Short psychological story

The air simmers over Nice like a hot stove and the streets wind up into nowhere. Everything burns vermillion, white and blue, the men clasping at the ends of cigarettes between withered fingertips as they holler at you in broken French. Mademoiselle, Mademoiselle, they say above the gulls. Un baiser, s’il vous plaît, un baiser pour moi. But no kiss ever comes, except from the women with painted faces that haunt the street lamps along the Rue de France. …

From a disappointed British would-be immigrant

Dear America,

I’ve always been in love with you. I grew up with you, flickering in the pixels and glittering blur of television screens and movie theatres. You burnt brighter than a supernova with your optimistic joy, every vein within your body bursting with a million lights, lives and dreams.

I’ve wept with your sadnesses and I’ve rejoiced with your successes. I’ve sung your songs, I’ve stood for your anthem, I’ve felt the pain of your heartbreak and grief, I’ve felt safer when you have stood up and given your sons and your daughters in the name of the vulnerable, the persecuted and weak. You were my inspiration, my hero, my big brother. My first memory is 9/11, the deepest wound that was yours as much as mine. I had nightmares for years, seeing you in flame, weeping, angry. I was five, and I was angry. I was angry for you.

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We speak the same language. I’ve made you laugh, you’ve made me cry. I can stand on any one of your streets and be understood. I have stood beneath the skyscrapers of New York and the redwoods of Sonoma and felt I was home, for the first time, at home with the zeitgeist that are central to my very being: freedom, justice and hope. Every time my plane lands in DC, New York or LA, I feel like I can breathe again. I don’t have that love, that joy for this sad, grey and cold island that is written on my documents, stamped into my passport. …

And why your pick-up artist is making it harder for you

I’ve been on this planet for twenty-four long, drawn out years. Sometimes it seems like a lot longer, if I’ve spent too long going through my message requests. Throughout it all, from training bras to conference calls with Madrid, I’ve endured both the brilliant and beastly of male attention. I’ve seen success, and I’ve seen failure. I’ve been repulsed, and I’ve been overwhelmed.

And I don’t hate you, incels. In fact, I hope I can help.

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Surprisingly for some, although definitely not for others, I haven’t always been the girl in the bright red lipstick rolling her eyes at frightened men in Players. In fact, if you knew me at all before I turned twenty, I think you’d find it surprising that I’d even be let into a club, let alone one where I’d have the dubious honour of having a Lord pin me against a vodka stained piano surrounded by hollow-hearted civil servants bellowing Mr Brightside. So, let that be a lesson to the bitter hearted among you: I was unattractive, too.

I was an outsider, a nerd, a weirdo, a loser. I was the one with long empty weekends and a deep loneliness that cut into my bones. I was the one with mud brown eyes, a clumsy gait and hair that stuck out in an uneven, untameable mass. I was the girl with a skirt below the knee, the girl in the library, the girl who wouldn’t get drunk or smoke weed. That was me. I was one of those girls. The girls you forget. I know the bitterness well. I know the taste that lingers in your mouth when you enter a room and realize that no man is ever going to look at you. I know what it’s like to lie awake and taste the salt of your tears when you wonder if anyone will ever love you. I know what it’s like to sob into the mirror because once, just once, you want to be held and looked at like you’re someone. So no, I don’t hate you. I don’t sneer at you for what I once felt pulsing through me too. I just hope you know that on the other side of it, there is always a girl looking into the mirror wondering if any man would ever give her anything in this world if she looked the way she did before the miraculous transformation of adulthood, and if she can ever heal from the wounds that insecurity had left her. Be kind. You might look at a girl and think she has it all: sex, attention, power, but it is rarely so clean cut or precise in an underworld fraught with self doubt, the shadows of childhood and the scars of what has been. …

Traditional political definitions have created a tribalist myth

We all know who I’m talking about, even if it isn’t ‘okay’ to say it, right? The bad people, with their evil ways, their uneducated ideologies, persecutory mindsets, and their ridiculous world views. You know, the Republicans. Or the Democrats. Or the Foreigners. Or the White People. Depending on who you are, we all have a group we define as deeply, unforgivably ‘Ungood’.

