Damaged Goods

Diane Payne

​​​​S and I walk along the beach.  Something feels different.



The night before I rode my bike to his house, uninvited. I pedaled thirty miles one way, hoping to meet his mother who was spending the weekend with him.  I figured I’d just drop by, make a greeting, and all would be fine. 

His mother was changing the oil in his car, something S never did.  This was more than fine, something I certainly hadn’t expected.  It’s a family with money, unlike mine, so I made foolish assumptions.

​I stood next to the car unable to think of anything to say.  I regretted pedaling so far to make this odd appearance.  We exchanged remotely pleasant greetings and I pedaled home.  I could tell S was embarrassed that I came by his house uninvited, desperately hoping to meet his mother and be accepted into his family.


I dive into the water.  S follows.  It’s dark outside.  We make love.

S looks at me a moment then says, “My mother says you’ll always be damaged goods.”

I feel like he’s kicked me in the stomach. 

“You told her?”

He shakes his head in agreement, knowing he has betrayed me.


“After you stopped by, she said you seemed nervous, that there was something about you.”

“You couldn’t tell her that I always talked fast? That I’m always awkward around people I don’t know?  You told her everything, everything I had just told you?”

Once again he shakes his head instead of speaks.

After years of never saying anything, I felt compelled to reveal, explain, acknowledge, admit, confess. It seemed like the honest thing to do with a lover.  I don’t know why.  Maybe I had read too many self-help books for survivors.  This confession of sorts didn’t make me feel any better, or less guilty, or less shamed.  I hate the words self-help and survivor.  Pathetic words.

I gave a very abbreviated account.  Didn’t feel like explaining, justifying, re-living. Maybe I was looking for compassion, understanding.  Maybe I was just being pathetic.

“She said you’d never recover from this.  No matter what you do. It’ll always be there to haunt you.  You’ll never have a really normal relationship.”

I will never be normal.  I will always carry dark and disturbing baggage.

Damaged goods.

No mother wants this for her son.

About The Writer

Diane Payne Split Lip Magazine

​​​Diane Payne has been published in hundreds of literary journals, and is the author of two novels:  Burning Tulips and A New Kind of Music.  She is the MFA Director at University of Arkansas-Monticello