EMPATHY by Vanessa Norton

The man who lived downstairs kept a wooly pig as a pet. Sometimes, he would stab the pig with a kitchen knife until the pig fell over. He insisted that the pig enjoyed being stabbed; in fact, he would come to the door just to get it. Falling over meant the pig had surrendered to the sublime.

My boyfriend had a hard time taking care of himself. He was a drooler. He forgot to rinse at the end of his shower, so his body was often covered in suds. He walked around town with his cock swinging from his fly—unintentionally—but how could he not notice?

I never said anything to him, because he was an orphan and I thought these things were related; besides, I had too much empathy.

The pig owner was not so passive. He liked to invite me downstairs whenever my boyfriend was strung out on the couch. We all used, but he used the most, and the pig owner seemed to know exactly when. He would walk upstairs to our porch and ask if I’d like to play wooly pig and I always did.


Vanessa Norton is an artist living in Oakland. She is the writer of Sweet 16: 16 Photographs of 16 Ex-Boyfriends Taken When They Were 16 (Wasted Books, 2018). Her writing appears or is forthcoming in Fanzine, Tammy, Black Warrior Review, and DIAGRAM. Her work may be found here @vfnorton and here.

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