on in the back patio, some of the bulbs quivering in the snowy evening. Penelope Cruz tucks herself by our feet.


The talk at the grocery store where I work concerns a black bear that will not sleep. They say it has been rummaging through the trash of homes and some restaurants a short distance away from King’s Beach, Lake Tahoe. They say it moves weary and heavy in the black winter nights. The bear, according to Fiona Chan, is about six foot three and thick on the hips. Fiona had seen its muscled neck and back as it walked away from the trash behind her home.

“Oh, he sure did enjoy the leftover curry. What a mess!” Fiona recounts her tale to the tourists and locals while she bags their groceries. Her story spins longer when there are more items to bag as you can imagine. She repeats this story all day long to the customers with their shiny windbreakers and fur-lined hoodies. This is a gentler story to share with strangers who don’t want to hear how she left her husband because he wanted five kids and she wanted none.

In the break room that day, the local news reports the bear sighting and warns that there may be more encounters on the rise. People, mostly the visitors staying in Lake Tahoe, are attracting them with unlocked garbage bins. The bears are looking for unfamiliar tastes and they are acquiring them in international jam and marmalade, ramen packets, sparkly fruity drinks, and nut bars the tourists bring to King’s Beach.
“Did you know . . .” the newscasters begin to banter at the end of the segment. “That black bears will remember locations where they can find food even after many years?”

“Oh wow! I didn’t know that,” the other reporter exclaims. “Now did you know that bears are very cautious of other predators including us humans? But they’re losing their natural fear towards us because we’re encroaching the wild. You can’t blame the bears, folks!” I drink my hot coffee listening intently, then I hold the hot mug close to my chest. The tingle feels nice on my body.

After break, I enter the stock freezer with my list of thaw-and-sell for the week. My hands shake as I read the list and quickly recall the labels and boxes I need to cut open. I unpack the food in the cold and all I can think about is the bear. Why isn’t it hibernating like the other bears? Why is it restless? What kind of left over foods has it eaten? What is it hungry for? I pocket a handful of protein nut bars from the stock and drive home. I drive slowly, looking beyond the wet bark and trunks of the ponderosa pine trees, and I hope to see the bear that will not sleep.

In our front patio, only three bulbs on our string lights remain incandescent. The rest have frozen during the beginning of winter, and Sal forgot to replace the bulbs again even though I already reminded him the week before. He often tells me, “You know the memory goes bad once you hit thirty-five.”

I walk up the stairs to our cabin and find Sal’s snowboarding helmet on a chair. His “No Thoughts. Just Improv” sticker, a remnant of his comedy days in L.A., is weather-worn but still intact on the side.      Then I almost trip on Sal’s all-mountain board that he uses as a snowboarding instructor. I’ve told him not to leave it lying around outside in the dark like this. Somebody is bound to trip and get in a nasty fall.

I see people in the living room. It is Sal and his AA buddies, one of them my co-worker Rob, and I could tell that they are in a deep listening session. Their sessions have titles that sound like skits at times: The Dazzling Butterfly Effect meeting, The Serene Aftermath of Recovery meeting, The Solutions by the Lake meeting. This one looks like a Big Book Study meeting because everybody has their books on their laps as if they are reading a bible.

They don’t notice me standing outside, so I walk around to the back, where some of the mini globe lights also hang frozen, their filaments extra taut in their bulbs. I begin to unscrew them one by one, then only two remain lit in the back patio. Penelope Cruz watches me from our bedroom window, meowing. I blow warm air on the window pane, and it obscures me. She meows even more.

I take a bite out of the protein bar and it tastes like sweet, grainy mud. I spit it out, and for a moment, the black nutty specks are one with the starry sky before they land on the snow. I bite and spit some more while Penelope scans what lands on the ground. I open the rest of the nut bars and throw them towards the back beyond the storage shed.

From inside, I hear a synchronous mantra and clapping. I hear Sal make a muffled joke and everyone laughs. The meeting is over. I knock on the back kitchen door, and everyone waves a hello at me. All I want is to take a long hot shower.

