Ball Gag

Anthony Marshall

Photo Credit: Alexa Avitto

Chicago seems like the center of the universe when you’re nineteen and don’t even make your bed in the mornings. For the longest time I never wanted to talk about Chicago. I eventually fled the city and my family back in Ohio, preferring to live in Boston. My mother called me and asked why I wouldn’t come home to Cleveland. I told her I wanted to be a comedy writer and to be a comedy writer one had to live near the action. In Cleveland there hadn’t been any action since Levy gave a blowjob to a twelve gauge. If somehow it was possible to make a legit living being a bullshitter I would have a leather couch that was not on loan from Rent-A-Center. The closest I could come to that was being a comedy writer. I lived in the Humboldt Park neighborhood of Chicago. Ramona came to Chicago with me to live until she met a boy and moved back out after six months. I was still so excited to be in a big city and living on my own like an adult. The only thing hindering me was the constant calls from my mother checking up on me. The apartment itself, located above a deli with the most delicious turkey club sandwich, was peso cheap so I didn’t really need to find another roomie. My job as an assistant manager-in-training at an upscale department store covered all my bills and left a little for nightlife and writing. Usually I went out with Ramona, her boyfriend, and a few of their friends down to the Ukrainian Village or to watch improv somewhere.

It was one of the hottest July Fourths on record for Chicago. The humidity was so oppressive it either forced people into their homes or out of their homes like the Gestapo. During that night, after the fireworks left the skies full of smoke and barbeques went out, was when my apartment was broken into. There is something about having your home broken into that dumps a huge pile of paranoia on you. The safety blanket of my home was taken from me. To me, it seemed like all of those disheveled possessions in the house no longer belonged to me, that I didn’t even want to touch them because they felt dirty.

I didn’t see the two men who broke in until many months later when I happened to have enough strength to actually google the news article. Once they were in they went through the cupboards in my kitchen, they made some sandwiches, watched a little television and made some long distance phone calls. The men went into the bathroom and took a bottle of painkillers I had from two years prior when I had a rather large abscess lanced. They knocked over all of my shampoo bottles on the ledge of the bathtub. On my bed was a Valentine’s teddy bear I had brought from Cleveland. My father had given it to me for protection just before he died when I was ten. They ripped off the arms and discarded it alongside my emptied dresser drawers. There was no money in the house but everything I had in life that was valuable was taken. At the time these men broke in I was not at home. I was far away on vacation getting my hair braided in the Caribbean. I was lingering over the canals in Venice, reading Dostoevsky. I was holding my parents’ hands while we strolled through Disneyland. I was in Cancun. I was on the moon.

I know exactly what happened when the men broke in because a police officer meticulously walked me through the events while the broken glass cracked beneath my Converse.

Then, Ms. Jeunesse, the two perps used the last of the duct tape to seal the airways on the doors, the officer said. When he asked me if there was anything I could possibly give him to help the investigation I started to cry. I had no more to give. The tears rolled down my face and the officer offered some cold reassurances. My cell phone rang and he excused himself. I couldn’t stay in the house alone so I walked out, down into the street and answered my phone. It was Mom.

Yvette, darling, why haven’t you called all week? I’ve been trying to get a hold of you, she cried.

I know mom, I said, trying to stifle my sniffling. The heat didn’t relent on the Fifth of July, the day after Independence Day. The sun was burning the back of my neck. I had already spent so much time outside of the house that, through my teary vision, I could see a pale ring around my wrist from where the hospital band denied my skin a suntan.

Well, dear, how’s things going, she asked while chewing something crunchy.

Mom, I’m thinking about moving again, I said, and folded my arms, feeling the pain of stretching skin behind my elbows from the three cigarette burns on the back of my arms.


Anthony Marshall lives in Paris on the Left Bank where he drinks wine and wears a beret. He is smart, sexy and full of shit. Email: tantalusplague[at]