2019 Berlin Writing Prize: Apricot Stones by Chloe Gocool (Shortlist)

Apricot Stones

by Chloe Gocool


Chloe Gocool was shortlisted for the 2019 Berlin Writing Prize with her entry ‘Apricot Stones’excerpted here in the run-up to the launch of the 2019 Berlin Writing Prize Anthology, The Circus, forthcoming from The Reader Berlin in partnership with KLAK Verlag in 2020.


*WARNING: The full story contains references to mental and emotional abuse*

When I was twenty-one, I ran away. Into the chaos. Entropy found me one evening, outside in a pub-garden in late December. The winter rain was horizontal and the wool of my tights baggy and sodden on my shins. I had, for weeks, been nursing a rabid and teeth-grinding mercilessness. A wide and generous hatred of almost everything. I was back living with my parents after graduating from university and at each bedtime I sated myself with a series of visual water tortures: other people’s successes, spiritual enlightenment, money, property, love. Sometimes, as a treat, I imagined myself in a nearby shopping centre with a loaded gun. My hair a perfect map of even curls, cardinal red lips, a grey silk dress. Slowly, with no maverick anxiety, I would pick the shoppers off one by one.

There is no clean pleasure. And I was laced with this need to get close to it anyway, somehow, to feel the limits and transgressions of my body. To stretch and contort and fall. The acrobatics of desire. To become near to dying. To feel both object and other. Wanted and wanting. Masochism. Mania. Compulsion. And then to repeat. I ran to it at the same time it came to me, tenting me, cloaking. Allowing, encouraging me to perform. A new pleasure: kinky and chaotic and painful. Melancholic. First, the sugar rush – cotton candy and buttered popcorn. High on the showiness of it. The lights, the air full of gasps and thin of oxygen. Then come the stomach rolling tricks; eye-closing pleasure. Fear. The rise and fall of reaching – and gripping, or missing. And the aftermath. When the shadows dominate the now play-less spaces. Nostalgia before it was even over. I was part of the circus for three years.

He approached me first, though to hear him tell it I was looking long before. I was sat on the lap of an old school-friend. The proximity to Christmas making the need to drink seem more urgent. We had congregated, a once unlikely group, out of desperation. Chem-trails of our former selves only sweetened the night. All teenagers were once shapeshifters. We earnestly accepted the new haircuts, the foetal job titles, the accolades and failures; our proximities to adulthood. The conversation was thin and buoyant. We allowed each sentiment to pass into another, an old familiarity making it easy. Jokes came quickly. The taste of tequila was amber at the back of my throat. A golden wildness.

The full story is featured in the 2019 Berlin Writing Prize Anthology, The Circus, forthcoming from The Reader Berling and KLAK Verlag in 2020.


Chloe Gocool was born in England to British/Guyanese parents. She currently lives, works and writes in Nicosia, Cyprus. Here she is swimming in rivers, learning Greek, growing rockrose, writing poems with children about The Assumption of Mary, drawing figs and eating tashinopita. You can read more at https://tinyletter.com/cloggy

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