Word Counts | Samantha Steiner

Image: Simon Pelegrini

Fuck word counts, and fuck regret, and fuck enjoyment, and guess what? Fuck origin. That’s right, fuck origin, and fuck memory. Do you know what fuck means? A girl told me back in middle school: Fornication Under Consent of the King. She said the word was posted on the front door of every reputable home, and that it meant yes, we got the okay from our royal leader to mate, copulate, dance the horizontal polka, put the thing in the other thing. We’re sinners with a lifetime indulgence we bought in advance. We fraternize with the devil, but only according to protocol, baby.

So I say fuck word counts, and fuck regret, and fuck enjoyment, because that’s what fuck is. Fuck is enjoyment. Fuck is regret. The Fuck Word Counts. Fuck is the apology before the infraction, the permission before the play. And who is fuck for? Fuck is for the people who look like Matt Damon and Marilyn Monroe, for bodies concealed just well enough to display. Fuck is for paleness and paler-than-paleness, a certain shape of eye, a certain girth of waist, a certain functionality of limb, a certain history of genitalia. And I say fuck that.

I say fuck origin, and fuck memory, and fuck death, because fuck is a gift, and Fornication Under Consent of the King is Matt Damon in a red velvet hat and a red velvet cape, a walking blood-filled penis with a golden wand, pretending to give out fucks when in reality, he doesn’t give a fuck. I say fuck origin because fuck is origin, because before you and I were you and I, we were twinkles in the eyes of people, maybe lusty, maybe frightened, maybe willing, maybe not. I say fuck memory because fuck is memory, because no one was watching when you or I morphed from a twinkle in those eyes to a glob of cells, as the glob of cells halved and doubled into the tube that formed a mouth and an asshole, two instruments of fucking, consent of the king or not.

Fuck is one person. Fuck is two. Fuck is three. Fuck is more. Fuck is rapid addition. Fuck is no gender. Fuck is all genders. Fuck is silent. Fuck is loud. Fuck is ordinary. Fuck is occasion. Fuck is insult. Fuck is compliment. Fuck is monetized. Fuck is freely given. Fuck is hot. Fuck is cold. Fuck is chafed skin, hidden liquid, violation, ceremony. The Fuck Word counts.


Samantha Steiner is a Fulbright Scholar and two-time Best of the Net nominee. Her 2019 essay “To the Current Tenant” appears in the print anthology Coffin Bell 2.2, and other works are published or forthcoming in The Emerson Review, Apple Valley Review, and The Citron Review. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Steiner_Reads.

The Kind of Diner – Samantha Steiner

Image: Ricky Singh

The kind of diner where the benches are turquoise vinyl, where the tables are edged in steel and there’s a tin full of half-used crayons by the register. Maybe there’s a jukebox. Maybe the jukebox actually works. Maybe it swallows your nickel.

The kind of bagel shop where half the walls are exposed brick and the other half are glass, where all the furniture was bought at an estate sale. Orders are handwritten on a notepad with a ballpoint pen and strung on the laundry line that spans the counter. There is no bathroom. Even the employees have to duck into the office building across the street on their lunch breaks.

The kind of bakery where the ceiling tiles can be poked out of place with a broom handle, where the chairs and tables are white wire. Help yourself to a pair of tongs, a serving tray. A cashier will give you more napkins than you could possibly need, and you will surprise yourself when you use them all.

The kind of cafe where there’s a corkboard. Someone needs a babysitter. Someone teaches guitar. Someone is selling a used croquet set. Each flyer ends in a fringe of phone numbers. You reach for that fringe and your wallet tumbles from your pocket. Someone picks it up and hands it back to you.

The kind of New York where you still live, though you don’t eat out much anymore.


Samantha Steiner is a Fulbright Scholar and two-time Best of the Net nominee. Her 2019 essay “To the Current Tenant” appears in the print anthology Coffin Bell 2.2, and other works are published or forthcoming in The Emerson Review, Apple Valley Review, and The Citron Review. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @Steiner_Reads.