While the two of us prepare for dinner, Sal tells me he is two years sober. “Did you forget, honey bear?” He asks with a smile on his face. He places a bronzed recovery chip over his nose and sticks out his tongue like the joker that he is.

This particular number slips my mind; I didn’t know he was counting. I kiss him and take a closer look at his healthy skin and unchapped lips. His dimples are visible again on his baby cheeks, beneath the patchy hair. His breath smells of butter crackers, the fish-shaped ones he tells me to bring from the grocery store.

“Of course not!” I say to him. “How could I forget? What a milestone!”

This is what happens in order that evening: I take a hot shower. Sal and I have sex, but he cannot finish. “Too excited.” He whispers to me. So I finish on my own, while he touches my skin. Penelope jumps up on the windowsill afterwards, and I tell Sal about the black bear that roams the winter before we sleep.


We celebrate the next day at Char-Burgers near the lake. We bite on fatty crab burgers and sweet potato fries. We burp on root beers and become giddy over a slice of sweet lemon pie. Over dessert, Sal hands me a card with a watercolor painting of Lake Tahoe. It says, “Thank you for piecing me together. I love you very much from the bottom of my heart.” Then Sal and I scroll on his phone to look at our life in Tahoe and Los Angeles: footage of him snowboarding down a slope with the tourists he was teaching, a video of me from last summer jumping in the cold lake, a shot of us at summer Truckee Thursdays with flaky churros in our mouths, a close-up of us holding a baby Penelope in front of our cabin, a picture of us packing our living room in East Hollywood, a video of us gasping in front of a Benihana chef’s fire on the grill, a photo of himself holding up a peace sign and standing outside the tall gates of the rehab facility he was in two years ago. I scroll up to see what other pictures the phone stores in its memory, and I only find an old picture of me carrying a shoulder camcorder back when I used to work at that reality TV production company. I find no pictures that precede the last two years. “I never logged on the cloud after I lost my phone,” he says to me when I ask. “Guess I don’t remember my password.”

“Remember this job?” I ask him, zooming in the picture. “I shot a lot of crazies during that season.”

Afterwards, we walk the shore of King’s Beach, our bootprints all over the fresh sheet of snow reflecting the bright sun overhead. Lopsided snowmen still stand their ground, branch hands outstretched, pebble eyes and teeth askew. Sal jogs ahead of me and scoops up snow. He throws it up in the air, and it falls all over him like confetti. I have to catch my breath even though it’s a slow walk. The elevation of the town still makes me lightheaded sometimes even after a year of living here.

We stand on a pier, and we survey the curves of snowy mountains all the way south of the lake, the water cradled in between gently lapping and licking the shores surrounding it.

“It never gets old, doesn’t it?” Sal says. “I wish we had moved here during my wild years. It would have straightened me much sooner,” he takes a deep breath. “I think this is a good aftermath for me and you.”

“What do you miss most about Los Angeles?” I ask looking down at the bottom of the unfreezing lake.

Sal thinks for a moment and puts his arm around me. “I don’t miss any of it. Honestly, I’m glad I don’t recollect much before the last couple of years. All I remember is the beautiful home you and I packed up in Thai Town and us driving away from it.”

“Me too.” I say. But I miss that home very much. I miss how a block east is Little Armenia and a block west is Thai Town where we can fulfill all of our cravings. I even miss my old job even though I was fired  because of my nerves and shaky footage.

We walk away from the pier. “I love this for you and me too, Sal.” I tell him.

While we walk back to the car, I ask myself: is it fair that I remember everything in this aftermath? I give no body to my memories by not speaking of them.


Rob who operates the baler flattens boxes while he tells me and Fiona that the bear paid him and his wife a visit last night. Rob and his wife sleep in separate rooms. He tells us that underneath their crawl space at around mid-night, they heard the rumbling and snores of something inhuman. Rob tells us they stomped on the floor to scare it off, started banging pots outside the window above the crawl space to wake and frighten it away, but after a few seconds, it was Rob and his wife who found themselves on the floor huddled onto one another holding on for their dear lives.

