Marianne McKey

Marianne Mckey is a recent graduate from The New School's MFA program in creative writing. Her work can be found at The Los Angeles Review, Storm Cellar, and Fiction Fix. In 2010, Marianne was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She currently lives in Brooklyn. Below is one of her short stories titled "Orbit".


I'm afraid that if I look up at you and say, "This sucks ," you'll look back and say, "You're right. Let's not."

I’m afraid you’ll forget those moments. Those moments when we looked at each other and it felt like we had our own personal orbit.  Like a galaxy had sprung around us and our spin about the other a type of metronome for eternity, but we were just in bed, just under the covers, just on the subway, going over bridge, pointing to that stained-glass water tower in Dumbo, just looking at each other. 

But the things that pass silently between us can’t be quoted.  Can’t be used in response to, “This sucks.”  How can I tell you about that feeling?  That feeling I get when I think of everyone leaving the party and when everyone’s gone, you’re not there after they leave, not there to help pick up bottles, not there to brush your teeth alongside me.  How can I tell you about how that makes me feel a type of sadness I thought I was done with, and in this moment I am most sad to know that I might have to feel that way again, and that it’s because of you. 

You want me to be the particle, the debris shuttled through your atmosphere, the meteoric blurr.  You want to be the planet, the one to cast the other off, to send it back to dark, quiet space, or to eat it up all together, just fire and dust. 

You want to be the bigger thing because you are that dream deferred, that suckled up sweetness. That crusted scab of skin. Tested. Burned. You've already bubbled and spit. Oozed open and pussed out. a peninsula of skin cobble over and sealed up, acknowledged but not spoken of.  Now your pain is like mine, the pain of feeling you might have to feel the pain again, that your scars might heal over and be licked once more with the fire.  You wear your pain like armor, just to prove that some things can't be took twice.

"I didn't say I want it to stop.  I said I want it to stop sucking."

I don't know what to do with your pain but to pounce. To coo and soothe and whisper to you all the sweet little nothing's I want for myself. But my empathy is incomplete un-evolved. There is something in you like recoil that hasn't been wound all the way in me yet. The soft touch is gnashed at because it is the only thing close. Systemic flinch. With you it’s like everything is only that.  Moments do not transcend, they are pockets in amber that never touch.  You are not just one thing.  You are many things stratified.  I can feel all of you at once, but in a single moment only one thing shows.  By Wednesday the gravity I felt on Monday is liquid, molten, spreading out beneath me like water from a leak.  I can feel my heart skewed by that helix of fear and lessons learned. I don't know if I could go through learning these things again.

I’m afraid you'll look back and say,"It's not worth it." The forever, "No thank you," or worse the, "Thank you but no."

I should take my licks and leave like all the other salty dogs. But I can see your mind, full of that silty sort of soil. Thick and soft. That silken swirl in the riverbed that blots out the bottom. Opacity is only for the self. I know what those emotional stones look like at the bottom, how your thoughts dart like minnows.  Their scales are gilded and glinting even in the dark. I don't mind the mud, the mess. My mind is not much better but there needs to be something more than just being understood. What is it to know yourself if you can never effect change?

 I planted a part of me in you, and we grew it until the roots mingled with the veins and tendons and they wrapped themselves around the heart like a gentle noose keeping it in place.  It sprung from our nail beds and open pores and it was in our blood and bile and beauty, but then you pulled away.  That part I shared, I thought inextricable from the rest.  I gave you a piece of the thing that made me real.  Which is sometimes an amorphous vapor, white and milky, puffing me up and rounding me out.  Which is sometimes a thick-skinned egg, hard and leathery, but filled with that golden-goo yolk that sits warm and slippery deep inside.  Which is sometimes a river, quick and cold, coursing through me like something possessed and powerful.  That thing we’ve been so inclined to call a soul, and I gave part of it to you to grow but you left it to rot.  A river dammed up.  An egg slit and seeping.  A gust of wind to dispel a fog. 

"What about me isn't enough?"

"Enough, enough what?"

"To be worth it?"

I'm afraid to look up at you and say,"Don't answer. I know all this. That you would make me feel this way, like my brain is squirming. You make me anxious about being anxious. You want it like that. If I’m not careful I’ll be the thing eaten up in your orbit, charred in your atmosphere, when I need to be the thing flung away, floating on with focused motion, propelled. However, I can see the bottom and I don't mind the mess. But this sucks for me, and you have to care about that for this to function," I'm afraid when I look you in the eyes and demand consideration, demand that you see me, that you value me, that I become a planet next to yours, you'll look back at me and say, "This sucks, let's not."