“Yet Another Example of Devoyeurism* in Nacogdoches, Texas” By Emily Townsend

Grab a ladder and peer inside the set: the second-floor window of Apt. 928, where a woman is developing a crick in her neck, her head on the raised armrest, watching Neighbors 2. Tap the window, she won’t hear you. Her heart is beating faster than she’s breathing. The fissured, gold lamp paints the woman as a glowing ghost hungering for real life, a connection, a face present at the chair by the fake Christmas tree, which should’ve come down a week ago, Christ, it’s past New Year’s. The television’s rays beam on her hand cradled above her collarbone, no silver ring. Her shirt has small tears in the chest, snagged from the washer, old age. Some floral cards stacked above upcoming class papers, probably not written in, but there’s a pen uncapped, black ink, so it’s assumably not to a lover or anyone special, maybe gratitude to a distant relative, or to a neighbor for shutting up when she asked them to turn down their music on a Tuesday night, fuck, it’s a school night, don’t they know better. Two books rest on the ottoman. The spines aren’t cracked, she probably hasn’t read them, they were gifted, oh, so maybe she has friends or a lover after all, but the program says this woman has been alone for the past week, her roommates aren’t back from break and instead of seeing a boy she manipulated for company she returned early to see her friends, but they are inconsistent, unfortunately, appearing at their convenience. She wonders about their priorities, if she will ever become one.

You watch her fingers graze circles on her arm, imitating what a lover would do, but this looks more emptily intimate, like a scientist stirring his failed chemical mixture, huffing that it didn’t work as his hypothesis predicted. You can almost hear what’s playing inside her head, Mazzy Star’s “Fade Into You,” and the way this woman touches herself makes it seem she’s had this once, fingerprints gliding above flesh, and you wonder who let her go, or who she let go, or maybe, maybe there was never anyone and she learned the touches from movies, songs, novels, photographs. After she sits up and rubs her neck, beyond her, the neon-green halo of an oven clock snags your attention, it’s 12:14, fucking past midnight, god, does she ever sleep?

But don’t you? It’s 12fucking14 a.m. And you’re watching this shitshow.

The shard splintered from the lamp, a crested shield, glints in her fingers. It’s held too close to her wrist. Her eyes, dry pools of honeyed green algae, are dead, looking down at the edge. You know where this is going.

She throws the fracture at the wall. On her forearm, gossamer and pale, blooms a thin cardinal line. Not enough to scar.

[*] Devoyeurism, n. The platonic interest in the life of someone else with no personal connection; the obscure wish to jump out of the audience and interrupt the pain performing a scene, but like most shows, it is forbidden for the viewer to interact with the actor—the viewer is not a part of their story.

Emily Townsend is a graduate student in English at Stephen F. Austin State University. Her works have appeared in Superstition Review, Thoughtful Dog, Noble / Gas Qtrly, Santa Clara Review, cahoodaloodaling, Kettle Blue Review, Watershed Review and others, and are forthcoming in cream city review and The Coachella Review. A 2017 AWP Intro Journals Award nominee, she is currently working on a collection of essays in Nacogdoches, Texas.


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