Thoughts on “Indiscretion”

This short essay is part of a series called ‘Publication Reflection’ where I look back at my published work. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.

Illustration that accompanies my zine Indiscretion

When I promised this zine a couple weeks ago, I’d thought I would only use old pieces–one published (“Coffee Talk”) and two that I considered unpublished.

“Coffee Talk” went in seamlessly. I think it’s a lovely little piece, so I didn’t change a thing. Then, I dropped in the other two pieces: “Observations From a Pew in Church” and “When It’s Over.” These are pieces I wrote as an undergrad around the same time as “Coffee Talk.” For that reason, I was thinking they were stylistically similar, and in general, I was right. All three of the pieces were in third person, and all three operated on themes of sexual indiscretion.

The theme wasn’t quite tight enough though, I think. The original version of “Observations” didn’t mention cheating at all, instead, the main character spends a bit of time fantasizing about Lacey. I wanted the ‘indiscretion’ to be more explicit, so I cut the fantasy and instead dropped a sentence that clearly showed Mary was actively cheating on her husband. I like this version a lot better than the original, which I think bordered on melodrama. It feels a bit more realistic to me, even if it is kind of bleak.

Then I looked at “When It’s Over.” I just didn’t like it. It was depressing in a way that I just didn’t find enjoyable. So then, I found myself a tad stuck. I felt that the piece needed three pieces to truly count as a collection, but I didn’t have anything else about cheating. After I got over the messiness of my relationship, the topic lost interest for me.

So I wrote a new piece.

“The Thing About Cheating” was something I wrote pretty dang quickly. I wrote the first three paragraphs ending with “Can you remember that first time?” and then turned to a software called charNG that I discovered on Gnoetry Daily. Gnoetry Daily was introduced to me as a service to help create super weird poems, but I wanted to use it for fiction. I wanted to revisit those moments of cheating I’d just outlined but disorient them. So I plugged the original paragraphs into charNG and edited them down to create what I thought was a good-sounding (and good-looking) re-visiting of the beginning paragraphs. I wanted it to feel like the narrator was starting to lose their way, desperately trying to find the reason they started this in the first place and realizing it just wasn’t worth it. Then, I had to think through the ending. It felt amazing to end it on not knowing what happens next because the next two pieces explore that. “Observations” has the cheating character contemplating her wedding, and “Coffee Talk” has the woman deciding to stay with her husband despite what he did.

Overall, I think it ended up being a lovely little collection of things, and it was great to have Patrons to thank on the acknowledgments page. I am so, so grateful for all of you, and it felt incredible to put that in a zine.

Love, gratitude, and happy reading.

Thoughts On “Equality”

This short essay is part of a series called ‘Publication Reflection’ where I look back at my published work. Want to see content like this more often? Consider supporting me on Patreon.

The image above, a painting by Carl Napolitano, was printed alongside my piece when it was published. I love butterflies. What a joy to have this one associated with my first publication.

Before rereading “Equality” for this post, it had been years since I looked at this strange little flash fiction. Part prose, part script, a little naive. Perhaps very naive.

I wrote this piece as a freshman in college. By the time it was accepted at the undergrad-operated lit mag there, I’d already decided to transfer. But, it was still my first publication. I won second place in the fiction category judged by Trenton Lee Stewart, and he wrote me some nice feedback on it. I even got a bit of money for it.

All of that to say, I certainly don’t look at this piece and think that it’s bad. I think there are spots to improve it, some instances of repetition that I should have eliminated, basic sentences that could have been elevated. But for who I was at the time, for where I was at with my writing and with my life, it’s a solid little piece.

What I wonder about is where I stand on the moral of it.

It’s simplistic, of course. The kind of thing an 18-year-old thinks is very clever but is only sort of interesting. I still agree that we should be nice to Prejudice, though, which is different than letting him walk all over us. We have to be nice to him while also trying to stop him from dictating laws and public policy, which is a very tricky line to balance on. We have to be nice to him like I’m nice to the prejudiced people in my family, sending them well wishes while desperately hoping that their opinions and ideas weren’t passed down to their kids. And I think jokes about white people not seasoning their food are hilarious. It’s true in a lot of cases, after all.

It’s the nuance of it, though. That’s what I think about when I look at this piece now. It’s not a bad point, overall. I just wish I’d been capable of explaining it better.

Like what you read and want to help me create more? Support my work through PatreonVenmo, or Paypal.


This flash fiction originally appeared in the print magazine Please Xerox.

Like what you read and want to help me create more? Support my work through PatreonVenmo, or Paypal.

I feel bad for not picking Nicki because she is so desperate for appointments. I have been here for two hours and her chair has stayed empty, and as Dave whispered to me, this is like a barbershop. If the chair is empty, they aren’t making money.

Nicki is in the corner drawing while Dave adds color to my skin. At first he penned the lines he wanted to follow, but now he knows how he wants it to look. He’s free-handing purple and green across my thigh and I trust him because Dave is the same age as my hairdresser and they start the same conversations. How’s your mom? Tell me about that girl you like at work. Have I told you why I hate my sister’s new girlfriend?

“I overheard these women talking about their kids getting tattoos,” I say, “and the comparisons they make are so weird.”

“I used to hear it’s like wearing the same shirt for the rest of your life,” Dave says.

“These women were saying it’s like wearing the same hairstyle forever.”

Dave smiles, his eyes never leaving his work. “Like they’ve changed their hair in the last twenty years.”

Blood is pooling on my leg that he wipes away before continuing to cut me open with a needle. “I wanted to tell them it’s more than that. It’s deeper than a shirt or a haircut.”

“I don’t think they would find that comforting,” Dave says.

Nicki finishes her drawing and pins it on the bulletin board by her chair. She says, “I love this. I hope someone picks it.”

It’s a character from an adult cartoon, a mad scientist with bugged out eyes. “Put it on yourself,” Dave tells her. “That way it’s yours.”

Nicki doesn’t comment on his suggestion. She goes back to drawing and the store remains quiet except for the buzzing of the needle.

“People get so afraid of changing their minds,” Dave says, almost whispering. “But we don’t change nearly as much as we think we do.”

“So why do you make such a good business on cover-ups?” I ask.

Dave draws a line at the top of my thigh and my skin jumps. “Almost done,” he says. He adds white to my body and I think he’s forgotten my question but he sighs as he finishes the last line, rubs my leg with the wipe one last time.

“Sometimes people get what they think they’re supposed to get,” Dave says. “And then they decide to get what they wanted in the first place.”

“Are they hard to do?” I ask. I get up, look at myself in the mirror.

“Yes,” Nicki says. I didn’t know she’d been listening.

Dave shrugs. “It’s all about understanding how colors work together. You just have to know how to layer them.”

I look at Nicki in the mirror, curious to see if she’s still listening, what she thinks about Dave’s assessment. But she’s looking at the drawing she made, chewing on her lip.  She takes it off the bulletin board and drops it into the trashcan by her chair. She looks up then, sees me watching. She looks back down at the trashcan. I think maybe she’s going to rescue the drawing, but she doesn’t. She just stares down at it. 

When I step out the door, she’s still looking down.