They shook above the bear’s roar. He says it was like standing under the sky’s mouth where lightning bore thunder. “It scared the life in and out of us,” he says. “We held on to one another like it was the last time we would see each other! It really made us rethink our separation.” They were too afraid to even turn on the lights as the bear walked away from their home towards the tall trees, but Rob got a good look at the bear’s large head as it crawled out, its muscles neck to back pulsing like thick cable wires buried under black fur. “Must have been 500 lbs. You don’t wanna be alone with that one.” He warns.

Smoking her thin cigarettes, Fiona asks, “You know what this reminds you to do, right, Rob?”

“Uh. Lock up the crawlspace?” Rob says. “What else is there to do?”

“That and also to protect the sanctity of your marriage!” Fiona runs away, as Rob boomerangs a flat box at her. Fiona ducks. She whistles as she skips to the backdoor.

“It was nice to see you a little bit during our meeting the other night,” Rob says as he continues to work the baler. “Sorry to intrude your space. I know Sal says you don’t like that sometimes.” Rob is fatherly towards me. He crunches more boxes in the baler.

I say it’s OK. He’s healthy, second year in the clear. He’s racking up the chips in the cabin. The air is good for him up here. I joke that Sal hasn’t cracked any heads from instructing amateur snowboarding tourists near the Ritz.

“And how about you?” he asks me.

I say the elevation makes me lightheaded and the air still dries my nose bloody. “Tahoe is a different kind of dry from Los Angeles.” I say to Rob. I ask him how long he’s been sober and immediately apologize, thinking it impolite to ask.

“Going on fifteen years. And not rude at all. I am very proud of it.” Rob says.

“Do you remember much before those fifteen years?” I ask him.

He stops operating the baler, looking up at the florescent lights trying to remember. For a moment, it looks like he is about to cry, but instead he shoos me away with a flat box, laughing. “Now that’s just damn rude, kid. Testing my fried brain. Go back to work with that other one.”

It is snowing outside and the store is crowded with locals and tourists alike loading their carts with items that I unpacked from the stock room. Fiona stands at a bagging station with a lollipop in her mouth, arranging eggs, milk cartons, lumpy vegetables and meats to fit in plastic bags as if she was playing an unfulfilling game of Tetris. The customer she is bagging for has three kids glued to her hips. Fiona offers a lollipop to the mother.

Aisle to aisle, I replace cereal boxes, ice-cream, soda, beer and wine. I organize misplaced items lazy customers leave anywhere if they no longer want to buy them. I front the shelves, pulling items and foods from the back so that they can easily grab what they need. I answer questions without blinking an eye: “Aisle 6 if you want to find the frozen bags of peas and blueberries.” “Aisle 10 for the cranberry juice and vodka.” “Aisle 2 for the gauze and the betadine.” I can find anything in the store with a plastic bag over my head.

The hours are long today, so I play Fiona’s game. It involves following customers who resemble ourselves — same height, same race, same face, same age. We follow those counterparts, sometimes imitating how they move, listening to the way they speak with their loved ones on the phone or by their side, and observing what they are not saying in silence. We examine what sustenance they’re buying, what they can and cannot afford. One time, Fiona followed a woman in her mid-thirties in a mink fur lined parka carrying an Hermes bag to the pharmacy, and after feigning to rearrange first aid kits, bottles of isopropyl alcohol, and cotton pads, Fiona found out that the woman was getting her prescription for bipolar syndrome. Fiona left work that day after a thirteen-hour shift, driving three donuts on the icy parking lot with glee.

Fiona told me while she smoked in the lot that the point of the game is to find a counterpart in the constant flow of locals and visitors who we can pity.

“Can you imagine another me swallowing pills to pull me up from a low and down from a high?” she said. “Not this bitch. The only place you’ll see me popping pills in is my homemade maracas for summer Truckee Thursdays.”

Today in Aisle 7, I see my counterpart in a hand-holding couple. They look about twenty-eight, both dark-haired, no gaps in their white teeth as they read out loud the nutritional values of the energy bars they hold. I can’t tell if they’re Cambodian or Filipino, but one of them looks like me.

“Oh they sell these bars here! Remember when we ate so many of these in Chile?” my counterpart says. “These ones are dee-lish.”

“That was in Peru!” the other says. “Except we can read the back this time around: Total sugars is 2 grams. Protein is 20 grams. Yummers!” They drop a few in their basket.

