Joni Renee


Complexities of Man by H. Mills-Denison

“If you want something done, give it to a mom, y’know?”

She had it all planned out in two weeks. She went to the bank and withdrew all her money. She put it into cashier’s checks and wrote letters with checks to her mother, her mother-in-law, her sister, and her nine best friends. I know she gave her shoe showing gear to a coworker who had been really interested in giving shoe showing a try. She drove to First Landing State Park and took a long forest walk, listening and listening and listening.

I heard she listed out specific hopes and dreams for each of her children and wrote a love poem, then a love letter, to her hilarious and adorable wife of fourteen years. Of course, the roses were in bloom then. Early June always packed the Huntington Park Rose Garden with tourists. I’m certain she sat there, where the sun hit hundreds of thousands of petals and pressed sweet oils from them, filling the air with a luscious, enlivening scent.

I think she caught up on filing, threw out old mail, paid bills, stacked up medical and tax records. She printed out a list of usernames and passwords to media streaming services, audio book subscriptions, social media accounts, even crowd-sourced review sites. She didn’t include the password to her email, though, because that’s where she kept her innermost thoughts and wrote to people about her deepest feelings.

And oh my God, the pizza. Look at these credit card receipts. She ate pizza at a different place every day for nine days, and then she ate the same pizza at the same place every day for four days. Mailed all the letters, charged her phone, and hung herself.”

“Those poor children.”

“I didn’t know.”

“Sometimes I hear electricity, do you think that’s normal?”

“When was it?”

“I just found out.”

“Who among us is whole?”

“Can I ask, I know this is morbid, but…from those gorgeous mid century rafters?”

“I wanted more time.”


About the writer:
Joni Renee is an artist from rural Oregon. Her music and essays have been shared in Seventeen, xoJane and regional journals, as well as at The Moth, the Segerstrom Center for the Performing Arts, the National Autism Center, and the MacLaren Youth Correctional Facility in partnership with the Morpheus Youth Project.

Image: Complexities of Man by H. Mills-Denison (contemporary). Oil on canvas. 18 x 26 inches. By 2019. By permission.