Short Fiction by

Alyssa Proujansky

We May Be in a Vortex of Doom, But At Least We’re in it Together

by Alyssa Proujansky

     Andrew and I are sitting on the bench in front of the coffee shop where we work, smoking cigarettes. We’re listening to “Fake Plastic Trees,”on repeat, sharing Andrew’s headphones, one ear bud in my right ear, one in his left, our heads touching. We’re talking about how we’re both asexual, and how relieved we are to finally know this about ourselves. We’re also talking about our apartment.

Our apartment used to be just my apartment, which I lived in alone, until I took my puppy, Annabel, from the dog rescue guy who roofied my soda when I came to volunteer. The rescue place turned out to be his crappy home. I’d spent the day sweeping up swirling balls of fur,mopping up puppy shit. I wasn’t scheduled to adopt Annabel for another week, but after what happened under the fly-strewn lights of his kitchen, I put her under my coat and ran to my car.

The dog rescue guy isn’t why I’ve decided I’m asexual, but, as Andrew says, it sure didn’t help. I feel happy about this asexual revelation. It makes things finally make sense, is what I say to Andrew, and he agrees.

Andrew lives with me now. I invited him to. Together with Annabel, we make up a nice little family. We love each other. We admire each other’s eyelashes, and stare deep into one another’s eyes. We move easily through the apartment in various states of undress. We pick up blueberry ice cream and special kinds of crackers at the bodega on the corner. Andrew buys the toilet paper, since he knows I don’t like the way the deli guy laughs when I purchase beverages at the same time.

“Water in, water out!” the deli guy says.

The coffee shop is called Soy Luck Club. The name makes both of us cringe, experiencing somersaults of rage and despair deep in our abdomens, in the spaces where revved-up, superfunctional sex organs should be. Maybe the void space Andrew and I both have allows more room for vortexes of doom.

“She lives with a bro-o-oken man!” Andrew sings, punching his skinny leg aggressively to the beat.

I love the longness of his limbs, and the way his cheeks flush, and how he seems so wispy-swishy when he talks to customers, so vacant and fey, but has this sharp edge around me where all of his anger comes out. We may be in a vortex of doom, but at least we’re in it together.

We entertain each other with lurid stories of things we once did: evidence of how we’d tried to medicate the asexuality away instead of just accepting it. Others are morality tales about waste, demonstrating how our younger, promiscuous, druggie selves burned the last little dust motes of sexual energies from our systems.

We change our minds as to which of these we believe in, according to the day, and don’t call each other on our inconsistencies.

One of our regular customers, Dom, comes out of Soy Luck Club. He tries to join us on the bench. It would be big enough for three if either of us moved over, but we don’t. We blow out smoke, ostentatiously. We slant our eyes at each other.

Dom catches the tail end of our conversation. “I’m an asexual too,” he says. “A non-practicing one!”

“My doctor says I have an exquisite asshole,” Andrew tells me.

We’ve been making a list: all of the inappropriate, rapey things people have said and done. It’s a sort of book of good and evil—who will be condemned, who saved.

Really, we’re the ones who feel ruined.

“The one time I went to a male gynecologist, he actually used the word panties,” I say. “Then, when the nurse left the room, he told me I had a perfect vagina. That anatomical models should be based on it or something.”

“He probably actually said vulva,” Dom interjects. “Most women don’t realize that’s the proper term.”

Andrew smiles and brushes an eyelash from my cheek. “My fake plastic love,” he trills. He holds the eyelash on the tip of his finger, in front of my lips. “Blow.”

Dom misunderstands. Maybe he thinks we’re trying to be bawdy, or turn each other on.

“I once sucked my own dick,” he announces, grandly.

Andrew and I just look at him.

“It was uncomfortable at first,” Dom says, “but I managed.”

“Were you your first?” Andrew bats his eyelashes. “Or were you old hand at it?”

Dom looks suddenly afraid. “I didn’t like it much.” He inches toward the door. “I never did it again.”

As Dom goes back inside, Andrew turns to me.

“What did you wish for,” he asks. “When you blew your eyelash away.”

Years later, when we no longer live together, I’ll get a call from a police officer. He’ll tell me that Andrew hung himself from a beam above his bedroom window.

“Your number was the only one in his phone,” he’ll say.

For now, I just rest my head against Andrew’s. His hair fans out over my eyes. His breath is warm on my cheek—sharp, with the edge of something sweet, like milk.

“I wish I could be what you wanted,” I think, but don’t say aloud. “I wished away people who use the word pussy,” I say instead. “Also, panties. I wished away everyone not like you.”

Alyssa Proujansky has studied fiction in Ithaca, London and New York. A finalist in contests held by Boulevard, CutBank and Glimmer Train, she was recently named runner-up in Atticus Review’s Flash Fiction Contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Moon City Review, Atticus Review, Flock, Lunch Ticket and decomP. She lives in Brooklyn, where she is at work on her first novel.

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