Hannah Grieco

Hannah Grieco is a writer and editor in the Washington, DC area. Her work can be found in The Washington Post, Al Jazeera, The Rumpus, and more. Find her online at www.hgrieco.com or on Twitter at @writesloud.

JUST A SHOT AWAY by Hannah Grieco

I can picture Mark’s face, the surprised V between his eyes as he watches the news. Or answers his phone at 2AM. Or opens the door to two police officers. Who knows how he first finds out?

But I know he’s shocked, absolutely floored, in full denial. This has to be a mistake, he insists. Nat would never, she barely even—

We have video footage, they tell him. We have a clip of your wife shooting a pretty blonde bank teller right in the face. And Mark says, my wife? Natalie? She couldn’t—

We have another one of her blowing up a gas station, my man. Spraying gas all over a young man’s brand-new pickup truck, the 30-day tags curling in the wet, the gun rack drip dripping, and her flicking a lit match at that truck like she didn’t care if she went up in flames, too. But don’t worry, she’s a fast little number, as you must know. She smiled at the security camera and took off in a neon green Suzuki Samurai. It was practically held together with duct tape, it was so old. That’s not your car, right? Not according to state records.

A Suzuki Samurai, Mark says, I didn’t know those were still street legal. Where did she get it?

He pauses, before asking almost hopefully: did she steal it?

No idea. We couldn’t make out the plates. But she drove off with these two other women. Hot young things, too. Has your wife ever mentioned an interest in women?

Women, Mark says, and a whole new world of possibilities opens up, as if he’s been blindfolded and now he can see. And right then Joey comes in, rubbing his own eyes. His pajama bottoms sagging in the back from his pull-up.

Mommy, he asks? Is Mommy back?

No, no, Mommy’s some kind of serial killer lesbian now, Mark says, and the words feel true, they feel good, they roll off his tongue with a buttery victimhood that settles his nerves, relaxes his tight neck and shoulders. All the arguments, the simmering shame—he knew all along the problem wasn’t him.

We’ll get you a nanny, he whispers into our son’s soft hair. Maybe Grannie and Gramps can come stay with us for a while. You’re safe, kiddo, don’t worry about Mommy.

I can picture his face, the V between his eyes smoothing out as he walks Joey back to his bedroom. 

I should feel more than a slight pang at the idea of never seeing my kid again, but all I feel is relief. A luxurious, deep-lung breath that I hold for a second and then let out.

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Twenty-year-old me had biceps. Back from a year away, rock climbing and waiting tables, fucking women for the first time. I walked differently. Strutting in my baggy cargo pants, flirting with those baby butch Oberlin girls. A new me. 

In the college library lounge, short-haired, smooth-skinned girlfriends ran their fingertips up my sculpted arms and I ignited.


This morning I wake to my daughter’s nightmare whimpers. Tucked under my armpit, bone-thin, her ribs pressing into my side. Always burning up, she wears only underwear in the house. No blankets except her lovey, clutched to her cheek in sleep.

4 AM. The bedroom door opens.

“Where’s dad?” my son asks.

“Sleeping in the basement.”

He slides in under the quilt and settles next to me.

“Shh,” I warn him.

“Shh,” he says and falls asleep with my hair across his face.


Twenty-year-old me control-alt-deleted with a boyfriend who assigned us monogamy but then cheated on me with woman after woman. Insisted it was all in my head. That my suspicions were borderline pathetic and indicative of deeply-rooted trust issues. We couldn’t be together if I accused him of eye-fucking every woman he met.

“You’re not a lesbian,” he said.

“Maybe I am,” I said.

“You’re not.” Then fucked me face down on his bed. It was that kind of sex. The kind where someone barely even notices your body, sex so dry your skin tears, where you end up on antibiotics for a UTI. The kind of sex where he sees you ripping and keeps fucking you.


I wake again, this time to bright sunlight. It’s late, too late, and I know we’ve missed the bus.

“Sorry to wake you,” my husband says. He’s sitting at the foot of the bed.

“Rough night,” I say and sit up, stand up, shake the blood into my feet.

He comes over and hugs me, squeezes my soft arms.

“I’ll see you after work.”


Twenty-year-old me wanted babies. Tiny hands to curl around my neck and drool down my chin, fingers pulling my hair. Babies to fill me up since everything else was a piece of gravel tossed into the ocean. Not even a ripple. I thought about babies as I changed majors, considered moving to New York, danced between Susannah and Kate to the club mix of Bjork’s Hyperballad at that fake rave, the boys from Case Western watching as I took off my shirt and pulled off Kate’s, too. Susannah blushing as I put the E under her tongue and kissed the tip of her nose. Maybe a ripple.

Imagine what my body would sound likeSlamming against those rocks.


Two kids at school, another on his computer finishing his homeschool classes. I wash the dishes. I prep the slow cooker. I fold the laundry. I ask my mother to keep an eye on my son so I can go to the store. I call the pediatrician. I pump up the flat back tire on the bike by the shed. I take the garbage cans back down behind the house. I sort the mail. I run a bath. I feed the fish.

Will my eyesBe closed or open?

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