Stories by Chiara Barzini

The Hanged Man by Giulio Secondo (@giulio.secondo)

FOUR STORIES by Chiara Barzini



The house had no privacy. The windows overlooked the street so it was impossible to meet my lover without being seen. It was a simple, white house––spacious and elegant. My lover had a bald head, it fit well with the sparse furnishing. The baldness, like the floor to ceiling windows, was a problem for our affair. Too much visibility. I wanted to be with him so I began to remove pieces of furniture. If the house seemed empty, our affair would be invisible, I thought. The first thing to do was dismiss the maid. She could not stay as a witness. We locked her in the bathroom. I peeled away layers, removed appliances from the living room, then the armchairs, the dining table, and the paintings that hung against the wall. I got rid of the couch we used to have sex on. Finally the house was vacant, no traces of our pleasure. My lover waited for me, sitting naked on the floor. I looked at him. He was too much. We agreed his body should also be removed if we wanted to maintain privacy. We started with the legs.



If you can’t fuck a man you really want because you are in a committed relationship and so is he. If you can’t fuck a man because he’s married and so are you. If you can’t fuck a man like that, you lie in bed at night and think about what it would be like to have him. Beyond the thrill inside your legs, your heart begins to expand dangerously until you come to the conclusion that you have fallen in love. This feeling of love runs parallel with the rest of your life. You pick up your kid from school and you’re in love with a man. You take out the trash, in love. You go to the supermarket to buy diapers, still in love. Fighting longing and impossibility is a strenuous battle that leaves you on a desk with your arms folded and your head between them, crying. Desire eats you alive.

Then, when you see the man, you act tame and mortified. You look at him and notice his belly. It has grown so much, you note to yourself. That’s what happens to domesticated men. They eat, don’t they? Look at those tiny pig feet. Those are not the feet of a man. Look at those little cones popping out of his white t-shirt. Man breasts. And those fat thighs and those short legs. This man doesn’t even know how to spell words. This man doesn’t digest anything. The thoughts running in your head are a soothing balm that make you grateful for everything you have and stop you from longing for everything you miss.

The only trouble is at night. In each dream the man is there and looks up at you defiantly. You devise a way for your bodies to make love without touching. You penetrate his soul and push the little man down.



I was holding her breast in my hand like I had done many times before. When we spoke she always had an important tone as if she was doing me a favor or relaying secret information. But I let her talk, I made her feel special because all I cared about was touching her breast. It was soft. Not too supple, but still very erotic. I reached out to kiss her lips, but she backed up and pushed me away.

“What are you doing, trying to kiss me? Don’t you know I am not a lesbian?”

I lashed back at her and told I was just leaning forward to feed my dog.

“There!” I pointed to the bowl on the floor, filled with chunky meat and kibble. “I wasn’t trying to kiss you at all.”

My dog came to eat his food. He helped me prove my point.



We were on our way to the airport when a lion was set loose on the highway and attacked me. By the time we reached the terminal I didn’t have a leg. My father said Mom wouldn’t pick us up. “You know how she is, she doesn’t care anymore.” My concern was whether the missing leg would grant me a seat in first class. I thought it would, but I was often sure of things that turned out unfavorably. I knew sometimes all it took was to scream my wishes upon someone and I could make that person turn into a worm, but the airline attendants were not easily intimidated, and did not care about my missing leg. I flew second class then took the bus home.



Chiara Barzini is an Italian author and screenwriter. Her writing has appeared in Noon, Bomb Magazine, Freeman’s, Harper’s Magazine, Vogue, Vice, and T Magazine amongst others. She is the author of the story collection Sister Stop Breathing (Calamari Press, 2012) and the novel Things That Happened Before The Earthquake (Doubleday, 2017.) She has recently translated Goliarda Sapienza’s poems from Italian and Sicilian into English.


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