Vodka Yonic features a rotating cast of women and nonbinary writers from around the world sharing stories that are alternately humorous, sobering, intellectual, erotic, religious or painfully personal. You never know what you’ll find in this column, but we hope this potent mix of stories encourages conversation.
I believe in the magic of getting messy after breakups. When you’re reeling, you’re not obligated to break like fine China and mend yourself with kintsugi. You don’t need to fill the cracks with gold. You don’t owe anyone the relief of a pretty fix. Last year when I left an abusive relationship with some debilitating parting gifts — complex PTSD, trauma symptoms so severe I couldn’t eat or sleep, a mountain of debt, and lies and betrayal that could inspire a Lifetime movie — I let myself break like a wave in a storm.
On a hot summer day — my last in the home I shared with my abuser — I finished a bottle of rosé and instinctively gathered some provisions. As I maneuvered around neat piles of clothes and keepsakes I had set aside for him while sorting through the rubble of our marriage, I grabbed a shoebox and filled it with shavings from his beloved pencil collection, rusty nails from his toolbox, hair from his side of the bathroom vanity and a notebook (where I later discovered journal entries that outlined abuse he once denied). Then I snatched a half-empty bottle of his favorite whiskey and slammed the backdoor. I had no idea what to do with any of it, or why I collected it all.
As fall arrived and I brought that shoebox into my new place — where I was waking nightly with a panicked sense that he was watching me sleep — I felt like the box might be haunting me. I invited a friend over for drinks and confessed my plan to rid myself of those last bits of him. “I want to put his things in a jar and curse him,” I said. “Is that awful?”
“I have a curse jar in my freezer right now,” they said. “When are we doing this?” It had to be Halloween, which coincided with the second full moon of the month.
“Here’s the thing,” I said, searching my friend's face for a sign that I’d crossed the line. “I want to bury it in a cemetery.” I liked the idea of leaving him somewhere cold, dark and permanent. But one cannot simply walk into a cemetery and start digging. We’d be trespassing. And what if I had a knack for dark magic that killed him instantly?
“I know a place,” they said.
The next day, I headed to the bookstore and bought two books of spells. Hell hath no fury like a woman in the occult section of McKay’s. Does this mean I’m a witch now? I had every right to hex him (and the patriarchy that protected him). Still, that label was an odd fit. When you look at me, I’m all blond hair and floral sundresses. But if you’re paying attention, you might say I’m witch-adjacent. I fill bowls with crystals and rocks I’ve pocketed from distant shores. When the moon is full, I charge them in its silvery glow. I burn sage. I pull tarot cards when I’m feeling lost, even though I’ve never memorized their meanings — that’s what the guidebook is for.
It felt natural to pluck a mason jar from my cupboard and add ingredients from the pantry: vinegar (to sour his life), and cayenne, paprika and pepper (to inflict the burn of misdeeds). I dropped his belongings into the mix, topped it with a heavy pour of whiskey and tore two pages from his notebook — one to write his name and place in the jar and the other for my first spell: “This sickness and shame is yours to keep. I give it back to you. If you own the pain you’ve caused, I release you. But if you refuse, may the truth burn you eternally. I’m burying this darkness with you.”
I read the words aloud as I held the jar, summoning the pain of every bruise and scar, especially the invisible ones. Then I gave it a good shake, wrapped it in a shroud of tinfoil and popped it into the freezer next to my organic smoothie mix. I showed up on my friend’s doorstep later that night in a lavender sweater, carrying my jar and a trowel. At the cemetery sometime after midnight under a moonlit magnolia, I started digging. “This dirt is really hard,” I said. “Will you help me?”
“I think this is the kind of thing you do alone,” they said.
I tore at the dirt, moving the soil aside with my bare hands until I carved a space the size of the jar. Then I covered it back up. It was primal. As we snaked our way out of the cemetery with the headlights off, the headstones guiding our path in the moonglow, my friend asked how I felt.
“Actually kind of free.”
The next morning, as I drank coffee on the patio while the dogs sunned themselves, I saw the thick layer of cemetery dirt on my shoes and smiled. I’m not sure if the spell worked. But I’ve come to realize that mornings like that possess their own alchemy, the kind where I can meet myself in the stillness without listening for his footsteps in the hallway. The contentment found in his absence is the real magic. And knowing that I’m happier without him? Well, that must really haunt him.