Damnatio Memoriae by Kathy Hoyle

I told you in our coffee shop.

You squinted and with flint-eyes said, ‘That’s a mug’s game.’

You said I should have been protected… I always thought you would protect me.

The lie slithered from your serpent’s tongue, ‘Let’s be friends,’ as if you’d never twined your soul around mine. When you mocked me with that final kiss, a tiny spark of indignation flickered. You sauntered off in the jeans I’d bought for you and jumped on the number seventeen bus. I stood there, on the street, drenched in shame, the white paper bag from the pharmacy crackling in my palm.

I didn’t cry. Hunched on the bench by the war memorial, I slowed my breathing, but I didn’t cry. At home, my home, where you stayed every night for two years, I put the paper bag on the counter, took a cold beer from the fridge and drank it straight down. You said wine was for pussies.

Instructions in black, bold print warned me of the side-effects, I swallowed the pill. Dusk fell, and dark shadows slunk from corners, I held back the vomit and shook underneath the orange, fur cushion your mother had bought for me. Glossed with sweat, still with thought, I cocooned.

Dawn broke, my stomach cramped, bile rose.

I took out a notebook and made an inventory. Lists give you a sense of purpose. I turned down the picture of us in Budapest while I wrote.

Early afternoon, the blood came. Dark brown spots, then livid red. I stuffed my underwear with a bulging pad and stuffed my torn heart into a box without a key.

I began with the orange cushion, jamming it into a bin bag with the photograph and your toothbrush. I ended with Hendrix, placed piece by piece into a cardboard box. I sliced my finger on the edge of splintered vinyl and sucked at the blood with relish.

I took a cold beer from the fridge and drank it straight down. I was no pussy. I carried your detritus to the car and singing with wild ferocity, I drove to our place by the dunes. The ochre sun was setting underneath an indigo sky, long grass whipped at my calves as I stood on high ground, inhaling the salted ocean. Inside, low, where the cramps had clawed and keened, the spark blazed. I crouched low and lit the match. Sulphur -eyed, I razed you like a forest fire and basked in the afterglow… Damnatio memoriae.


Kathy Hoyle has had various flash  published in Reflex Fiction, Cabinet of Heed and Spelk Fiction and her short stories have been both long and short-listed in various competitions. Her short story ‘Scab’ was highly commended for the Spread The Word Life Writing Prize in 2017. She will happily work for chocolate.

Image: Joshua Ness