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I did it. It finally happened. Somehow, after twenty-something odd years, I heard other people having sex.

Two people, to be exact. And not porn actors on a screen, either. These were hardworking, quarantining stay-at-home citizens as best I could tell. I could only tell so much. That’s what makes sex so mysterious if you’re not in on the act.

A quick note on said act: it was just as hot as I’d imagined. Walking in the cool of evening, it was just me, my mask, and my malfunctioning earbuds on the sidewalk.

I had taken one out to try…

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Does anyone else try to guess if someone is having sex or not? Just me? Okay, great.

A new acquaintance, a co-worker, a stranger walking toward me in a mask in the middle of a pandemic while the elevator slowly closes.

It’s not that I’m spacing out, I’m just thinking about sex. The sex I’m currently not having. Okay, I guess I am spacing out a little.

Even though I’m on hiatus from it at the moment, I’d like to be ready for it when it happens. …

Men, this is why sense of humor is especially important to women.

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I’ve never participated in online dating all that much. Honestly, now may not be a bad time to start considering no one’s going anywhere for a while.

When I downloaded Tinder four years ago however, I remember noticing a trend. I noticed it on Bumble last summer, too. It was the most consistent thing I’d see when scrolling through women’s profiles in L.A.

The thing about it was, it was something I already knew. Inherently knew, even. But seeing it was another matter.

Seeing all these women broadcast the same signal made me wonder why it was so important. …

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I know you’re out there. Or in there, at least. Somewhere, still safely following stay-at-home orders in your concrete apartment.

You’re up early, up late, or both. You’re listening to scattered cheers for medical workers at sundown. Looking out into the street, you’re still listening for someone playing the Star-Spangled Banner on their electric guitar at dusk.

“Are we doing this?” you wonder. “Are we up open again?” as you wander back inside. You deleted social media recently and are a bit behind. It was too much for you. You get your news from the tone of your neighbor’s voice.

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When you see two men fighting
Over a paper bag
Their ages undetermined
Behind the buildings of La Brea
You assume they have no place to go

At least
No kind of shelter

Circling each other like wildcats
Pushing and pulling like dogs on bone
They have all manner of movement sideways

But as you approach
You see

More meaningful places
Homes they always could have been
As deep as wells, they’re branded on
Coated in moonlight, they’re wild as rivers
Diamond-shaped scars in perfect alchemy
Upon the heart is where they keep them
The way they wear them
They are draped in robes…

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I’ve been avoiding it like poison, this something I need to tell you. I’ve stuck it in a coat pocket only to discover it, ages later, on my way out the door.

I can feel with my fingers. I can taste it on the broad side of my tongue.

I can recognize it, like a portrait through a window. Walking closer, it blinds me with patterns covered by the glare of the mid-day sun.

There is only a harshness to this new reality, a coldness.

The prospect of spending more than half my life without you has, inevitably, arrived.


The ground rules that allowed for erotic re-connection with a former flame

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A few years ago, I found myself in a position that many adventurous adults strive for: unattached, non-committal sex for as long as I said I wanted it. The offer was laid on the table between two sober, consenting adults. Little did I know it would turn into something so much more profound.

One of the adults, the one who initiated it, just happened to be my best friend. She also had the honor of being my ex-girlfriend. During this time, we were both single in Los Angeles with her having moved from Europe a few months prior.

Before our…

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I often felt curious about those men carrying flowers
In Los Feliz
Something done wrong perhaps
Or maybe getting her hopes up in anticipation


Somewhere in the afternoon fog
Seeing the man at Figaro
A bundle of roses under his arm
Yellow ones
Putting out a cigarette at dusk
Blue suit
Looking dead on like he had robbed a bank

He was cool and calm and sat down at a table
He put the flowers next to him
A pile of Sunday papers
He didn’t look at them
This guy
Speaking French in an American accent until they brought the menus…

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“I have a new book for you,” my mom said from across the table. “Read it and tell me about it. Are you still going to bible study with your friends?” We were eating dinner at a scenic restaurant in upstate New York when I was twenty. I was a sophomore at West Point and she and my grandmother were visiting me at the start of the fall semester.

The book was Know What You Believe by Paul E. Little. The conversation about faith was one I had not had since high school. All my life, I had grown up…

Fiction Friday

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The father and son are traveling from Louisiana to Texas on a stretch of Highway 90 that is cooling off for the evening. They are going back home after visiting the brother’s family and it is just the two of them. As they drive by, the son notices the dusk brushing its fingertips against the treetops as if trying to share a secret. All at once, they watch it peel back endless layers of orange and white and brown and grasp the branches before enveloping the roofs of houses like a falling circus tent.

“Tell me,” the son says after…

Stephen E. Phillips

Black coffee and late night flights. 📧: Buy me ☕️:

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