June 2024

The Easy Parts

Melissa Witcher

Play Audio
read by Sarah Seltz

art by Tim Ferrell

It was easy to get lost in Texas.

I drove down endless two-lane roads and scanned the ditches for wildflowers. My grandmother, born in Texas, told me about Lady Bird and her ditch flowers. When I was there, the ditches were empty, but I recalled a little about Lyndon B. Johnson’s failed wars. The failure to end poverty, the failure to vanquish Vietnam. I considered if maybe that’s why Texas had so many prisons.

I didn’t know enough about any of it—wildflowers, LBJ, Vietnam, prisons—to have sophisticated thoughts, just flashes.

He’s incarcerated and he’d like a letter.

Pages and pages of handwritten, sloping block print.

The parking lot of a prison complex like a Walmart parking lot.

The turrets and caliber of gun unlike a Walmart parking lot.  

A vending machine in the waiting room.

Him, behind plexiglass and me talking to him through a boxy plastic phone.

Germs didn’t concern me then. 2008, 2009. Global pandemics were the content of dystopian sci-fi, which I didn’t read. My attention was consumed by the fact that I was in love with my first cousin, an inmate in a correctional facility in Liberty County, Texas.


It was very easy to fall in love with an inmate.

They are the ideal man—a captive audience, needy, and eager. There are no commitment issues, no negligence, no pulling away, no disinterest. There may be others but not when you are with them on the page or in the cell. As much as you can give, they can give more. Perhaps it’s the only time that a man’s time is a limitless resource.

Straw poll for hetero and bi women—how much of your life has been devoted to drawing the male gaze? Finding the right man? Making him love you?

Circle the answer that best applies to your case:

  • None
  • A Little
  • Somewhat
  • A Lot
  • Fulltime

Hours, percentages, descriptors here please: ______________________.

Most of my life, I was somewhere between a lot and fulltime. Resenting it, pretending it wasn’t so, feeling like a failure for knowing that it was.

I hope it’s easier for girls growing up now, with social media and self-love and disrupting the binary and dismantling white supremacy. Something has to have changed beyond discourse and I hope it’s that cis and trans girls grow up feeling sufficient and loved, not seeking affirmation from a cis male who has been taught his whole life to withhold what we’ve been told only they provide: acceptance, approval, admiration, worth.


It was very easy to fall in love with an unavailable man. Even a cousin.

There’s a special sort of disdain reserved for a woman who falls in love with a man when he’s already locked up—when he’s been branded The Worst by society and his freedom has been denied. I’m not sure what I was more ashamed of, loving an incarcerated man or loving a relative.

I’m also not quite sure what else to say. Is this a confession? I’m an atheist, but I was Catholic at the time so the impulse still lingers. I didn’t sin, not by any metric that matters, we never even held hands. I don’t feel guilty, not for love at least.

I had no politics then. I didn’t have art or words or convictions, just a bottomless well of need. For two years I didn’t date, for there was no one as engaged, charming, and intelligent as my unavailable man. No one who needed me more. But, of course, you probably know that I needed him far more than he ever needed me.

I called him once after he was out, but we had nothing to say. After so many hundreds of pages of letters, books read, innermost thoughts exchanged, we were left with silence. I know nothing of him now, not even where he lives. It’s been easy to forget. If he’s in Texas, I hope his house is near a ditch filled with flowers.  

About the Author

Melissa Witcher (she/ela) is a self-taught writer, collagist, muralist, and embroidery artist. She was born in Brazil, raised in the U.S. and has lived in São Paulo since 2011. Her writing has appeared in The Bluebird Word, BULL, Five on the Fifth and is forthcoming in The Citron Review.

About the Reader

Sarah loves stories and adventure! Sometimes she reads them, sometimes she lives them, and sometimes she gets to bring others’ stories to life with her voice – which is its own adventure! She has traveled to 26 countries and enjoys adding accents to her VO repertoire. You can learn more about Sarah, her Voice Over projects, and her blog “Becoming Voice Over,” on her website: Sarah lives in Houston, Texas, with her husband, an English Springer Spaniel, and two rescue cats. She believes kindness matters.

About the Artist

Tim Farrell is a Georgia-based artist and illustrator. With a background in Biology, he left the laboratory to be a stay-at-home dad, and has a small farm with chickens and goats.