Two of the fingers on my right hand are stained with cyan ink, thanks to my handling of a replacement ink cartridge for my printer. “Handling” may not be the right word; “bumbling” probably describes the situation more clearly. I give myself a pass on it this time, though. The time of day had just crept past 4:00 a.m. when I changed out the printer cartridge; though I was “up,” I was not entirely prepared to face the day. I had not yet taken the first sip of coffee. I was not quite ready to function in my usual “morning person” manner. So, I smeared ink on two fingers. Why my printer refuses to continue printing due to being out of cyan ink—even though I set printing to be black and white only—escapes me. I did not want cyan ink on the page; yet my printer ignored my wishes, apparently, and attempted to mix a touch of cyan with the black ink. This sudden need for cyan ink was days ago, by the way. I ordered replacement ink the same day and received it a couple of days ago. It was only this morning, when I needed to print something, that I got around to replacing the spent cyan cartridge. And it was this morning that my fingers appeared to have bled cyan blood. And that’s all I’ll say on the matter.


Have you felt his touch on your shoulder? Did you feel her brush against your hip as she walked by you? When he hugged you, did you notice his slight hesitation to let go? Yes? Then you know what it’s like to feel impossible passion. Passion that cannot be permitted to succumb to the temptation to act. But you feel that passion coursing through your veins with such ferocity that you know, without looking in the mirror, your face is flushed. You are not the only one who noticed, either. He noticed. She noticed. They all noticed. But they remained silent. Visible extramarital passion is not something one talks about openly, is it? No, but you want desperately to have that conversation. And perhaps one day you will.

[This is an example of writing in the second person. It’s rarely done. Even more rarely done well.]


The aroma of the salt air filled his nostrils even before he opened the car door. Forty years had passed since leaving “for good,” he had told himself, yet he recognized that smell instantly. It brought back memories long since buried beneath layers of time and experience. He remembered that time on the desolate winter beach when he made love with Teresa in the back of his friend’s gold-colored Datsun station wagon. He recalled how surprisingly cold the water was when the two of them had dashed into the waves to wash off the scent of love-making. His memory came flooding back, the image of Teresa disappearing under the water as clear on this cold January day as it had been forty years earlier.

“Do you want a piece of cheese?”

Sierra’s voice interrupted his reverie, if that’s what it was, and brought him back to the present.

“Yeah, that sounds good. I wish we’d brought some chili, though. It’s one hell of a cold day.”

Sierra Preston did not know about Teresa’s drowning, nor about the suspicions that surrounded the girl’s death. Todd had planned to tell her, at the right time, but the time never seemed right. He always had a reason to delay the conversation. Now, after living with Sierra for two years, the right time to tell her seemed deeper and deeper in the past.


My coffee sat untouched for two hours before I finally realized how long it had been since I set it down on the desk beside me. Two hours can turn hot coffee into cold coffee. And it can turn doubt into certainty and certainty into doubt. Two hours can change one’s perspective on the world. Two hours can transform a room into a cage. Extension cords can become nooses in the space of two hours. A bright future can melt into brutal regrets about a wasted past.


The thoughts in my head are mixed with visions and images and sensations that belong somewhere else. Ideas do not feel or taste. They do not have weight or color. Visions and thoughts and memories do not have odors. They cannot ride a bicycle. They cannot be pulled around in a little red wagon. The wagon must be a different color; something new and exciting, like a shiny beige tank, freshly delivered by the weapons manufacturer.


Ye Gads! I feel only moderately alive at this moment. I think I could sleep for a week, but I would miss out on all the excitement, whatever that is. So I remain conscious, if only barely.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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