“Remember all the llamas that were on our trail because of these?” My counterpart says.

“You mean the buck-toothed alpacas.” They both laugh showing their chiclet teeth.

I smile and wave hello at the couple. “You should try the ones on the left,” I recommend the protein nut bars that taste like mud. “They taste like homemade pastries.” They nod at me and read the back of the energy bars enthusiastically. “First time in Tahoe?” I ask while I sort out bags of trail mix and other snacks on the shelves.

“Yes, we’re bringing a little New York here in the next couple of weeks,” my counterpart says to me.

“I’ve never been to New York City,” I say to my counterpart. “What do you do there?”

“Oh, we get paid to travel to a location, film our travels and eats, and then we share the videos with the people who follow us. We influence the humankind.” My counterpart gives me their website so I can follow both of them online, and they walk away carrying a variety of nut and energy bars.

For someone who has excellent memory, I forget Fiona’s rule: don’t find a counterpart who walks out of the grocery store returning to a more exciting life than you. You’ll end up pitying yourself when you work the aisles.

I arrive home, and I find Sal on the floor playing with Penelope who paws on his sobriety chips. The blue, the emerald green, the gold, the bronze and the white — all reminders of time and clarity for Sal who keeps them in a mason jar. He gives me a warm hug, a kiss on my cold nose. He asks “Can you believe that this is the coldest it’s ever been in this town? They’re reporting a lot of snow this week.”

While Sal cooks, I open my computer and search for my counterpart. I find their pictures and videos in saturated filters posing and eating in New York, Cabo, Hong Kong, The Philippines. They display their chiclet teeth in every picture. They kiss each other, eyes twinkling at the camera. It’s kind of like a reality show but without all the fighting.

Maybe if I had stayed in Los Angeles and worked my way up in that production company, I could have travelled and seen some parts of the world like my counterpart has. I could have brushed up on my skills as a camera operator, could have tagged along to the hot locales wherever they shot colorful and pill-dependent housewives, husbands, amateur models or D-list celebrities in their reality shows. It would have been somewhere.

I see Penelope slide a chip underneath the couch. Sal is chopping vegetables, mindless of what lies on our floor. I pick them up, counting each one as I place them back in Sal’s mason jar.


The black bear is finally caught on camera. It broke into Hot Java Bean about a four minute walk from the shore of Kings’ Beach. “Folks, this is why it’s always wise to make sure your windows and doors are properly secured before you leave,” the reporter says while the dark surveillance footage plays on the news.

In the video clip, we see and hear the bear lumbering in the small coffee shop. It ravages the fruit and pastries left on the counter, breaking plates and glass. It opens the fridge and bites through cartons of juice and oat milk, the liquid popping and streaming on its large paws. It unlids a Tupperware, its mouth diving into the deep-red raspberry jam. It knocks the small tables and chairs, showing us its large furry back. Then the bear sits in the middle of the coffee shop, resting the weight of its hunger and body, heedless of the damage its done.

Fiona squints her eyes from the back of the break room, “Oh, no-no,” she says chewing on a fried chicken leg. “That’s a different bear.”

Mid-bite on a donut, Rob says, “Nope, that’s not it. Sounds like a different bear for sure.”

The young owner of the coffee shop relays a message in the report, “This is such an unforgettable learning experience for me. I’ve wiped down bloody raspberry jam in places I didn’t know it could splatter!”

Fiona and Rob recite their own encounter with the black bear that visited their homes. They substantiate the shape and size they saw, the deep sounds it drew from its throat. As usual, they can’t seem to agree. They seem to be describing nonidentical bears. They settle on one thing: “This one is a baby compared to that one.” They say to me.

The door swings open and our manager walks in the break room towards me, pink in the cheeks and flurried in speech. She says one of Sal’s co-worker by the Ritz called the store looking for me. Sal was rushed to the hospital due to a snowboarding accident.


These are the questions I think about in order as I drive up to the community hospital on a sunny afternoon: How many glasses did he drink? What did he fall on or what fell on him? Will he survive this one like the others?

