‘Some Shades of Darkness Are Competing with Other Shades’ by Vi Khi Nao

“My debauched husband was a woman and I knew no one in Kansas City,” is an incredible opening line, one that catapults us directly into the heart of the narrator’s dysfunctional relationship with her girlfriend that leaves her seeking new lodgings in Kansas City, circumnavigating a near-abduction, and then returning again to her abusive ex. I was fortunate enough to be working at NOON when this piece arrived in a suite of seven autobiographical stories, each alive with Nao’s singular voice and heightened attention to language—an incredible editorial windfall. I’ve since taught this story, and yet it remains full of mystery to me—especially the mutating metaphor involving a box of chocolates, which, like much of Nao’s writing, is oblique, startling, and utterly unprecedented.

First published in NOON, 2019

‘Some Shades of Darkness Were Competing With Other Shades’ by Vi Khi Nao

I first heard this story read by Diane Williams at the launch of the 2019 NOON Annual at the Center for Fiction in Brooklyn. Like much of the work canonical to NOON, Nao’s work is short, intensely focused on language, turning in on itself, privileging interiority over action. This story is one of ten published in 2019’s anthology, from a memoir-in-progress, and it is the story which has most stuck with me (although all are excellent). We start with the narrator attempting to leave her abusive girlfriend, who then endures an attempted abduction, becomes stranded in Kansas City, and must return to the relationship. The relationship persists until its eventual demise, years later. There is an incredible shifting metaphor concerning a box of chocolates. It is unsettling and perfect.

Published in NOON Annual, 2019