Merritt Tierce, Fiction


Whiting Awards 2019

Merritt Tierce. Photo: Kent Barker.

Merritt Tierce was born and raised in Texas and attended the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She received a Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers’ Award in 2011 and was a 2013 National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree. Her first book, the novel Love Me Back (Doubleday, 2014), was shortlisted for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction and won the Texas Institute of Letters’ Steven Turner Award for Best Work of First Fiction. Tierce’s writing has appeared in the New York Times, Oxford American, Southwest Review, and other publications. Merritt currently writes for the Netflix show Orange Is the New Black. She lives in Los Angeles and is at work on a book of autofiction about men, sex, writing, the internet, depression, being a woman, physicality, and television.


An excerpt from Love Me Back:

I never wore makeup in high school so I didn’t know how to do it. But I bought some Maybelline at the drugstore and I spread it on my face. It made me look older and ugly. Even though he ignored me I would wait in the parking lot until I saw his Camaro pull in and then I would time my walk so we reached the employee entrance at the same time. The day I wore the makeup I couldn’t tell he was looking at me because of the sunglasses but he said Come here when we got close to the door. What is it, I said. I was standing next to him and he had his hand on the door but he took it away from the handle and pulled me to him by my arm. I tripped forward and he shoved me back. I just need to get this shit off your chin, he said. Jesus. He rubbed across my jawline with the heel of his fist and then took a handkerchief out of his pocket and wiped his hand on it. He whipped the handkerchief unfolded with a snap and pressed it to my face with his palm. I was humiliated but his hand was on my face and that was the first time he had touched me since that other afternoon. I could feel the warmth of his hand on my whole face and I could smell his aftershave and I put my hand up over his hand, to push his hand into my face harder. He jerked his hand down when I did that. What are you doing you little freak, he said. Go wash your face.

I washed my face in the women’s restroom. We weren’t supposed to use the front-of-house restrooms even before the restaurant was open. I hadn’t broken any rules before that but I didn’t want to use the employee restroom because it was unisex and anyone who came in would see me. When I came out of the restroom there was the pay phone between the women’s and the men’s restrooms and I picked up the receiver and called the baby’s father. We weren’t supposed to use the phone ever. My ear was still wet from washing my face. I called him collect. He answered on the first ring and the operator said Will you accept the charges from Marie Young and he said Yes and then he said Are you okay? And I said Let’s get married.