Coming to Terms by Leslie Hopen

Staring out the window of my father’s two-story house up in Brundle Hills , North Carolina , watching the sunlight creep across the leaves on the maple tree below.

The way the leaves grow a little closer each and every year.

The way a smell like old cat piss can be so comforting it makes you want to cry.

Waking up in the middle of the night and watching the slow rise and fall of my husband’s chest beneath the covers.

Contemplating the frailty of the human body, how it relies on these soft, constant breaths.

Wondering when my own breaths will stop.

Saying goodbye to my two boys, Daniel and Justin, every morning, even though they always complain and run off when it’s time for a hug goodbye.

Not sleeping the night Justin told me he’d gotten Mischa pregnant.

Imagining for the first time what it’d be like to be a grandmother.

Smiling and crying at the thought of it.

Cashing in Justin’s college bonds to pay for the abortion.

Sharing a secret that made us closer.

Wanting not to want this.

Wanting not to have opened Kelsey’s e-mail account.

Feeling a feeling in the pit of my stomach like rotten fruit.

Looking at the pictures, watching the videos.

Knowing what my husband really likes.

Never being asked to dress up like a nurse.

Or a girl half my age.

The way he smiled like a game show host when he denied it.

The way I’d married Pat Sajack.

The way Pat Sajack was turning more than Vanna White’s letters behind that gaudy green curtain.

The way this confirmed all the bad things I already thought about myself.

Getting tested for everything.

My fear of needles.

Eating sherbert.

Remembering a time when I had people to turn to instead of sugar.

Wondering why I’m jealous of my eight-year-old son’s girlfriend.

Watching my fingers open and close to make a fist.

Thinking how many centuries of evolution it must have taken to come up with something as complicated as the human hand.

Wondering why something so intricate often gets used so crudely.

Wondering why he wanted her instead of me—why all of them wanted someone else instead of me.

The way the gun felt in my hands.

Almost understanding what Kelsey must have felt like every time he was with that girl.

The looks on their faces.

Not caring how I’ll get away with it.

The sirens.

The handcuffs.

Finally being the center of attention.

Little drops of rain falling on my nose outside the station, collecting in the oil on my skin.

The cameras.

The trial.

The conviction.

The days, the months, the years.

The silence.

The eyes of the cops in white surgical masks as they shove the cotton up inside of me and buzz the hair from my scalp.

The way no one really looks at you.

My hair collecting in curls on the scuffed blue floor, useless little bits of my own dead self.

The hall.

The chair.

The way I thought it’d be bigger, more grandiose.

Always expecting more.

Fighting the urge to cry.

The restraints being tightened around my wrists and ankles.

The weight of the helmet being strapped to my skull.

The way no one says anything, because what could possibly be appropriate?

Being in a situation humans have yet to invent dialogue for.

Wondering if it’s too late to change my mind about lethal injection.

Hearing the voice of a man I can’t look at recite the State law like a child forced to read out loud in school.

Wondering how many times he’s done this before.

Knowing this will be one of the last thoughts I’ll ever think.

But mostly, just looking out the window on the second story of my father’s house.

And watching the leaves get a little closer, each and every year.


Leslie Hopen is the name of a ghost from North Carolina . Said ghost currently resides in Port Saint Lucie, Florida —home of the Devil Tree—and is hard at work on a collection of short stories.

7 thoughts on “Coming to Terms by Leslie Hopen”

    Yet with a curiously calming resonance.
    A laconic slinging of acute visuals
    perfect for ADHD distractibility.
    Must read more from this Leslie Hopen.

  2. Leslie’s words penetrate to your core psyche, always taking you to her world, never in a confrontational way. You will be “changed utterly” by reading Leslie Hopen. “A terrible beauty is born!” quotes by W.B. Yeats.
    Cumaibh leis an t-obair cruaidh.

  3. The way you put your words together is unique.
    The pictures you paint in my head are vivid.
    The talent you’ve displayed here today is obvious.

  4. Chilling, indeed. This story works its way into our self doubt that we mask with admiration for the world around us. Having read Leslie Hopen’s work before, I find that Leslie will often find a way to force the reader to relate with characters they would never dream of identifying with otherwise. These characters are merely the dark seedy underbelly of our own psyche. I love to visit them when I read stories such as this one.

  5. I remember reading this before (…right?) & this might be what everybody else is trying to say but I just like stories where the thoughts sound like my own inner dialogue–not that I’m this crazy as apparently it seems.

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