How to Keep It Fresh

When writing about DV (for short), avoid bruises and the caked-on makeup that covers bruises.

Avoid knocked-out teeth and the tang of blood inside the mouth.

Especially avoid the heterosexual matrix, where a cis man hits a cis woman. To be safe, avoid hitting. Hitting’s been done.

Pushing isn’t much better. Neither is dangling or a quick shove at the top of the stairs.

Throwing crockery is a little too 1950s. The child hiding under the kitchen table belongs to the ’70s. Stay away from silent sobbing and the clutching of blankets. Makes you want to tear your hair out.

Avoid hair pulling unless you’re leaning toward BDSM. Avoid BDSM. To prevent the reader from falling asleep on the couch, steer clear of threats.

No shaking fists. No expletives. Don’t call anyone a bitch. It’s so overused; it’s lost its sting.

Don’t make the family poor. And definitely don’t give them money. No hyper-educated, condescending husbands. No meth heads. No white power fist-pumpers. No alcoholics in the suburbs with neatly trimmed lawns. No Puritan blue bloods whose people came over on the Mayflower or those little boats that came after.

None of those people are fresh.

Give the woman some nunchucks, a one-legged dog, a banjolin. Stack volumes of Proust under her bedside table. Involve several nuns, but not as servants to the common good. Make them the aggressors. Beam them down from the cold reaches of space, spinning rosaries with resonant howls.

Be wary of the half-smile proffered to coworkers, the nods and clucks of young mothers down the block. Eschew flowers and promises. Keep your pages entirely dry of tears. No histrionics. No mothers-in-law who saw it coming, and no one who couldn’t believe it, even if it happened right in front of them.

Genevieve Abravanel’s short fiction is available or forthcoming in the Missouri Review, American Short Fiction, North American Review, the Normal School, Indiana Review, Southeast Review, and elsewhere. She has received grants and fellowships from the American Association for University Women (AAUW) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and is currently working on a novel.