Fiction For Your Lunch Break: Julia Jackson’s “Heroin Story”

Welcome to another installment of Fiction For Your Lunchbreak, a weekly series highlighting the best short fiction on the web. This week’s story comes via Electric Literature’s The Outlet Blog, courtesy of Julia Jackson. Jackson–an MFA candidate at Brooklyn College–has been writing for The Outlet since its inception, trudging through snow and pretentious assholes to attend and document pretty much every lit-related event from the UWS to Bushwick, and all points in between. So it’s fitting and gratifying that her own first published work of fiction appears on the very site for which she so admirably champions the work of other writers.

Though it’s her first published story, you certainly wouldn’t know it from reading this impeccably polished and tightly wrapped nugget of darkness. In playful and economic prose — like a gutter-punk Grace Paley — Jackson tells the tale of an interloper in an already destructive relationship. The interloper narrator is sleeping with an unavailable guy who turns out to have genital warts, a fact which is revealed in a manner as powerful as it is disgusting, and as viscerally life-affirming as it is deeply upsetting. In the best possible way, things only get worse from there. Here’s an excerpt:

“The heroin story I know best is about a couple. I met the boy a long time ago. He told me he was single but that was a lie. We slept together for a while, off and on, despite his unsingleness. We fought a lot and hated each other sometimes, until one day I looked at him and realized he had become my very close friend. Once I smoked some DMT because someone gave it to me, and it made me giggle and I couldn’t stand up from the bed I was sitting on. I had a dream, and in the dream I was a lot older, I knew I had aged because my skin felt light like paper but the inside of me was solid and dark. The sun was low in the sky and thick yellow like tree sap, that gorgeous time of day right before the sun begins to set. I was with the boy and he was older too, a man now, and we were married; there were vines growing up the fence and the leaves were buzzing with new growth and his skin was warm under my fingers as I kissed him. I looked in his eyes, the man in the dream, and couldn’t believe that I had known, and hated, and loved this person for so long. In him I could see who I was, who I had been.”

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