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Traditional labels are making us create monsters out of moles

Since graduating college, I’ve come to the realization that most people are not extremely angry about queer theory or imperial colonial theory. People who aren’t incredibly clued up on white privilege are rarely the nazi monsters we created in our heads, and Uncle Max who works in credit management isn’t a greedy capitalist intent on enslaving Libya for oil profits. My mother called this newfound understanding Growing Up. Unfortunately, like that childhood fear of the dressing gown in the dark, tropes still die hard, even for me. But why?

I was reading a Facebook thread today on transgender rights (a recipe for cortisol, I know) and someone, hilariously, called me a Demoncrat. When I’d recovered from laughter, it did inspire something of a question in me. Why was I so evil in this man’s eyes? What did he think I believed that made me comparable to a literal entity of darkness and despair? …

Uncomfortable as it may be, we have to confront those who normalize abuse, taboos and fetishes

Sexuality, like all things, comes with the good, the bad, and the ugly. It can mean incredible closeness, intimacy and affection between you and your partner. It can mean a slightly embarrassing crush at college. And it can mean having an attraction that is so monstrously warped that an individual ends up causing serious harm, or even death. As the big media platforms and mediums rightly take aim at sexual abuse and violence, it does however raise an interesting question: how should we, as as a society, navigate harmful and dangerous elements of sexuality?

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I, like many adults, find Arianna Grande deeply uncomfortable

A friend of mine, a hockey dad with three boisterous athletic daughters, discusses his latest worry at navigating a safe path for them in a world where girls as young as three or four are routinely sexualized and endangered through increasingly ugly pop culture. “I get that they want to be like their friends,” he says, anxiously, “But it really creeps me out when I see them copying sucking on their fingers, lollipops and a cutesy Lolita aesthetic. I’ve had to ban Arianna Grande in my house.”

It’s not really hard to see why. Queen of Lolita Pop, Arianna Grande makes for a highly uncomfortable watch for any adult. With kitten ears, candy and a petite aesthetic that makes her appear to be about thirteen or fourteen, the same age as her fans and target market, she humps the floor, moans suggestively, sucks on phallic objects and hides her hands like a little girl in big sleeves, her hair up in pony tails and ribbons. There’s no ‘reading things that aren’t there’ involved: a quick google demonstrates her images being used for borderline legal purposes, with strong ties to schoolgirl and adopted daughter fantasies in fan art. The whole thing makes my blood curdle. As a woman my own age, in her mid twenties, she must know how dangerous it is to sexualize children. To rob them of their childhood. In a world where we openly shudder at Epstein, Prince Andrew and Savile, why are we silent on the women who choose to perpetuate a dangerous, abusive sexuality, that of pedophilia? …

Why it’s okay to say goodbye, even when it hurts.

You loved him, and you still do. Grief has crippled you, a sucker punch in the diaphragm that has left you reeling. Loss has curdled suddenly into the spaces and cracks of long evenings, the wide spaces of your bed and the absence of a wedding ring. The faces of children you will now never have fade before you, and in the salt choked sadness of waking alone for the first time, you are left with only one question. How do I carry on?

Carrying on is one of those things you cannot plan for. There is no sellotaped bandage that can be wrapped around your heart and heal it with firm words of common sense and reason. There is no amount of words, tears or songs you can sing that will take you faster down the road to the day this grief becomes numb. But it will come. You won’t expect it, you won’t be able to mark a day in the calendar or a star in the sky where you won’t ache anymore. But it is coming. Like the first day of spring, you will find it suddenly with a chorus of birds or the blossoming of a long dead bud. …

Short psychological fiction

He was a silent man who lumbered around in the dark, hands searching the wallpaper roses when the light bulb had long flickered out. Someday, he would replace it, but for now, he liked the gloom.

Kettle switch, paracetamol, the low hum of radio. The bark of the dog that feared him. This is the start of days, and the end of days. There is a nothingness to him, a bleak, bland mundane stretched out with little purpose between unpaid tax returns to HMRC and the faceless exchange of change by the long peer that slurs into the mist. He is a stretch of numbers, a bank account, citizen insurance number 1093819, someone to be deleted off a spreadsheet after a heart attack one January, alone. He dwells on that, sometimes, the fact the next person to touch him will be the person to check his pulse. …

Short horror story

Gerald Van Daalman was a man seldom to be found without a cigar in his mouth and his wide right hand around a Gibson. He was the kind of man you would rinse out the cologne from your blouse with over the motel sink, but never quite get rid of the lingering taste of disgust.

