Teresa Stenson scoops right to the unreachable corners of the psyche in prose both delicate and precise. Here, we review four short pieces that explore love, loss, identity and consent.
“as he leads you through a car park to a hidden spot, as you avoid your reflection in the quiet cars, as you look in his eyes to know you’re his lucky day, as you lie on the ground, and I am in control, and I am in control,“
What kind of leads you through a stream of consciousness, detaching from a tangible moment to contemplate an abstract relationship with agency and identity. An unflinchingly direct, personal narrative voice tears you from your armchair onto crashing seas and bare-faced mountains, implicating you as a participant without involving guilt. This is a nurtured push toward the deep and vulnerable, tethered to wary safety. For the duration you are resigned, knowing, yearning, justifying, and a million other things you may be in one second without speaking. Stenson communicates our vital selves with beautiful tenderness, support and hope. This piece is a mantra for uncertain survival.
“something to do with blood capillaries, the shock from cold to hot, one state to another”
The Edges of Sound places you firmly back in the hands of the surrounding environment, carefully anthropomorphised to eke out tells of the man’s pain. Soft-falling vignettes of a marriage in breakdown build their vista piece by piece, sealing his loss up with the remaining meaning in his life. While in his moment of crisis he dissociates by focusing on the minutia of language, a bonding activity with his son brings him back into the crisp tactility of the snow. Nature clips off the residual trails of his experience, making his grief succinct, small within the landscape, and not travelling.
“She smiles a full but not remotely real smile. He can feel the energy behind it. It’s quite exciting.”
Edges are our segway into Stenson’s next piece, The Route, a story that immediately establishes a historied relationship before playfully edging at everyday fantasies and then unspooling away into naive adventure. The comfort merely sets the scene to prepare for the great unknown. You feel the disappointment of unrequited preference and the frustration of quelled attempts to break through staid normality. The ache of disillusionment gives way to the drudge of something akin to acceptance.
“Jacob has read about this kind of behaviour, it is a type of flirting that women do and it is known as ‘being coy’.”
Jacob Sits With Tina is ostensibly light-hearted; again navigating life, love and personage. Our Danny Zuko anti-hero narrates his best-laid plans in suspenseful droplets of information, carefully recreating every ill-advised rom-com meet-cute as the star and all his wing-men in one furtive young mind. Jacob’s impressionable puppet-master expectations of his beau-to-be make you squirm until he is left adrift by Tina’s stony disregard for his intended exchange, introducing her own rhythm to their peculiar but undeniable arrangement.
Teresa Stenson lives in York, England, where she balances her day job as a ghostwriter with her own creative pursuits. Her short stories have been published by The Bridport Prize, The Guardian, Fairlight Books, Litro, Popshot Magazine, Matchbook and Jellyfish Review, among others. She is working on a collection of linked stories and can be found on Twitter @TeresaStenson.
You can read the above works hosted by their respective publications online at the following links, and more at the publication links above.