by Kristen Zory King

By now you know the markings of each bender: first the anger, then the apology, sorryloveyou. Judging by the long, rambling texts arriving every other minute, he is currently somewhere near the end, the weeping confessional. It’s early but you are at work, busying yourself by cleaning the coffee pot. There is something soothing in this ritual, repetition. You mix cleaner with water, pour into the tank, watch the water drip back into the pot, distilled but still murky. You continue until the water runs clear, your phone buzzing quietly on your desk. It is not enough. In another half hour you will tell your supervisor you are taking the rest of the day off, leave a pot of fresh coffee waiting for your colleagues. You will drive to Ace Hardware, buy a pot of mums, Cornelia Yellow, and a new broom, pack an overnight bag and put it in the car just in case (proximity to pain feels important). You will clean the small kitchen in your apartment then the bathroom, letting your fingers grow dry and stiff from bleach, dust your bookshelves, make your bed, use the new broom to sweep the front stoop until it is clear of dirt and dead leaves. It is autumn and the days are growing short, self-indulgent in darkness, the trees staring and stripped. You will stand in the shower, let hot water bruise your body red, place the mums on your doorstep, desperate for the promise of something gentle.


Kristen Zory King is a writer and artist facilitator based in Washington, DC. Recent work can be found in Electric Lit, Past-Ten, mac(ro)mic, and SWWIM, among others. Learn more or be in touch at



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