about the author

Kim Magowan lives in San Francisco and teaches in the Department of Literatures and Languages at Mills College. Her short story collection Undoing won the 2017 Moon City Press Fiction Award and is forthcoming in 2018. Her novel The Light Source is forthcoming from 7.13 Books. Her fiction has been published in Atticus Review, Bird’s Thumb, Cleaver, The Gettysburg Review, Hobart, New World Writing, Sixfold, Word Riot, and many other journals.

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Kim Magowan

When I loved Dana, she taught me a spinoff of a category game my nieces play. Her version was more idiosyncratic. Instead of “If you were an animal, what animal would you be?” it was “If you were a kitchen appliance,” “If you were a weapon,” “If you were a verb.”

For verb, Dana selected for me “persist.” I regarded that as a compliment; I pictured myself as a knight, doggedly climbing over armored corpses on my way to her fortress.

The verb I chose for Dana was “insinuate.” She didn’t take offense, and I didn’t mean to accuse. So what did I mean, exactly?

In my mind, the word was broken into its component syllables: in sin you ate. The image it conjured was of Dana, the first afternoon we slept together, kneeling on the bed, licking dark chocolate from her fingers. I’d come to the hotel room bearing gifts—chocolate dusted with sea salt, scarlet roses, Champagne we drank straight from the bottle.

When she was a teenager, Dana had been a model of some note—on the cover of two magazines, doing runway shows in Milan—but it was not her looks I found alluring. Truthfully, I didn’t find her beautiful. Her eyelashes were so pale she reminded me of a lemur, and her thinness alarming: those bladed hip bones abraded me.

But I loved to play with her, in and out of bed, and I remember all the avatars she chose for me. Along with the verb “persist,” I was a spiked mace, a cheese grater, an alligator pear (“So much more romantic than ‘avocado’”).

Now, in the lacuna Dana has left in her wake, I picture these analogues she had for me, and I for her. They spin slowly in the air.

There are predators who are attractive in order to warn away, like poison frogs—their lurid blue color telegraphs that nothing so visible could be safely eaten. Then there are predators whose attractiveness allures: flesh eating flowers, meaty petals summoning intrusion.

Once things cracked between us, Dana threatened to kill herself. My parting words, unaware that they were such: “I wish you fucking would.”

Her note left on the green-veined countertop read, “Never say I don’t do what you ask.”

Antifreeze is a dangerous poison, my sister tells me, because it’s so sweet; that’s why it must be stored out of inquisitive children’s reach.

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