For Girls and Grief | Abigail Staub

The first girl I ever kissed had a mouthful of luring words and veins full of Percocet.
I wore the potent perfume of pineapple vodka on my breath and wilted forward into her lap,
all curled up at the edges like a water-logged book.
We were perched on the end of a leather couch in someone’s basement and the television flickered and buzzed to mask the
piercing pounding of my heartbeat against the rib cage.
Her voice lilted softly in my ear, “Do you want to kiss me or not?” but my skinned, purple knees quivered as I questioned what people would think
when they saw me tangled up in the limbs of some Venus,
and not softly swallowing the saliva of a sweaty, calloused boy.

That was how it was supposed to be,
when you were sixteen with red lips and black stockings,
slurring empty proverbs to strangers.

“I was so wasted. I’m not gay or something.”

Still, I held her cheek in my palm like it was some semblance of survival and pressed my cracking, shaking lips against hers.
When they asked, I said,
“I was so wasted. I’m not gay or something.”
Four drunken kisses followed hers; I would never touch a girl unless I swallowed seven shots first.


When I finally kissed a girl sober, I couldn’t feel a thing.
She came to me, all curls and curves, when I was most hollow—
I sucked bruises into her neck in the shape of the holes in my heart,
and marked her skin with my teeth
as if the roughness could scare my mind into letting go of the terrible ache.
The serrated edges of my nails dug softly into the flesh under her pastel sweater,
gripping her soft, foreign body in silent desperation.
I convinced myself that if I took a big enough drag of her, I could permanently curb the addiction.
Her voice caught between her teeth as my frigid fingertips traced circles against the sharp incline of her pelvis
and I smirked as I felt her hips buck against my palm.
After she left,
I sat down on the floor with my head in my hands and cried.


The girl with purple hair shook the shame right out of me.
Her brooding eyes seared feeling back into my skull and scared my bones into shaking.
She was dark lipstick and sharp teeth and thigh highs and I was stuttered words and trembling hands and
not enough.
She could have ripped my heart out of my chest slowly
with her fingers and I still would have blushed just to feel her touch.
One afternoon, we went to the art museum and trudged the halls at a safe distance from one another, too nervous to let our shoulders collide.
I came across a sculpture built out of the empty whiskey bottles of homeless drunks,
and wrapped my arms around my ribs as I whispered, “Well, that’s sort of tragic. But beautiful, in a way. Don’t you think?”
She whispered quietly, “Yeah, it is.”
I think that’s how she saw herself:
beautiful, but empty. Transient. Not full enough to support another.
When I finally came close to kissing her on
that faded wooden bench, I hesitated.
In the light, her lips looked like black magic, and
I knew that I was only worth the dirt
she kicked up behind her boots.
Four days later, she left and never came back.


And no matter how well-versed you think you are in heartbreak, there’s nothing that can prepare you for this sensation.
See, people don’t give a damn about the pieces
of your battered heart when it was another girl who broke it.
Instead, you swallow the bitter taste in your mouth and
you fuck a guy you don’t know just to prove you can,
but you’ll still hear the faint ghost of her name in
each heavy exhale of breath.
When your parents warn you of volatile love,
they’ll tell you to watch out for the boys who speak so softly you don’t hear them coming.
But nobody ever said that sometimes there are girls who make you wish they wouldn’t leave.

Abigail Staub lives outside of Richmond, Virginia and enjoys writing angst-ridden free verse, reading excessive numbers of classic literature novels, and listening to strange, folk-punk music. She identifies as a bisexual female and has spent her 17 years trying to learn how to be a decent human being. She blogs on Tumblr at

Vagabond City Literary Journal

Founded in 2013, we are a literary journal dedicated to publishing outsider literature. We publish art, prose, reviews, and interviews from marginalized creators.