Samantha Slaven is a legal assistant by day, writer in most formats by night. She lives with her emotional support human, Shawn, and barking cat, Vader, in the wilds of Suburban Philadelphia. Samantha loves horror movies, spicy food, and dancing in public.



Our last meeting was before the world exploded 
Before our daily uniforms included masks and a pocket sized container of hand sanitizer 
Before we all drifted six feet apart 
Before compassion and care for others denoted your political party

I came for dinner
I can’t remember what you made
I stayed overnight, in my childhood bed 
I left for work in the morning 

I didn’t know what would transpire later in the world 
But I did know that, when I had left originally, I never wanted to return to you

You won’t understand the hurt you caused 
The emotional trauma and psychological pain 

You did everything for me 
And to you that didn’t affect my development at all 

The way I see the world has been skewed severely 
Because of the constant suggestions 
Because you refused to let me figure things out for myself no matter how much I begged 

Because you said I only had to tell you when I wanted to go out with my friends and yet, I found myself constantly asking for permission 

Because I wanted to commit suicide to avoid you
No one can say that desire arose from nothing 

Your snooping and constant hovering prohibited me from leaving without a trace 
Hence why when you called me home that last night I came without hesitation 

I don’t know what I would have done if the world hadn’t plunged itself into chaos 
We’d probably still be talking

I wouldn’t be ignoring your calls or texts

I wouldn’t be keeping you from my relationships, my milestones 
You’d be included in it all 
I’d be suffering still but you would have your place of honor at the table 

The virus did me a favor by giving me the ultimate excuse
No Jewish holidays 
No birthdays 
No Thanksgiving 

We had the pandemic between us

And now, the threats are fading into history 
It’s been two years 
And you’re a ghost to me

I have dreams about you
We’re all interacting in a public place
You, me, dad, his parents 
You take me shopping 
I bump into you in a restaurant 

No one’s angry 
No bloodshed 
Still, these nighttime occurrences keep me from interacting with you

Because I know that if I acknowledge your spirit 
If my words make you corporeal again
It’s all over

My happiness
My safety
My solitude 
My protection 

I let you back in
And you regain control 

There’s so much I have learned to do by myself
That I couldn’t do when I felt I had to answer to you

So you shall remain
The guilt in place of love haunting me every time I close my eyes 
Secretly praying that the planet descends back into madness 

Giving me another buffer
Another reason 
To be estranged from you


Months of anticipation have finally culminated in the decision to get a poison apple 
A poison apple tattoo 
From Snow White 
On my left calf 

I go solo
Pandemic rules presiding
I wait
And wait
The artist is busy 
She’s had many a client today 

I’m taken back
We begin 
Is my skin burning?
I don’t smell anything but the scratches on sunburn as the artist describes feels like how I always imagined burning flesh to feel 

We move to color
I have three involuntary shudders, the first of which sends me body slamming myself into the table
The artist is concerned but presses on

We finish
I’m happy
So pleased
I take pictures, she takes pictures 
I post on social
She does the same 

I take great care of the art
Then unscented lotion
Twice a day, Three if my anxiety tells me I forgot to apply 

It begins a week into the healing process 
It’s the same feeling I get after I leave a concert 
Questioning myself
My decisions, my thoughts 

How do I feel about tattoos?
On the face? On the neck?
Are tattoos beautiful? Color or black and grey or plain black ink?
I wanted to be dripping with creations 
Do I still want that? 

Second, third, fourth, fifth guessing
I wanted to be constantly expressing myself 
Is it crazy if I wear the apple on my body with a necklace and more to match? 
Are tattoos really a chance to manifest an individual’s true self on their skin, through clothing, under makeup and jewelry?

I get angry
Self imposed headaches 
To tune out the noise 

I don’t have buyer’s remorse 
I can’t
This is permanent 

More importantly 
After the daily inquisition 
My love of tattoos has not been changed or altered 

The anxious voice will not win
I don’t need to prove my desire to look like Ryan Ashley to anyone
Let alone myself 

I love Ophelia 
The name I’ve given the apple 
And will love her brothers and sisters as they appear across my epidermis 

I will return in the fall
To the parlor that bears the name Keswick
I will endure all sensations of pain
But I will leave the self doubt at the door