Lucky Strike by Courtenay Gray

CNF, Courtenay S. Gray

You see it a lot in books and movies, the girl who doesn’t think she’s pretty sitting on the edge of her bed with a lit Marlboro. She tells her closest friend about her extramarital affair, going into explicit detail about when and where they’ve had sex. Her friend rolls her eyes and sighs, not needing to say a word, for they both know the truth or one version of it. Her drinks cabinet is filled with martini glasses, copious amounts of pre-made mixes, and used condoms in the wastebasket. She knows that at least one person will become collateral damage, but it can’t be her. Nobody can be truly content without feeling miserable or causing harm to others. If she continues to sleep with him, she is a terrible person in the eyes of society, but if she stops, her heart is broken. What is a girl to do in this situation?

He spends many evenings pouring black vodka down her throat while she chews anxiously on a maraschino cherry. Their relationship causes a fracture in monogamy, forcing children into broken homes with parents who argue when the world has gone to sleep. Shards of glass hug the subtle chips in the marble. Blood pours from the marriage line of his wife back at home. Who is she, she demands, who is she? His eyes buzz with the trappings of guilt, soft enough to bypass the penetrating stare of the woman standing in front of him.

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How do you navigate a world in which you have to choose between suffering endlessly or hurting other people? Life appears to set us up for failure, placing us in situations where our options will cause damage. Love is a hurricane. If you are unlucky enough to be caught in the eye of a storm, you will recognise the desperation. Is it shameful that I long to be cared for by a man? I am not wholly independent, nor can I stand on my own two feet. The grubby hands of existence firmly hold my throat, squeezing ever so gently.

I long to fit into Agent Provocateur lingerie. I’ll hide it under my fur coat with my stockings carefully fastened, a box of matches resting underneath. Never a smoker, I will light the cigarettes of men who I will bed. My morality needs her beauty sleep, for she gets cranky. I do not need your help, dear onlooker. The lines between looking after number one and being content at the expense of others blur further as time withers. I sit on my bed, and I take out a match. I scrape it along the side, feeling its powerful resistance. A dubious flame rears its tiny head, growing in confidence with every intake of air. Without hesitation, I shove the stick in my mouth. The quelling heat licks my diseased gums, coating my teeth in soot. I must survive. Yes, I must endure. I will not be sorry for the side effects of love.

No, I will not. They know what cannot be said, as do I. He hurt her to love me, and I hurt her to love him. She breaks all of us, yearning to be free. Dear onlooker, we are cannibals, and we can smell you from here.