Your Mother Has Fallen Out of Love With You

Rain sweeps cold and black from the sea, palm fronds slithering across the hotel parking lot. It’s the holidays and people sing in a church across the street.

The man is slim and dark-haired and wears a suit under a transparent rain jacket. The boy wears a black poncho covering most of his body, black wet hair plastered over his face so it looks like a ragged fringe of the hood.

“A room for me and my son.” He wraps his arm around the boy with a warm smile, clear insulation over glistening black.


The hydrophobic jacket drops to the floor, carpet darkening around the clear plastic. The man stretches, knuckles popping. His suitcase falls over, heavy and swollen. The boy’s suitcase is hollow-cheeked and empty.

The man flops on the bed and the boy remains standing, holding a roll of leather under his arm like a small rug. The man turns on the television. Weather advisory. Shopping channel. Pay-per-view. Insect documentary. Censored videolaga, red mosaics vibrating as a wizard’s knife glides through a palace.

He looks at the boy.

Why are you wearing clothes in here?

The boy hesitates, then lifts his poncho, black plastic stretching taut over his face. It crinkles as he drags it from his body like a garbage bag.

He takes his shirt off. His skin is covered in bruises.

He removes his pants. His knees are pocked with scars.

He pulls down his underwear.


He shivers in the cold.

The man mutes the television. He cocks his head as if listening for something. His hand perches on the remote control like a pale mantis on a black branch.

The boy places the leather object on the floor and rolls it open. The interior is covered in spikes.

The man leans on the bed and rests his head in his hand, watching the boy like he was watching the television.

The boy sinks his knees onto the leather strip with a sharp gasp, spikes digging into the thin skin stretched over his patellas.

The man picks up the phone.

Hello, room service?

He twists the kinky cord around his finger, sock foot bobbing to an unheard beat.

Can I get a coffee? Cat-eye. Yessir. And it says here you have the finest chocolate chip fudge pie. I’ll have a big slice of that. Mmhm. Mmhm.

He looks at the boy.

And can I get some macaroni and cheese. Thank you. Thank you so much.

On the TV screen, a hamburger rotates, dripping with juice, special sauce spilling over, raining pink into the abyss. Bright lights explode behind it.

The boy’s stomach growls.

Wave after wave of pain and numbness radiate from his knees. He knows each wave as it burns through him. His joints are inflamed, spikes cooking the viscous raw egg of his synovial fluid.

The food arrives.

The man eats with great pleasure, sucking the underside of his spoon.

When the macaroni and cheese is cold, he places the bowl on the floor.

Are you hungry?

Spread your legs. Like a frog.

The man wraps a napkin around his fingers.

The boy’s thighs tremble from staying open, toes curling as the man mashes the macaroni inside. It breaks apart and he gathers it up again and pushes until the inside is full of the paste and chunk of it.

The boy puts his hand on his stomach, afraid of losing control, the boundary between his body and the food distorted. He shouldn’t have done that. He puts his hand on the carpet. He knows it’s too late.

The man stands up and slides the dirty napkin from his fingers. They are long and slender and pristine.

The boy quivers on the floor, rubbing his legs together.

You can eat that when it comes out.


The boy’s fingers dig into the carpet. Dark hair quivers and shakes, blinding him. His tongue scrapes the inside of his mouth, trying to lick the taste away. He can’t open his mouth because it would make the floor dirty. Saliva builds, thick and chunky until he forces himself to swallow. It replaces itself with bile, and the bad taste remains.


The man sits on the bed and stares at him.

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Am I beautiful?

Yes, the boy says. When he speaks, he can taste his digestive tract.

The man reclines on the bed with an arched leg and a demure smile.

Well, if you insist.


The man checks the windows. Night, buzzing night, old wiring and neon like dying nerves. The room is full of cleaning chemicals, he senses them like pepper spray lingering on the air.

He enters the bathroom and closes the door.

Something squeals like a pig, long and tortured.


His eyes are so bright, people barely notice anything else. But he is only himself when the lights are off. His silhouette seems like the purest version of him.

He watches the boy for a long time. The boy can only move in small ways.

The mans speaks.

Your mother has fallen out of love with you.


The man puts a tape in a cassette player. He puts on headphones so the boy can’t hear. The man only listens to muzak.


Confess your happy thoughts to me.

You know I can read your mind.

The boy confesses.

Earlier I looked out the car window.

The man smiles.

You’re not allowed to look up.

I know. I’m sorry.

The man says, gently: what did you see?

The boy starts crying.

The man smiles. They sit in silence.

The man hurts him badly.


After kneeling on the spike strip for an hour, the boy finally speaks.

Do you love me?

The man bursts out laughing.


The man strips film from a cassette tape. The magnetic ribbon wafts into a wastebasket. He places the empty tape back in his player.

The headphones are clamped on the boy’s ears.


Can you hear?

Do you see?


(The clink of cutlery on a plate.)


(The bed creaks.)

I’ll always find you.

In the womb.

(Or was it, the room? It’s hard to hear through the hot towel, so tight it feels like his brain will burst.)

If you found me, you could save yourself.


The radiator hates him with an infinite suffocating heat. It chars the air that enters his mouth. It plugs his nostrils with two hot slugs.