The cars in front of me are driving slowly, afraid to slip on the icy curves and inclines. I see the shadows of a couple and their children pointing to their right where the snow-powdered fir trees and pinyon pines give window to the always glittering Tahoe lake.

There are quick opportunities to pass them on the left lane, but this is a very familiar drive. I might as well enjoy their view.

When I arrive at the hospital, the doctor tells me that Sal has an eight-inch laceration on his scalp. “This is why we always wear our helmets,” the doctor says to me. “You would think a thin branch wouldn’t do much damage to your head but when you’re sliding down forty miles per hour…” She takes her red pen and whips it on the back of her hand. Sal will be OK she says. He’ll stay overnight but can go back home the next day, the doctor assures me.

Sal is asleep upright on the bed while the TV streams National Geographic, displaying quick captions about animals in their natural habitat. Coyotes, bobcats, mountain lions. These are just some of Nevada’s wild animals that can survive this rugged terrain, the captions say. I grab the sticky remote on the table next to Sal’s and switch to a show about real people.    

I touch the few scratches I find on Sal’s arms. The scratches are not from the fall, but probably from Penelope’s claws. Those will heal quickly. I stand closer to his face and see no visible cuts or bruises on his windburned cheeks.

I look behind me and see no medical staff present outside. I turn back to face Sal. Gently, I open his mouth and smell his warm breath. It is stale and only smells of chewed almonds and raisins. I listen to his breathing and conclude that he will live after this.

I turn his head to the left towards me and tilt it downwards to get a closer view of the laceration on his scalp. I have seen his right shoulder break, seen his hips all bruised a blue-violet hue, pulled out bloody cotton pads out of his cracked nose, but I have never seen that part of Sal’s body wounded before.

What shocks me most about the still-wet wound are the eight industrial-sized staples sealing the laceration. They are as big and thick as the staples that I use at the grocery store that shoot out of a staple gun. They glisten a metallic pink under the florescent lights. The skin on Sal’s wound is tight and under high tension. The wound looks like an unpaired inkblot test, the sharp staples like slippery silver metal steps that lead to the unshaved and unopened parts of his scalp.

I touch the staples but do not press too hard on them. Will it scar? Will his hair grow back thick and cover it up? The answers don’t really matter. I will remember this wound like the others only Sal forgets. I press a little harder on the staples.

He wakes up two hours later and says it was a freak accident. Wahpash! He mimics the sound he heard. Wahpash! I kiss him and say he will be OK. He will come home tomorrow. I tell him I love him and say that I need to go home and feed Penelope.

Fiona stays with me that evening and she whisks us a hot pot of egg drop soup. She peppers it with spice and stirs a little bit of yellow curry paste, then the kitchen smells of a nice warm hug from Fiona herself. Penelope sits by the windowsill, legs and tail dangling slinky. Her nose enlarges, discovering the smell of something unfamiliar.

“You think he fell off the wagon?” Fiona asks.

“I couldn’t smell anything,” I tell her. “He was pretty lucid even under all those meds.”

“I am glad he’s OK,” Fiona says. “You look a bit shaken up. Have some soup.”

We spoon hot soup together while Penelope paws at the falling snow on the window pane. The string lights are all frozen now, and the only light we see is from the automatic LED bulb attached to the storage room a few meters behind the house.

I ask Fiona, “If I were your counterpart in that fucked up game of yours, would you feel pity for me?”

Fiona doesn’t open her loud and quick mouth. “First of all, why do you assume I don’t already pity you?” She cackles her mouth open. “No, I wouldn’t. You’re not the kind to pity.”

“I am not the kind to pity.” I repeat out loud.

“I would only tell you to go where nothing reminds you of unhappiness,” Fiona says. Penelope jumps off her perch and kneads on my feet.


The following afternoon, the white sky pelts snow in a criss-cross as I drive Sal home. Sal and I cannot see the lake amongst the white fir and pine trees, but we know it’s there beyond the falling snow, always glacial and in motion. Sal turns his head sideways, upwards and backwards judiciously, as if a quick movement could pull the tight staples out. He holds my right hand as I drive down the incline and asks me to stop by the hardware store so he can buy the replacement bulbs for our patio.

