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Oral Fixation: The Path of my Personal Life

by Cynthia Sample

Dead to the world, I finally fight the newborn sun streaming through the window onto the bed. I disentangle myself from my husband, suck down the necessary sixteen ounces of caffeine (heavy on the milk). I exchange my pink silk night-skin for something more serious, head for my office. I had dreamed of my mother who in real life morphed from mother-in-control-of-the-universe to childlike dependence within a year. I needed to think that dream through.

I reach for my new copy of Necessary Losses. Judith Viorst, the author, told me lots of people are trying to get back to their mother’s womb where there aren’t any boundaries between them and their host; they are essentially the same person.

Then I happened on a review of this new book of Hemingway’s letters. The reviewer seems to think that Hemingway expressed this repeated desire to live a boundary-less life, which I deduce relates to his life in utero. Or perhaps he just didn’t like paying his bills. Running across this review was really a surprising coincidence, especially today, just months since my own mother died her difficult death and the recurring dreams. The mysteriousness of seeing this review today is a connection that may underlie my reaction to Hemingway, or maybe not.

Necessary Losses tells me a person can experience this oneness in orgasm, art or drugs, all of which I presume Hemingway must have experienced as a matter of course. Necessary Losses says we can recreate the oneness with fantasies, or even dreams, too, I suppose, which perhaps explains the art part of Hemingway’s life. And maybe the orgasm part too for all I know. The drug aspect seems a bit more difficult to prove because after all who really saw him all the time? Of course, he was evidently a big drinker of alcohol, which is a lot like drugs or so I hear.

But what this scenario doesn’t explain is why Hemingway hated his mother in the first place, which is widely claimed but who can really say? Mothers are, after all, vital when it comes to oneness and being fed and mostly being cared for at all. Fathers are supposed to be at work.

*Necessary Losses*and also this review don’t really explain why aficionados of Hemingway, like my husband, are obsessed with hunting and fishing and bullfighting. Or even why the wives of such aficionado-husbands are obsessed with Prada handbags from Neiman Marcus except that Prada purses and shotguns could be construed to be substitutes for thumb-sucking. Or even substitutes for love itself.

But maybe Prada purses and shotguns are merely expressions of an over-supply of hormones essential to orgasm. Unless of course a deficit exists, in which case depression ensues and bankruptcy results, which in turn negates the Prada purses, shotguns, membership at Dallas Country Club and most Texas hunting leases.

These are things I don’t believe Hemingway experienced but perhaps I am wrong. He may have gone hunting in West Texas, but it would’ve been quail or perhaps bucks he shot instead of safari animals – which I suppose would be a Necessary Loss for the animals anyway and maybe a thumb-sucking activity for Hemingway.

Of course, we mustn’t forget that Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun and very often that is done by first placing the steel barrel in one’s mouth much like a thumb or a binky. The reality was that Hemingway shot himself in the forehead, but for such a man as he, I suppose brain and mouth are about the same thing, both being communication devices. I would imagine the result is a very messy process that most mothers would not like at all, maybe even with screams and tears. After all, that blood and everything is a lot like expelling a fetus and cutting the cord.

Cynthia Sample's writing credits include stories published in Blue Five Notebook, On the Veranda, SLAB, Numéro Cinq, Summerset Review, Steel Toe Review, Sleet, After the Pause, and other journals. Cynthia was a finalist in the 2015 Reynolds Price Fiction Contest, Center for Women Writers. She holds an M.F.A. in Creative Writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in finance from the University of Texas at Dallas. Find her at


April 2019

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