January Gill O'Neil

Are you happy? Tell me what you’re thinking. You blink when you speak. That’s your tell. Everyone has a tell. Sitting in the red chair. In the corner of the family room which is not really a family room but a basement. The king sits in his basement throne. Red as a mouth. The whole room is a sham. It smells of the bleach I used to get mold spots off the wall. Behind the red chair. The wall looks as if I’ve taken an eraser to it. Tiny pencil points of mold remain. You’ve taken up smoking. You smell like an ashtray. That’s your tell. I can tell. I’m losing weight. I can’t eat. Hard time sleeping. Are you happy? I ask the obvious questions. That’s my tell. I’m not happy. That’s an understatement. We’ve only scrubbed the surface of my unhappiness. I’m sitting across from you sitting in the red chair, thinking how did we get here? Tell me how we got here. We walked down the stairs to the basement. Stop lying. It makes us look like fools. I don’t want to be foolish. That’s my tell. What about this new life of yours. Are you still with her? Tell me more about this authentic life you want to lead. I’m going to fumigate that red chair. Or burn it. If you were to die tomorrow, I’d show up at your funeral wearing a red Microfiber dress. You’re blinking again. What’s left to say? I can see it in your pencil point eyes. King of the Basement. Tell me again what it means to live an authentic life.

Found In Volume 45, No. 01
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  • january o neil photo credit rachel eliza griffiths
January Gill O'Neil
About the Author

January Gill O’Neil is the author of Underlife (CavanKerry Press 2009) and Misery Islands (CavanKerry Press 2014). She is the executive director of the Massachusetts Poetry Festival, an assistant professor of English at Salem State University, and is a newly elected member of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ (AWP) board of trustees.