by Hayley Notter

I found a sandwich bag of white powder in Will’s nightstand. Straddling him, sundress on the floor, I wasn’t reaching into his drawer for a condom (we would break up before I had the chance to offer up my virginity). I don’t remember what I was reaching for.

Instead, I found the baggie. Pinched the white powder through the plastic. Like flour. “What is this?”

Naive suburban girl.

His mop of curly hair reminded me of John Mayer. He read Nietzsche and Thoreau. He liked to wander the empty orange streetlamped streets with names like Elm and Oak. Our romance was all bonfire snaps and dry lightning storms and sunrise goodnights.

“Do you really want to know?” No defense, no embarrassment. Just hesitation. Curiosity. How far was I willing to follow him?

This boy had long ago made a home for himself among shadows. Veteran of the broken home, steel spined to whispers, navigator of a kind of cruelty I pretended not to be familiar with. I was supposedly new to the darkness. Will was teaching me how to breathe in the pain. Make it something more.

He ran his hand up my bare thigh. Would he get off to this later? The image of me straddling him and holding his bag of drugs. The word felt big and electric, like the Word Art we used when learning PowerPoint in elementary school. Drugs. Bad. The kind of bad adults warned us about. Not the kind they had inflicted on us. No one ever talked about that.

I dropped the bag. His hand stilled. I said, “I never want to know,” and closed the drawer.

Will nodded. No relief, no disappointment. Just a new fracture between us.

He released a long breath. I released my bra. Easier risks. Sunnier shadows. Denial soft as falling snow.


Hayley Notter’s work has been featured in Blood Tree Literature,West Trade Review,Sunflowers at Midnight,Marathon Literary ReviewYou Might Need to Hear ThisIDK Magazine, and on WUMW Milwaukee Public Radio. Notter is a graduate of both Chatham University’s MFA program and Beloit College. She currently lives in Chicago with her cats Comma and Dash and is working on a novel. Find her on Instagram at commadashwrite or at www.hayleynotter.com.

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Filed under Nonfiction

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