The Fantastic Real Life of Madeline Zeringue

“None of them was ever more than a thin slice, held between the contiguous impressions that composed our life at that time; remembrance of a particular form is but regret for a particular moment”
Marcel Proust

Part II


Our first threesome was with a trapeze-artist burlesque-dancer, somewhere outside Cincinnati. It was Marie’s birthday present that year. I never forget a birthday.


New York City. Eli. He is the only person whose existence can’t escape the place where we met. He was everything I wanted at that moment. The rebellion from gender, the cocky walk, the gritty reality of being broke, uninsured, and hungry.

Eli was my transition, my becoming, as much as I was his. I evolved too as he changed. I imagined the testosterone flooding his bloodstream as I pushed down on the plunger of the shot. It was like sex. Hell, maybe it was sex. Maybe it was better.


It was the first warm day in March. He took me to the river. He wanted to believe the lie of my newness. I pretended to be innocent: damaged by a mysterious past but still new at the game of love. We sat on the sand and the grit slowly crept between us. I felt nothing but sand, sandpaper, sanding away the perfect day, the perfect teenage fantasy, but Tommy was desperate to believe that fantasy. Hell, he probably still thinks of that day as a perfectly romantic beach picnic filled with the softest, most gentle deflowering two teens could manage.

But he wanted to youth an innocence to be mine alone. At eighteen, his hairline was already receding and he fancied himself an old man. He donned corduroy jackets to cover his fat and smoked cigars. “Child no more,” he used to say. Idiot. I could have told him I had seen all this before. Anyone who has grown old before their time can spot a fake without a second glance. I could have told him magic like mine only comes from dark places. Instead, when I finally got bored, I showed him.


Most people don’t know how to cook. People know how to reheat TV dinners, but cooking requires skills that most people don’t want to admit they have. Knowing your way around a sharp blade and knowing how to simmer seduction while convincingly saying, “No, there’s no butter in that”. These are the skills that make most people blush. Alexander did not have this problem: love, passion and butter were his forte, and he would happily admit to being an expert in subverting reality and playing with knives.

When we cooked together, it was pass the paprika and lick it off my tits. We sautéed Brussels sprouts and burnt the edges. We were the bite of red chilies and the sting of red scratches. Our arguments about too much or too little salt burst into angry sex, simmered over dinner naked, and went out in wisps of smoke over make-up sex in the front yard. We made the other couples cringe at dinner parties.

We were reckless, inconsiderate, and often, simply filthy. We had sex on neighborhood playgrounds, on party guests’ coats, and on the kitchen table before pizza night with his roommates. Sometimes being selfish is the only way to fall in love. Sometimes keeping the fantasy going makes reality easier. It’s like smoking in the rain to keep yourself warm.


Her blue eyes startled me. Every fucking time. Cold and clear like the sky on the January night we met. I never told her that they are beginning to crease at the corners, giving the illusion of warmth. Those eyes. They melted me.


Fuck Lucia, and I mean that as a suggestion, not a curse. The curves of her body still appear behind my eyelids sometimes. Gracious, soft curves hid all her sharp edges. I can still trace the movements of her hips with my mind. She oozed a holy sensuality that comforts me inexplicably, the same way the Virgin Mary comforts long-lapsed Catholics.

My memory of her is one of muscle and flesh. Even her cherry-colored blood was dark, ominous and vaguely sexual. It intrigued me at first. It was like all the crazy inside her just had to be let out. By the end though, I would leave her there, bleeding out her demons. I am sure she thought I went to the bar or a club trolling for hook-ups, but I only feigned indifference with her. I always stayed outside the door until I heard the sirens from the ambulance that I knew she had already called. So predictable. Goddamn Catholics. Still, everyone should fuck Lucia once.


Lisa was short in every sense. She never made me come. It’s a shame, because that is all I can say about her.


I was soaked when I got to the door. I walked the last quarter mile in the rain. He would be home, of course.

When he opened the door, I saw that we matched. Our black t-shirts, our faded jeans…we always did go together. In one quick motion he pulled me through the door, peeled off my shirt and ran his fingers over the familiar points and edges of my collarbone.

We fell naked into the bed and smoked his Marlboroughs. I played with the lighter, as usual, and he traced my tattoos until we fell asleep. After twenty years of familiarity, it was an easy place to fall after a bad day.


Marie liked to garden alone. Sometimes she would let me sit outside while she coaxed peas and parsley from the half-frozen Ohio soil. I watched dirt cake her hands time and time again. It never seemed to leave the lines and creases of her palms. Marie sticks to me in that same way. Traces of her are always with me, even when I am running, even when I am fresh from the shower.

Marie was the one I could never touch, never really figure out. When she left, it drove me nuts. So, I followed her. I went all the way out west. There was no other way. I just had to know. Now I know.

First published by Cactus Heart Press Issue #12