The night we played twenty-one questions, you asked me to tell you something real about myself then laughed and said, even though you have no heart. It only occurred to me later, after I sent you home, you were being playful. I’m sorry I assumed the worst, that I’m always ready for battle, that I grew up on Bruce Lee and Jet Li movies, craving justice and revenge. What I couldn’t tell you is that I spent too many nights on my childhood bed staring up at the popcorn ceiling, longing to bend the shapes that crept along styrofoam valleys and peaks, crack a spine with nunchucks and hear the splinter of relief. And then, how do I say this after being told I have no heart? I never want to affirm anyone’s belief in me, regardless of assertion or accuracy. I cannot unravel before you. You are not prepared for that. I am not prepared for that. I once had a large scrape on my elbow that wouldn’t heal. My mother before leaving told me to stop picking at it, told me I would let the demons in if I continued; the scab is the heal, the gate that keeps them out. But I did. Every night. Pick, pick, pick. My navy sheets hid the blood stains as she kissed me for the last time, told me to behave for my father. Be a man. I was nine. I blamed the open wound. I blamed the shadow crawl. I blamed my fragile, gaping heart.
Sabrina Hicks lives in Arizona. Her work has appeared in Milk Candy Review, Cheap Pop, Split Lip, Atlas + Alice, Lost Balloon, Matchbook, Barren Magazine, Wigleaf Top 50, and other publications. More of her work can be found at sabrinahicks.com.
Photograph by svklimkin.
The NFFR and Sabrina Hicks Interview
During the pandemic, what’s been your favorite artistic escape either book, music, or tv?
It’s difficult to pick my favorite pandemic escape when it’s a combination of reading, listening to music, and watching TV. If I had to answer this question last year, I’d have better responses: more literature, flash collections, watching The Queen’s Gambit. Almost a year later, you caught me running out of options and now I’m indulging in Lucifer because honestly, Tom Ellis is charming and hilarious and I’m not immune to any of it! (sigh)
We’ve been thinking about the elusive definition of Flash Fiction and the different and similar ways we all approach it. What’s your working definition of it or thoughts on what it “is”?
I love the brevity of flash, how it sears. For me, flash feels like a small space to make a lasting impression. It’s the shard of a larger story, cutting just enough to see into another world, another being, or a vital moment that helped shape a person’s life.
What was the inspiration for this story?
For this micro I was thinking about the evolution of a hardened heart and how it often comes from a wound, or wounds, not properly healing, in boys being told to be men, and what that even means. In the first sentence, I wanted to show how an inculpable comment (joking he has no heart) can unleash something buried deep; or even a simple question can be a key to a door not ready to be opened. Often there is a warped perception of strength; how it’s easier to show strength in ways that are acceptable and celebrated, depicted on screen, versus the strength it takes to open oneself up to being vulnerable. Second person also felt like a better fit here. There is something so painful and intimate about this point of view when given so little space and time to strike the heart of a reader.