The girls of La Dourada Passaro called him Old Bubonico, for the gift of dark ink blue bruises he left in bite marks around their necks. He was a man to be avoided when sober and feared while drunk down the tobacco choked streets of the crumbling favela.

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A wise girl is never fooled by a silk cravat or french tie, the madams would whisper when his stumbling carcass was nothing more than a white suit on the edge of the hill. All gentlemen are beasts, and the worst of them have enough money to have you buried. No flutter of Daalman’s notes was worth the price of inexperienced girl to the madams of Carvalho Street. Everyone from the waitresses to the virgins sweeping the bars knew what a night with Gerald Van Daalman meant, well versed in the ice baths, chloroform and hushed tones of pitying sisters down the winding hotel rooms. What he wanted, few could say. He never found pleasure in satisfaction, only in the pain of the women he hated. Whatever he sought, he never found it, eyes swiveling in their sockets for the next girl to ruin, thick fingers running down the spines of his next prey. But, here in the shadows of the damned, the women looked out for each other, if nothing else. Dignity here meant nothing. Safety meant everything. …

I managed to sit through this consumerist binfire, and I didn’t like it

I don’t get to say ‘as a bisexual feminist’ as often as I’d like, but this is definitely one of those rare occasions where it isn’t wildly irrelevant. As a Bisexual Feminist™, I had the privilege of being one of the first people to facepalm at the planned live remake of Mulan: 1998.

Allegedly because having a relationship with someone who was your former commander is ‘problematic’ (and not because of the rampant homophobia that results in the criminalization of thousands of LGBT+ folk every year in their target market, lol), they got rid of the only positive representation of bisexuality or ‘gender-subversive’ sexuality in the main Disney canon: Li Shang.

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Liu Yifei looks incredibly bored throughout the whole film

For those of you who aren’t millennial bisexuals, Li Shang is cool, macho, hardworking and diligent, not to mention hot, and is allowed to develop romantic feelings for a person he believes is male in the narrative, and then accept the same romantic feelings without any question or ‘ew’ when they are established as female. Which, for 1998, was pretty hip. Even in the early 2000s, as a confused eight year old, that was a subtly comforting thing to see. So when I heard that he was out of the remake script, off the bat, I was suspicious of this sanitized remake that broke the original screenplay to meet the doubleplusgood logic of CCP China, or, as the producers allege, the ‘omg so problematic’ feminists who are weirdly obsessed with Disney. But don’t worry. I’m not one of those people who demands Disney answers to all feminist-genderqueer theory and sanitizes their screenplays accordingly, so you’re good there. This isn’t one of those essays. …

Short horror fiction

The earth in Chulao now cloyed in the air, acrid with carbon and a strange, singing sourness that lingered in the mouth. The clean rigid lines of the city were fractured, white sandstone broken to reveal hollow concrete bones, vertebrae of iron bars twisting into the sky. The rubble bled into the streets, every so often tumbling down in a flurry of discarded papers, broken china and faded books. It was silent, now, save from the odd murmur of a helicopter overhead.

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They had made love, then, in Apartment 21BwA. It was a sacrilege, perhaps, as the carcass of the town reeled and the small bodies of lives unlived were dug out of their unsuspecting tombs. It wasn’t planned. Tom had boiled water on the gas stove to clean the cut on his hand, and she had wrapped it in the fabric samples they had found in the drawer. They hadn’t agreed to do it. It was wordless, his fingertips lingering over her waist, her chin coming to rest on his clavicle. It wasn’t sexual, just closeness, closeness in the heart of that wound. She had lain on her back and stared up out of the open balcony doors at that cerulean blue above that didn’t care nor mind nor shift what that the mortals suffered or sinned below. Numb reassurance, her hands creased around the cotton of his shirt. He performed love like an athlete, press ups and perseverance, eager to please. She didn’t mind. She wanted him, then, in the shock and the strange unscreaming that inhabited both their lungs. The low rhythm of his breath, his eyes purposefully on her. …


Madelaine Hanson

24 year old with an awful lot to say about everything. Opinions entirely my own. Usually.

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