Saba Sams is a writer based in London. Send Nudes, her debut collection of short stories, was published in 2022 and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. Her fiction and non-fiction has appeared in Granta, the Stinging Fly and the White Review, among others. Her writing is acerbic, empathetic and sharply attuned to the specific shames and pleasures of feminine experience.
Listen to an audio extract from ‘Gunk’
The first time Leon cheated on me, we’d been married eight months. His affair was with a woman I knew. Long before, we’d gone to school together. We’d been friends. Small world, huh? read her Facebook message. Her name was Megan Blake, and she’d joined my primary school in Year Five. At nine years old, she’d already worn kitten heels as school shoes and had a mini tube of lip gloss attached to her key ring. I didn’t even own house keys.
Megan Blake had such bad nits that sometimes, when I looked closely, I could see her hair crawling. Her father was dead, her mother an alcoholic. I’d been a meek child: pasty and slow, with parents who still cut the crusts off my sandwiches. Megan picked me out seemingly at random and decided we were best friends. She spent break time chewing Juicy Fruit gum and calling out to pedestrians through the playground railings. Whenever a dog walked by, she’d stick her arm through the iron bars and pet it. She talked to adults like she was an adult herself. Still in the slammer, she’d say.
The adults would laugh nervously, then pull their dog’s lead and hurry away. You fancy smuggling us in a KitKat? she’d shout after. There’s a newsagent on the corner.
My mother said that Megan was outrageous. She’d come over after school and eat the entire contents of our fridge. When my mother called Megan’s mother to come and collect her, she’d get no answer, and Megan would end up staying for entire weekends. We’d cut all the hair off my Barbies and draw biro tattoos on their arms.
At night Megan and I would lie in my single bed, straddling and kissing each other with open mouths. I was always the boyfriend, Megan the girlfriend. She’d give me tips on how to use my tongue, and I’d follow her advice religiously. She refused to brush her teeth before bed, so her mouth always tasted of Juicy Fruit. She lost a tooth in the playground once, and there was a big grey hole in it.
Continue reading ‘Gunk’ here. –
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