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Work in Progress – July 7, 2022

Locations: Fiction Published

Out the back door
By Melissa Sidelinger

There are moments in your life that change everything; that send you down a path of no return; that draw a line of black ink down the page of your story clearly delineating the life you lived before, and your life after. A chance meeting, a choice, a serendipitous occurrence or a tragic accident. 

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For me, it was a night in May, in a downtown bar above a pizza parlor in a small town in an obscure corner of America. Just a Friday night, like any other, with a band playing in the corner by the window, the tables littered with wine glasses and the dance floor swirling with people.

I can’t remember who the band was, what music they played, what dress I wore or what conversations I had that night. What I do remember, so clearly that it will forever be burned into my subconscious, was that at the end of the night when the music was over and people were preparing to leave, my friend and I had the choice to go out the back door and down the stairs to the alley or through the restaurant and out the front door. Since the bar was still crowded we decided to go out the back; and that’s where I met him, lounging on a couch near the exit. That’s where he introduced himself to me, and that’s where my life’s trajectory was forever altered.

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I will always wonder what my life would be like if I had left through the front door instead.

I never expected to find myself trapped in an abusive relationship. I can look back and see the red flags now, but only with the benefit of hindsight. He was too charming. The relationship moved too quickly. He had a dark side to him, but he hid it well. 

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The abuse was subtle when it began but escalated over the four years we were together. It’s like the cliche frog in the kettle of boiling water. No one jumps into a situation of domestic violence by choice, they are slowly drawn in as the temperature rises and the water begins to boil. It’s a slow burn and by the time you realize the truth you may or may not be able to get out.

I got out, but just barely. I got out but with the physical and emotional scars tattooed across my body and burned into my memory. Someday, I think I’ll cover the physical scars with real tattoos of black and red ink. The emotional scars I’m not too sure about. Those scars will be harder to move beyond than the marks cut and burned into my skin. Harder to leave behind than my apartment and that small town when I finally escaped him — driving away from my old life in a snowstorm at dusk one December evening; harder to reconcile than the years lost to him or the life thrown into chaos and uncertainty after leaving.

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I like to think that those emotional scars will heal with time. Maybe they will, or maybe I will find a way to tattoo over them with metaphorical ink. It’s a hope, at least. A hope that someday I will put my pieces back together again.

But still, I wonder, what would have happened if I hadn’t walked out the back door that evening?

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The Bookstore
By summer-2022 CMC Creative Writing Workshop

Towers of books

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Streets of magazines

Noiselessly chatter away

Bits of blue, red, yellow

And black and white

Mix, mingle, stream

To a river of

Pictures and words

Their cacophony melodious

In its harmony

A Lorelei’s song


By Jampa

Thundering along

Boiling silver water moves

Bouncing hard downstream!

Tags: #community creativity #fiction #Work in Progress
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