I was driving to Adelanto listening to some comedy radio show. There’s nothing in Adelanto. At least nothing anybody wants. Just a collection of old cracked streets and faded one-story businesses. The people on the radio show were asking the audience:  What would people find in your drawers if you died unexpectedly? Your closet? They weren’t interested in the collection of Christmas sweaters or the stacks of family albums—they were interested in the dirty things, the things you don’t want anybody to see or know about. The naked pictures. The sex toys. The raunchy.

I started thinking about it. What would people find if I was at work and dropped dead of a heart attack? What? It didn’t take long for me to realize that there wouldn’t be squat. No naked pictures of ex-girlfriends or of me with my junk hanging out. No grainy sex videos. No devices. I just have a few guitars. A stack of journals no one cares about. An orange ceramic Buddha.

It would be an uneventful death.

I could easily see some burdened asshole throwing all of it into a raging fire and not thinking twice.

I used to get semi-nude pictures from some girl who claimed to be a model. It was very random. I never got her pattern down. I’d be at work or getting some gas and my phone would go off and there she’d be in a fancy bra. But after I took a look (or two) I’d delete them. I didn’t want anyone going through my phone and finding pictures of some chick in a lacy thong. My luck, I’d forget my phone at work and that’s exactly what would happen. And then all hell would break loose. I’m paranoid as it is. I don’t need that shit in my life.

When I lived in Vegas I waited tables with a guy named Eric. He was cool, liked his drink, and was newly engaged to a girl named Dawn who had a thing for speed. I knew tweakers. I’d grown up in a town where speed was the drug of choice. Eric didn’t have a clue. But I didn’t say anything. That was his girl. I’d just broken off a relationship with a girl who was loaded with drama. What did I know about wholesome, functional relationships? Nothing.

Eric and I both worked the lunch shift, so after work we’d go out and have a few cocktails. There was a cool little bar across the street called The Swizzle Stick Lounge. It was a locals’ place that poured deep drinks. At the time, we were both discovering the wonders of whiskey. We stumbled out of the Swizzle Stick more than a few times. Wild Turkey. Jack. Maker’s Mark. Dawn would hang out every once in a while. She’d show up with her girlfriends, all hopped up on speed, drink like a fish, and walk a straight line when it was over. Eric didn’t put two and two together.

“She’s awesome, bro,” he’d say, his eyes happy and heavy. “What woman out there can drink and hang with her man all night long? No one! She’s awesome!”

And then, just like that, poof, they were done. Dawn packed up and moved out. The details were sketchy. Apparently she had told Eric that she needed time to think about whether or not she wanted to get married. It sounded like bullshit to me. It sounded like she was too young and too high and didn’t want to get tied down. Happens all the time. Especially in towns like Vegas.

Right after she moved out, Eric told me about the dildos he found. Not just one, but five of them. The first one he found wedged in the corner of a futon in the spare bedroom. “I couldn’t believe my eyes,” he said. It took him a moment to comprehend. He couldn’t even touch the damn thing. He got a towel and picked it up and threw it and the towel away.

“Dude,” he said, shaking his head. “You don’t even know. I just bought that futon from my brother, so my first thought was that it was my sister-in-law’s. But then I said no way. That’s not her. So I started looking around and found the other ones. I never knew she was into those. I guess you really never know someone, even if you think you do.”

I didn’t know what to say. What do you tell someone who just found five dildos, one of them wedged in a futon he bought from his brother, and the remaining four in a small pink purse that also has a bag of speed in it? Nothing. You just nod and say, That’s crazy.

“And the speed?” he continued. “What’s up with that? Was she into that, too? It would make perfect sense. She hardly ate. Never slept. And when she did sleep, she’d sleep for hours. I’m talking like sixteen hours.”

“That’s crazy.”

It wasn’t long before Eric found another girlfriend. He was one of those types who didn’t do single well. Always a girlfriend. Always a boyfriend. I met her before I transferred to another restaurant over by UNLV. She wasn’t a tweaker, but talked as if she was. She worked for the county, seemed to have her act together. Eric told me he’d learned a thing or two from the past and was looking for signs of drug and/or dildo use.

