Fiction · 02/28/2018

Girl in Knots¹

Whatever you want.2

Whatever you want is what I want.3

Whatever you want is what I want and I want whatever you want.4

Whatever you want is what I want and I want whatever you want because you want it.5

I only want what you want.6

I don’t want.7

I only want what you want, which is to give you what you want.8

So I do want, but only what you want, or only what you want me to want.9

My wants come from you.10

Sometimes they’re the same as your wants and sometimes different, but they’re always your wants.11

Sometimes they’re your wants for you and sometimes they’re your wants for me.12

Sometimes those are the same things and sometimes those are different things.13

When I’m confused, which sometimes happens, I don’t try to guess what you want because guessing upsets you.14

The thing you want most is for me to know what you want, whether your wants for you or your wants for me, whether those are the same or different.15

When I don’t know, or do the wrong thing, or guess wrong, or show you I’m guessing, you get upset.16

When you get upset you get angry.17

When you get angry, anger is what you want.18

When you get angry, I’m what you want, and what you want is for me to want your anger at me.19

When your anger goes into me, I’m what you want, and so I want your anger.20

When you’re angry, you’re violent.21

When you’re violent, you take the rope.22

When I see the rope, I know you’re angry. When you’re angry, and I see the rope, I know you want me.23

The rope goes twice around my wrists and sometimes once around my ankles.24

Sometimes my legs are open. Sometimes my legs are tightly shut, sometimes by you, held taut by me, and sometimes by rope, and sometimes by stretching.25

Sometimes I’m on my back and sometimes my side, but mostly my stomach.26

When you’re not angry, you pull me into your chest and kiss my hair and whisper my name.27

You say my name like it’s something precious, song or jewel, day or night.28

Sometimes what I want is to start with you pulling me into your chest and kissing my hair and to stay there.29

You tell me I want things no one else will ever want, and how lucky I am you want what I want, which happens to be what you want, too.30

In the old days, when I left the house, when my feet still knew how to walk uphill, I wanted coffee at the shop on the corner, carrots and dahlias from the farmer’s truck.31

I wanted to feel the rush of warm air in winter when I opened the door to the post office and said hello to the clerk.32

I wanted to mail postcards to my mother on Mother’s Day.33

In the story someone else might tell, the postcards spell “HELP.”34


1 If you can tie a rope around your pet pig’s neck, you can tie a girl who loves you. In both cases, you bind the one that trusts.

2 My pet pig was named Domitis, walking around dominant all the time, even when it wasn’t realistic.

3 No marriage therapist wants to talk about my pet pig. Everyone wants to focus on the spanking, because that’s what everyone is going home and masturbating to anyways.

4 Right.

5 Did I mention my pet pig could fly? I was a child then and didn’t know how special Domitis was, until Domitis flew away.

6 Because you’re such a nice, kind person.

7 I don’t want to talk about my flying pig anymore, unless that’s what you want, since you’re such a fine, upstanding citizen.

8 That’s why I’m wanted by the police now.

9 Remember that time you changed my name so I didn’t even know who I was anymore?

10 As if you are another me, or as if I am becoming another you, bound to you.

11 There’s a reason why the word for “wife” in Spanish means “handcuffs.”

12 In the United States, some still call marriage “the old ball and chain.”

13 The word “esposa” comes from “spendo,” meaning commitment (commercial contract), engagement, union.

14 Wives used to stand with hands crossed in front during the marriage ceremony, exactly in the same posture prisoners are handcuffed. In the Middle Ages, people noticed the similitude between the posture and the lack of freedom commitment meant.

15 In the early stages of marriage, handcuffs can be romantic, like jewelry, until you jump off a bridge into a river.

16 Having survived the river, cuffed together, we swim into the ocean to watch each other, knowing if one drowns, both will perish. If one survives, both will live.

17 At me, for loving you.

18 Anger is less like a friend than a child you’ve forced me to bear.

19 You feed anger, nurture it, holding it close so it will grow.

20 In marriage, spousal zoochosis is preventable yet contagious.

21 A symptom of zoochosis is violence.

22 Neglected animals in captivity, like those in an abandoned zoo, attack their own mates, cannibalistic in zoochosis, devouring their mates and offspring when left in the cage without food.

23 Marriage can become a cage where neglected lovers begin eating each other alive.

24 During sex, we are sin eaters, devouring each other’s regrets with flesh in intimate acts when our hunger becomes tenderness.

25 Sometimes what hurts feels good. This is one of the greatest mysteries of pleasure.

26 Sometimes what feels good begins to hurt. This is another of nature’s mysteries.

27 How can tenderness be so violent?

28 How can violence become tenderness?

29 What is the difference between assault and intimacy?

30 Where is the line between knowing someone and knowing someone too well?

31 The one thing you never knew about me is the one thing I almost had forgotten, those dahlias wilting in the farmer’s truck, a rainbow of colors in my girlhood before you turned me into another girl, different from the girl I was when you tied me in knots, making me into someone I was not.

32 The air was freedom because I had not given myself away.

33 Not even Mother recognizes me now. How could she? I don’t recognize myself after what you’ve done.

34 But the postcards are written in your hand because we both need “help” if I’m a part of you.


Aimee Parkison is the author of Refrigerated Music for a Gleaming Woman, which won the FC2 Catherine Doctorow Innovative Fiction Prize. Parkison is the director of the Creative Writing Program at Oklahoma State University and has published four books of fiction.


Carol Guess is the author of more than a dozen books of poetry and prose, including Tinderbox Lawn, Darling Endangered, and Doll Studies: Forensics. She is Professor of English at Western Washington University, where she teaches Creative Writing and Queer Studies.