This story is paired with “The Story of King Shahrayar and Shahrazad” from 1001 Arabian Nights. For best experience, download the LithoReader for your iPhone or iPad and get NonBinary Review for free.
This is the story I will tell you. It is a story I tell with my body. In telling it, I will use my hands. We convey preference, this way, in the subtly of motion. What we touch, how we move, what we consider, what floods up behind our closed eyes the next time we lie down to sleep. Will it be my fingers you remember? Will you obsess about the spot where my earlobe curves into the edge of my jaw? Will it be the ripples of my clavicle, the inside of my right elbow, or the backs of my knees? Or do you skip overtures and segues all together and go right for the breast, maybe, right for the heart? The heart of each recollection, every inclination and fetish, every strange attraction and clear-cut revulsion, this is a story that cuts us from the swatch of oblivion. It makes us believe we have a fate, a purpose, and a reason for being. It makes us believe we are something, rather than nothing. Here, let me start again.
This is the story I will tell you. It is a story I tell with my life. Little mysteries, unstrung happenings, a pearl on the line, a pearl on the line, each pearl in its place, a place much too sacred and profane to name. Pearls scattered to the far reaches of the lover’s bedding carpet, perhaps more appropriately named the carpet where the lovers bed. Pearls thrust into the cushions, bouncing to the marble, tangled up in the inexplicable fringes of subtext severed from context with one strike of the husband’s blade. Each pearl is a story: a shard of debris dressed slowly, layer upon layer, with the efforts of the storyteller’s tongue. A shard of debris waxed lunar with time. Strung together, we have a necklacesome showpiece to glow at the throat, in candlelight, over skin or silk or cream. But the necklace is not the story: unless it is, some larger story, some collection of fine details we’d do well to appreciate as entities unto themselves: and we will, perhaps, if only in a moment, if only for tonight. Here, let me start again.
This is the story I will tell you. It is a story I tell with my death. The threat of my death, if not the consummation of it, it is hard to tell a story after that, unless I am a ghost. If I am a storyteller, I will be a ghost. Storytellers consort with ghosts. Storytellers breed ghosts. Storytellers become ghosts. The ghosts of storytellers do not rest. We do not have a place in heaven. We are both too clever and simple to end up in hell. Like hell we’ll end up at anybody’s right hand. We are sinister matters, infernal things, combining weather fronts into cyclones and witches and grave remorse. In death, you see, a storyteller becomes her own story. If we are lucky, we haunt eternity. If we are unlucky, we haunt eternity. Our stories expand ever outward around our murdering tyrants until, with a breath, we lower the dagger or close up our grasp in a killing throttle, but there will not fall one drop of blood on our storytelling hands. Here, let me start again.
This is the story I will tell you. It is the story I tell you to keep myself alive. Aren’t we all doing this to keep ourselves alive? If not that, then what? If I am clever, I will trick you into keeping me around another night. If I am a storyteller, I will ring around your forever with my tales. This is not just one story; it is a story that fornicates a thousand and one stories into being. This is not just one story, but also a box that contains a box that contains a box that contains a woman’s ecstatic cry. This is not just one story, but also the shape of things. The way one thing joins into another in retrospect. Stories exist in the spaces between people. Stories exist in the spaces between you and me, whoever you are, whoever I might be. A story is not manifest until there is somebody to witness it. We are all stories, revealed in the act of witnessing. Every angle will surrender a different tale.
Here. Let me start again.
Judith Lloyd is an artist, writer, and monologist who studied in the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. Her first publication, Read It Back, was published by Dancing Girl Press in 2014. She has also contributed work to Unbroken, 100 Word Story, and Petite Hound Press.