“I’ve learned,” he said confidently. “I keep a lookout. Got to. With Dawn, in the old days, I always wondered why the spare bedroom door was open. I never went in there. One time I came home early and she was in there with the door locked. She said she had locked it by accident. Bullshit.”

I’ve never dated a woman who was into dildos. Or: I’ve never known of any dildos. The girls I’ve dated have always been more of the vibrator variety. When I was in my early twenties I was seeing a girl who liked watching porn. That was her thing. She was constantly pestering me to watch one with her. It would be fun, she said. It would get us in the mood. What kind of fucking man doesn’t watch porn? So one night I was drunk and gave in. It was one of those amateur numbers. Poor lighting. No script. Everything was fine until the camera zoomed in on the dude’s nuts. That was it. I was done. I was drunk and all I wanted was food and sleep. I didn’t need a close-up of some dude’s balls and some pervert from Texas sitting next to me licking her chops.

“Well, that was cool,” I said, and got up and staggered to the kitchen.

“I knew you’d do this!” she hissed. “You’re no fun.”

You’re no fun.”

“Fuck this, man!”

We didn’t last long. I knew we wouldn’t. She said it was because our signs weren’t compatible. I thought it was because we were always drunk and miserable and didn’t know how to conduct ourselves in a civil manner. Oh, and the fact that she was moody and hated the world and everything in it. I wonder what happened to her. I wonder if she’s married, has a couple of kids roaming around, giving people the stink eye. Or maybe she’s single and tearing up the 40-and-over scene.

Ironically, I had met her in Adelanto—the ugly town I was telling you about at the beginning of this story. She had a small apartment right by the military base that’s now gone. This was twenty-two years ago. I wonder if she still lives in the area, if she’s traded in the porn for Sunday church. Or maybe she’s been making some porn of her own. You never know. You just never know.

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RENO J. ROMERO was born in the badlands of El Sereno, California. A bona fide Las Vegan, he also lived in the dirty South for three miserable years, where he was introduced to depression, grits, humidity, and sweet tea. A graduate of UNLV, the Southern Nevada Writing Project, and seedy bars, he enjoys Chinese food, Tamron Hall, the Trickster, and football. He currently writes poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction from the California desert, living among rattlesnakes, old bones, and biker speed. He's been published in various publications including Falling From the Sky (short story anthology), Celebrity Poets, and Central Speak. He can be reached at [email protected]

22 responses to “Dead Girl’s Closet”

  1. Always nice to come across your stuff, Reno, with the kind of writing that sneaks up on you and people and places that drift in and out. Excellent. Give my regards to the desert.

  2. Erika Rae says:

    Reno’s baaaack! I’ve missed your writing here!

    I think quite frequently about what someone might find in my closet or my drawers. Specifically, I worry that they’re going to be a total mess and that I’ll be swiftly judged by my mother or mother-in-law for being so slovenly. I watched a reality show once where the parents came in and daily inspected their children’s drawers and if there was one thing out of place–just one thing–they’d dump ’em out on the floor so the whole drawer could be redone. With my luck, when I die and my drawers are a mess, that is the hell I will go to.

  3. Katy B. says:

    I’m so happy to have been introduced to your writing. Unfortunately, no unforeseen discoveries in my boring ass drawers will be found upon my death. You made me seriously giggle at my desk thinking about it, though. So thanks for that!

  4. jmblaine says:

    Reno has come back
    to us
    from the desert
    wiser, calmer
    more philosophical —
    & brother, we missed
    & needed you.

    Two things:
    1) Tell that burdened jerk
    I want one of your guitars
    (should you pass from this life to the next,
    especially if it’s an SG or old Strat with EMG pickups)

    2) Please, before you go,
    write a bunch of more stories
    with this tone. Cause this is
    the total Reno I love.

  5. Jim Lyons says:

    It’s hard for any guy over 40 to match up against a vibrator, it’s down right not fair, Reno.

    Great story my friend.

  6. Tawni says:

    I love this one, Reno. It made me think about what I’d be most ashamed to own upon my sudden death. I think it’s the trunk full of bad poems, unused song lyric books full of scattered ramblings and trite rhymes, and half-assed story ideas. I should probably burn that trunk just in case.

