|Art by Sandro Castelli|
“Fallow” by Ashley Blooms ( words)
This is a story about isolation and hope and trauma and harm and growing up. And it is a difficult and wrenching read, in large part because it gives this unflinching look at William growing up as the son of a single mother with some issues of her own, dealing with a string of abusive boyfriends and a life that seems destined to run in circles. William is full of hopes but also not sure what he’s allowed to hope for. On the one hand is his mother who he loves and looks up to but who doesn’t do the greatest job looking after him because so much of her energy must go toward living and dealing with her own traumas, and on the other hand are the many awful terrible role models. William is terrified of becoming the kind of man who has hurt his mother and yet without anyone to really tell him how to do that. The action of the story is slower, though certainly intensely introspective. William finds that if he plants things in a fallow field he can get them to grow, but he’s not sure what that means. Swirling around this is the beginning of sexual awakening but without context. Misty, William’s best friend, is present and together they begin to explore each other but neither of them know how or really what it means, and it causes both of them a lot of distress. And really for me centering the story on this field makes a lot of sense, as it’s a story about place and about the toxicity of a place. How in many ways it’s the isolation, loneliness, and trauma the setting brings with it that make William into something of both a fallow field himself and something trying to grow out of them. Something beautiful but maybe also ugly. Something different but without aim or direction, without providing nourishment or relief. It’s a story that full of pain and lack—the lack of understanding being the most obvious. So that no one knows how to break the cycle of harm and distance, so that no one can figure themselves out well enough to really escape the field they’re all in. It’s a haunting and difficult read because so much of it is uncomfortable, but it’s also powerful and raw in a way that feels real and important. So yeah, definitely give this one some time!