Turn around.

It burns what little soft flesh is behind him. He tightens his shoulder blades and cheeks against the red-hot knives of air.


The man’s voice enters his spine. His shoulders slump. A tear of sweat slips down his flushed back, the flat surface exposed evenly to the heat. Lower down, the radiator breathes into his smallest place, sanding it with teeth of newborn glass.

An ugly vacuum of despair in his throat.

The man leaves the room.

When he comes back, he inspects the imprints on the carpet. The boy hasn’t moved. His skin is peeling like a lizard.

You have two choices.

You can endure this for an hour.

Or you can move four inches back. And burn yourself.

Would you rather have an hour, or a permanent scar?


The man holds out a flower, small and pink, picked from a narrow strip of grass outside. The boy looks away, trembling.

The flower glides closer and the boy turns the opposite direction.

The man moves faster, whipping the flower to the left and right. The boy desperately tries to avoid looking at it.

The flower is in his face. He jerks back, falling over because his hands are tied.

The man smiles. He takes a fork from his plate, the metal encrusted with red sauce. He holds it out, handle first.

The boy stares at it, breathing heavily.

In three seconds, I will flip it around.

The boy scrambles to get back on his knees. He pushes at the carpet with his bunched hands, wiggling his bound legs up and down as he backs onto the fork. He cries out at the cold touch of stainless steel, the unlubricated metal burning the deeper inside it goes.

The man unplugs the lamp. The room is dark. Rain grinds against the window.

The man makes a V-sign with his fingers, pale enough to be visible in the low light. They frame the wall socket, three black holes.

Put it inside.

The boy crawls backwards, clenching to keep the fork from falling out. His toes touch the wall and he stops. His emaciated ribs swell like claws, jerking with quick tight breaths.

Five seconds.

The fork taps the plastic of the socket, tap tap tap, scuttle, tap.

Don’t scream.

The boy’s mouth stretches so wide his face seems to disappear, like a piece of white paper burnt black from beneath.

His skinny muscles contort, every part of him suddenly catching the shadows in dimpling pools of contortion.

The carpet darkens under him.

Smoke hisses from between his legs.

That was six seconds.

The man reaches for his plate.


The rhythmic crash of cars through puddles. Shadows flit across the curtains. A boy laughs, skipping quickly with his parents to their room.

More laughter and giggling. Brisk chatter. The doors of the church open and music comes out. The doors slam shut.


You’ve been doing the things I said.

Are you ready for your one hug?

The boy’s mouth opens. He does that to keep his face from making the shape he is not allowed to make.

He opens his suitcase.

It is empty.

It is full of spikes. They line the interior.

The boy crawls inside. Each movement requires a deep intake of breath, as he forces his limbs as tight as possible. He lays there, legs crushed so tight against his chest that his stomach hurts, the smell between his legs funneled up between his knees. His hands are folded back over his shoulders, digging into the fibers of his trapezius.

The suitcase shuts.


He can’t move a centimeter in any direction. He is sinking onto spikes or jammed against spikes at every angle. The vibration of his heart and lungs is enough to sting him all over.


The man’s fingers brush the exterior.

Click. Click. Latches locked.


Copper tendrils of scent ooze from the walls. Blood like stars.


Stomach growling.

The smell of leather mixes with his unwashed body, harsh and rotten and chemical.



Blinding images explode from the black. He shuts his eyes but they’re already shut. He turns his head and spikes stab his lips, jam into his nose, prick phosphenes through his eyelids. He forces himself to remain still.

Wetness drips through his hair and from his eyes and it’s all the same color in the dark.


The curtains start to glow.

Sun spills across the carpet.

The man wraps his arms around the suitcase. He rests his head on it, smiling, and squeezes tight.

7 grubs honk balefully on “Your Mother Has Fallen Out of Love With You

  1. last night my parents were homophobic and i cried for hours and i am reading this in the after-midnight hours. watching someone else’s pain written about so intimately (lovingly? with detail and attention and care at least) makes me feel better. thank you for the sweet dream fuel.

    1. it is lovingly, and all the other things, thank you for seeing that. when others can receive this fragile thing and pure black can be transmuted it makes me feel better too. 🖤
      I’m sorry about your parents. I cried a lot, a long time ago. when empty ideology is chosen over flesh and blood it is such a deep despair. I am glad it has been a long time since then and I know one day that will be true for you too.

  2. you write about things people believe are urban legend or unreal unless theyve experienced them firsthand (and even then they dont talk about it) and i never thought i’d encounter that outside of myself. your writing reaches in and holds things i thought would never be seen. things reshape. i feel better. thanks for writing, and sharing, and holding on to the fire of a will to live

  3. jesus christ dude. holy fucking shit. hey now. i think i need to cry for a long time. this captures the feeling of being experimented on as a child and never not knowing what people are capable of, never being innocent (which is just a state of limited feeling) and so never being a “real child”. Um fucking hell. Thank you

    1. yes. being experimented on. knowing what people are capable of.
      it’s so isolating having that knowledge from an early age, then being isolated again, seen as jaded/cynical, inconvenient, dark.
      uh huh. innocence is just a weapon
      one can only be an agent of it.
      thank you <333

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