When we arrive home, we heat up the leftover soup and I ask him to recount his accident.

“I just didn’t have my helmet on, honey. It was a low hill and I didn’t see that branch at all.” he says to me while Penelope sniffs at his feet.

“You’re a snowboarding instructor and you didn’t have your helmet lying around?” I ask.

“I know. I should have set a better example to those rich college kids.”

“Sal, you are two years in the clear . . .” I say to him, but I am careful of my tone.

“You know . . .” Sal says touching his temples. “This conversation is giving me a bit of a headache.” He goes to the bedroom, and I hear him make a phone call to one of his AA buddies. He whispers a recitation.

Next to the unopened box of lightbulbs on the floor is a clear plastic bag with his dry and bloodied clothes from the accident. I take them out of the bag and smell them but only detect his minty deodorant. I toss them in the washer on hot and hard soil.

I enter the bedroom and Sal greets me with a smile and kisses me gently. He says, “I am OK. I am in the clear. I love you very much and I don’t know where I’d be in the last five years if you weren’t there with me.”

“Seven,I remind him.

“I’m sorry,” he says and kisses me on the nose. “It’s the wahpash on my head.He jokes too soon.

He tells me he is going to an AA meeting half a mile down the road and will be back in an hour or so. He tries to put a beanie on and I tell him the staples might get caught on the wool. Instead, he wears my hoodie with the fluffy animal ears. Rob picks him up in his truck, and I remind them not to slip on the road.

In the bathroom, I turn the hot water on first, then follow with the cold. I stand under the shower head only when it is the right temperature, and I let the water sting my back, my nipples and my thighs. I turn the hot water a little bit more, and the itch and sting intensify. Through the steam, I see red dots appear on my body. I step out and dry myself. My skin is raw, my chest sensitive to rub with the towel. I feel a little lightheaded and my hands begin to shake.

It is dark outside now and Sal is still not home. I walk in our bedroom where Penelope purrs in the dark. I am sweating from the shower, so I open the window and let the sharp, glassy air soothe me. I breathe the cold air in and close my eyes.

I imagine and see different shapes and possibilities for me and Sal, perhaps an aftermath that is restful for only me. Some place where I can breath easy. It brings a smile to my face but it also makes me weep. It has been a while since I have felt the sting of tears. I open my eyes with clarity, and then I find myself face to face with the bear that will not sleep.

Penelope’s frenetic hisses are the only sounds I hear. The black bear is mum, turning its head side to side, curious as to what or who is behind the screen. The lone light in the back patio reveals the layers of muscles on its neck and forelegs. I see its beady and watery eyes. It senses me a foot away, and I smell the breath it draws in and out.

Penelope jumps on the floor onto the windowsill and hisses some more. I grab her and her claws dig deep in my neck as I shut the window just before the bear opens its jaws and roars me scared to the bones.


This is what I remember about facing the bear as I sit naked on the bedroom floor and bloody on my neck: its desolate and glassy eyes that locked into mine even though it was dark, its furry face symmetrical from nose to ears like the perfect Rorschach test asking me “Do you see? Do you see?”, the largeness of its teeth, the deepness of its ribbed, fleshy mouth and the infinite bellow that came from within. It smelled of hunger and thirst.

I sit at the foot of the bed, and I see slivers of a car’s headlight in the back patio. I see the bear no longer stands in the dark.

Sal comes in and greets Penelope by the door. “Honey, I’m back,” he says in a sing-song voice. “Where are you?” He walks to our bedroom, turns on the light and sees me. He does not approach but watches and listens to me howl.

Does he see the blackness deep in my throat?

Does he see the tender burns and cuts on my skin?

I hope all of it is impossible to forget.

A UCLA and VONA alum, Ani Cooney is the winner of a PEN America / Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize His work can be found or is forthcoming in The Georgia Review, The Adroit Journal, Epiphany Magazine, Best Debut Short Stories: The PEN America Dau Prize and elsewhere. His work has received support from One Story magazine’s Adina Talve-Goodman Fellowship and The Adroit Journal’s inaugural Anthony Veasna So Scholarship in Fiction. Learn more about Ani at .

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