Selection from “This Is Between Us” (a novel in progress) by Kevin Sampsell


Gossip

You told me about seeing an old friend at the store and how she asked you if we were still a couple. You said she gave you a disappointed look when you told her that we were still together. You did tell her though, that we had broken up a few times and we were now seeing a therapist. She smiled warmly, maybe condescendingly, when you told her that part. She put her hand on your arm, even stroked your wrist a little. This was a friend you used to take stock in, someone who has been married to her high school sweetheart for almost twenty years, even though she got more miserable every year.
     “What has he done to prove himself to you?” she asked you.
     You remembered how I bought you flowers, how I said I was sorry, how I undressed you like a starving man, but that was about it. You told your friend that it had to do with having time apart and how that put things in perspective. But in the back of your mind, several sad defeated thoughts scrolled by: This is as good as I will ever get now… I can’t remember what I was unhappy about… I have always overreacted about simple things… Why should someone prove themselves to me when I can’t even prove myself to anyone?… It would be nice to have someone help with the bills… I don’t want to die alone.
     Your friend gave you a hug and whispered something that sounded like a daily affirmation into your ear before she said goodbye. You continued shopping, even though you were quietly filling with an uneasy mix of shame and anger. When you got to the checkout stand, you saw your friend, thumbing slowly through some garish gossip magazine with headlines about affairs, cellulite, and movie stars in rehab. Her eyes sparkled and her mouth twitched lightly with drool. She looked like she wanted to dive into the magazine and fix everyone’s shitty world.

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Kevin Sampsell lives in Portland, Oregon, where he runs Future Tense Books, an influential micropress that he started in 1990. His work has recently appeared in The Rumpus, Unshod Quills, and Smalldoggies. He recently performed a new collaboration with musician Laura Gibson at sold out Entertainment For People shows in Portland and Seattle. His most recent book is A Common Pornography: A Memoir.