    Also: FIVE dildos? Dude. That’s just weird. They don’t even vibrate. Like owning five rubber fists or something. Why did she need five? I can tell this question might haunt me for a while.

    • Gloria says:

      I once wrote a short story about a woman who couldn’t figure out how to transport a giant rubber fist to a sex show she was performing in later that night. Like, she just could not find a bag big enough to accommodate it. I never finished the story. I just left her there, in her bedroom, shoving an enormous rubber fist into a too-small duffel bag…

  7. New Orleans Lady says:

    First off, there is nothing wrong with moody. Lets just get over that shit right now.

    Second, I want you to leave all your journals to me when you die. I’m serious! Write it down and get it notarized. Now. You’re not getting any younger, Grandpa, so hop to.

    Last, I don’t think I have any secrets in my drawers. Well, I guess it depends on who’s looking. My mom might be surprised but then again, maybe not. My journals would shock the shit out of everyone but you’d have to read to get that explosion. Yep, I’m good.

    Anyway, nice to see that you’re posting on TNB again. Now, get on those essays!


  8. Ericamos says:

    This was a good read! Maybe desert areas aren’t the best breeders of relationship material? 😉

  9. Reno says:

    Nat: Thank you, pal. It’s been a bit since I’ve had something up. I need to get off my butt. Take care out there and thanks for reading.


  10. Reno says:

    Erika: You’re so funny. When i was young I didn’t keep a clean room. It was impossible. Today that’s not the case. Before who and the hell knows what you’d find. Now, you won’t find anything. Oh! You might find a smoking pipe of some sort from my metal days. MIGHT. Bye, Erika, and thanks. Wait! How are the bees!?!

  11. Reno says:


    darn, you. being all kind and stuff. i’m so appreciative of what you wrote. thanks, 11. we’ll talk about the guitars and other stuff. gotta set my stuff straight. one never knows…

    you’ve been a brother for years. i’m grateful, 11.


  12. Reno says:

    nola: good morning. i have a hard time with moody. just the way it is. but so what! i like football. does that count?

    the green guitar is my girl. we’ve been dating for years. no.

    thanks for reading, nola. i’ll work on those essays.

  13. Reno says:

    lyons: at my age i can’t match up to most things. everything i do is slower and cheaper. i’m holding up the crowd. thanks for reading, my man. wait! i went to see the sngels play last night. first pro game in years. i almost lost my shit and shouting: STEVE GARVEY, YOU ASSHOLE!


  14. Reno says:


    we’re cut from the same cloth like that. just the other day i went through Garageband and listened to 48 songs. 48. some done. some not. some riffs. some choruses. in less than a year. and the journals and ideas on napkins? yeah, i might have to burn the whole room. AND it’s business that doesn’t mean squat to anyone! ha! my damn life story! nothing! too funny, sister!

    i don’t know about the dildo thing. sounds like a lot but i’m not a girl. maybe they were MORE than a dildo to her. like they were confidantes, soulmates. who knows. bye, tawni. good to hear your family is doing the best as possible.

    brisket and whiskey,

  15. Reno says:

    Katy B:

    Good morning! Thank you very much for reading. I appreciate you taking out the time. You’re welcome for the laugh. I can’t tell me how many times I heard/read something that made me break into smile. In fact, the radio that morning did (believe it or not, Katy, I’m heading there right now). Bob and Tom. Check them out. Have a great day. Double check those drawers. One never knows!

  16. Reno says:


    I sense you’ve been around Adelanto, eh…

    Thanks for reading ol’ friend. Good to see you here on TNB. Check out the site. Been up for years. Solid writers and stuff from end to end.

  17. Don Mitchell says:

    I hate to praise your very cool piece by referring to one of mine, because praise should stand alone — but the orange dildo on the road is certainly reminiscent of the green condom I photographed on the road in Hawai’i.

    Sexual apparatus in color. What a thing.

    I do really like this piece, Reno.

  18. Mary says:

    Wow, what kinda man are you? bit of a prude actually. You wanted food and sleep over banging some hot horny readily available female. just wow is all. I guess I can sorta respect that, but I’ll never understand it.

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