Nicole McCarthy











Has a moment ever haunted you


Maybe you recollect a moment often to muddle the details or you hope it dissipates over time. Would you alter a memory, if you could?












I relive a moment of hesitation all the time. A moment of guarded contemplation. A regret of immobility. Maybe, after years of believing I had done it differently, it’ll be so.








I pick you up from your friend’s wedding in the backwoods of Buckley. You wouldn’t come out of the venue hall; lips locked with your favorite glass of whiskey.

My head is pounding from the night before; my 21st run on the town, the one you weren’t invited to. I pull up to our farmhouse and the distance you keep from my body, normally the plea I wake with on my lips, vanishes as your anger becomes known. I feel it tremoring up my spine; my hands start to shake.

You corner me in the house, outside eyes no longer watching, holding you accountable. You tell me I embarrassed you at the wedding, hung over and looking wrecked, leaving early for temporary convalescence. I’m not behaving how a woman should. You force me to my knees to beg for forgiveness, for understanding. To beg for you to keep me.

You begin to unbutton your tux. My muscles tense and I start to sweat, a chain reaction set in motion whenever you undress in front of me now. I look at the tux, how it sits awkwardly on your overweight frame, tight and unnatural.

You force me to beg for a wedding ring, one I know I don’t want anymore, a fact I haven’t worked up the heart [or spine] to tell you. You yell that the figures we witnessed standing in that church today making vows could have been us, if only I’d been the exact type of woman you want. I’ve been crying but you just notice. You cup my face, your calloused fingers running the line of my jaw, a moment of tenderness you give as if I’m thirsting for it, before asking me to take my clothes off.

We have to fix this, you say.

I sob as the breath I held escapes from my chest. You lower me down onto you in the middle of our living room, your tux pants pulled down to your ankles. You don’t allow me to be passive; I can’t lie here waiting for your release, legs lackadaisically around your body. You force me to ride you and never ask me to stop crying.

It’s July— the setting sun pours in through the south windows. I can hear the horses on the farm running through tall grass. The apple trees just outside the living room window are bearing fruit and gnats have begun to convene around the drooping branches. I feel you run your fingers possessively over my hips and up my glistening back.

When you finish, you help me off of you and then grab water from the fridge. You clean your guns while watching a movie I hate. Your posture the status of indifference.

I throw up my lunch and skip dinner, avoiding whatever room you enter.




Nicole McCarthy is an experimental writer who earned her MFA from the University of Washington Bothell. Her work has appeared in Glass: a Journal of Poetry, The Shallow Ends, Dream Pop Press, Crab Fat Magazine, Ghost Proposal, FLAPPERHOUSE, Tinderbox Poetry, The Fem, Memoir Mixtapes, Civil Coping Mechanism’s A Shadow Map anthology, and forthcoming in the 2018 Best American Experimental Writing anthology from Wesleyan University Press. Her work has also been performed and encountered as projection installation pieces throughout Tacoma and Seattle. She can be found on Twitter @GarbytheSass and her work can be found at