Desert Gardens

by Jane-Rebecca Cannarella

I fantasized about killing Allison. About how I would like to set up a pyre made from her own bones, and roast the remaining pearly skin, and use her tawny curls as kindling. A slow torture to make up for times I was too unguarded to know better. She mirrored my behavior: aping my language and pilfering the protected parts of my small life. Allison became the best parts of me.

One day I had an existence. One day I had Allison.

We lived together by circumstance – sat on trash picked, needle pointed rugs and played at being bohemians. At night we would get drunk on shitty vodka and she would follow me to my room’s private bathroom, trying to watch me while I peed even though I was pee-shy. She would grab my hand and lead me to the bed, a silent imploration to heal twin lonesomeness.

In the grey mornings, Allison would mother me with apple cake, and strong black coffee, and agreed that our friendship shouldn’t be sullied with sex. Crumbs on my chin I eagerly concurred. All of my friends had stopped talking to me – stopped coming to the apartment – since Allison centered herself in the apex of my world. She was everything I had.

But she still managed to sully me with sex – even when it wasn’t with her.


Allison encouraged her drug-addicted friend, nameless in my memory – a shadowy figure that visited me during night terrors, black hair dipped over one luminous eye– to fuck me. Held me down with arms riddled in pock marks while I was eyes glazed drunk in a park: you’re more fun when you’re fucked up. He was a daily visitor to the coffee shop she worked at, Allison’s only other friend. The three of us together buried our faces in alcohol the first night I met him, until with nods and winks the wight and I were left alone.

In the morning I peeled the pink dress with the grass stains on the back off of the shell of my body. Sat in a tub with water as hot as it could get and read a book I found on the sidewalk three weeks earlier. Caddie Woodlawn. It was a book I once read as a child. In the bathtub, I imagined myself as a sunburnt child again. The next room over was Allison’s room with the orange couch that she liked to coil up on. I could hear her listening to music. The hot water burned the soft folds of my insides.

Sometimes she would draw funny pictures of me, writing the word “tease” underneath cartoon-me.  Allison and the ghost boy once presented an illustrated picture of me as an elf, my hair wild under a green pointy cap. My eyes looked sad in the picture. 

Both would feed me sex and drinks, and then condemn me for it. You shouldn’t drink so much, Allison said as we downed gin and tonics on the floor of the living room, watching movies we had liked as children – only now as detached child-adults. I think you’d be really fun on coke, the ghost said, a few moments later. Coke IS really fun, Allison agreed, nodding. She pushed her long beautiful fingers through my hair; we should all do it together someday

Carbonation made drinks fluffier and grief less sorrowful, so I would drink from my cask until I would eventually float away while in their presence. The chatter of the duo was a staccato rhythm in the background of my brain’s blackness. The three of us were a circle on the carpet, so alone individually while together. 

I feel really protective of you she once said as we sat at opposite ends of a kitchen table like we were a mom and dad, our ghost son in the bathroom probably shooting up. Maybe protection was the same as isolation when it came to weak-willed, wild-eyed girls like me. 

In the mirror of my bathroom, I talked riotously about murdering Allison and how I could finally be free of her and the twins we’d become. An absence of humans to confide in, my phone packed with texts from an unfettered ghost (“if only you’d have just fucked me I wouldn’t have had to do smack last night”), I unburdened my darkest desires to the mirror world me. Hey, pretty bird! I made us dinner Allison’s voice trilled outside my door. I let my hand hang on the doorknob, forehead pressed against the barrier.


Allison moved to Texas. I didn’t kill her. She decided to move in with a woman who had eyes like Southern Comfort, a musician who dined on raw vegetables at all hours. Strong. Allison was her lime juice.

Before Allison left, she came in my room and sat on the bed, hand in my hair she told me when I get to Texas, I’m going to grow gardens in the desert

Jane-Rebecca Cannarella is the editor of HOOT Review, a genre editor at Lunch Ticket, a cat lady, a contributing writer at SSG music, and a candy enthusiast. She received her BA and M.Ed from Arcadia University, an MFA at Antioch University, and attended Goldsmiths: University of London and Sarah Lawrence College. When not poorly playing the piano, she chronicles the many ways that she embarrasses herself at the website She occasionally drinks wine out of a mug that has a smug poodle on it, and she’s not wonderful at writing in the third person.

Photo by: Ana Prundaru