Monthly Archives: February 2013

The Secret Lives of Secret Lives

by Len Kuntz

The words are still razor wire, so I don’t say them aloud. Instead, I just think what I know – that my father enjoyed being beaten by women.

I found this out while sorting through his shoes boxes. There were piles of pictures stuffed inside a boot, Polaroid’s with my dad’s block letter handwriting at the bottom in some sort of cryptic code.

          HU^^Q^ = {}

          WL0 + ## = !!!

          7676 &&& NnN – %


The women wore costumes – red-paint pleather or latex – and snarled. Once in a while they jeered.

Sometimes there were implements involved. Other times they merely used their fists or feet. Each photo was a pornographic clown show made macabre.

I’m thinking about this as I stare at my wife dozing. The most violent she’s ever been to me was pounding the kitchen counter once when I forgot to pick up our daughter after ice skating.

She sleeps with an Asian-themed eye mask she got from the airlines on one of her antique shopping trips to the Far East. Both her hands cup the silk hem of the blanket as if she’s doing a chin up or peeping over someone’s fence. Her nails are chipped, but otherwise long and sharp. I imagine them raking across my face, ripping out chunks of my scalp, gouging an eye. None of that does a thing. I’m dead down there, my pulse unchanged.

All your life you think you know someone and then you discover you don’t. That must be how it is when neighbors learn the insurance salesman in the rambler ends up being a serial killer.

I retrace my past loves, sending them on a slow assembly line down my memory bank. Did I want them to hurt me? In any way?

The closest comparison I can find is Roxanne, the woman before my wife. I thought she was the one. Roxanne and I were engaged, then a month before the wedding she gave me news, saying I was a good listener and all, but bland in bed, that she would have helped me if she was the patient type. I laughed at first, thinking it a joke. Later that night, I sat in a corner, cradling a bottle of Jim Beam, crying like a toddler.

I try to think about all of the bad stuff I’ve thought or done but haven’t told anyone. Rounded up in giant dung heap of history, I’m surprised that it’s hardly as repulsive as I would have guessed. Even my misdeeds are bland, the darkest stuff only going as far as charcoal.

Still, the man’s blood is in me. His DNA detritus is coiled around mine. How can you share one and not the other, not even a little?

A few hours pass. I wake my wife up, nudging at first, then pushing until she flips the eye mask free.

‘I want you to do something to me,’ I say.

When I tell her, her eyes dance like sun-spackled diamonds, an eager smile unfolding.

I suck down a deep breath, hold it, wondering how I’ve ended up being so bad about judging others.

Len Kuntz is a writer from Washington State. His work appears widely in print and online at such places as Eunoia Review, The Northville Review and Abramelin. You can find him at

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