by Emma Aylor

Time Change

It is a morning early in November.
Across the street, in the small city park,  
leaves stitch dropped and dimensional
to the soil like French knots
made chaotic, to overlap, by hand.
The tops of cars throw mirrors
to my ceiling to move shining
on a track across. It is all
much like the movement of an eye.
Whose hand do I see but my own?
When I remove my clothes, the concrete
crosses cold with my bones.
The body and bread
of what I have keeps
particulate in this weather, pasted
as jewel-colored tissue paper
over white—a wash.
Imagine it, to wake with no memory:
like removing a lens
of gold grass from the field.

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Emma Aylor’s poems appear or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, Pleiades, New Ohio Review, the Cincinnati Review, and DIAGRAM, among other journals, and she received Shenandoah’s 2020 Graybeal-Gowen Prize for Virginia Poets. She lives in Lubbock, Texas.

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by Alexandra Munck

April Apples

A radio ghost stands on the invisible stage behind my refrigerator

and plays coy while I scrub turkey gravy out of the curve

of a spoon, saying of her husband of forty-one years,

We knew each other very well. I want to ask her: Are you holding

back wild thoughts like faulty parachutes or kissing

on the breastbone right in that juncture of rib and sternum like

you were trying to commune with the actual organ of love

or the bass-treble of two human sweat scents or dry heat and sand

near pyramids you summoned aliens to build, tomb for your love,

preserving it removing its brains and viscera with hooked instruments?

I want to ask myself what wild thoughts I have about my marriage.

The curve of the spoon is satisfyingly hard. The grime is gone in

a mum cloud. Spring is outside, bigger than this little house,

so we will be runaways soon and scale amazing trees near the

park as our children look for us and we will smash the apples on

our chests, breastbones singing under our fingers like the damp rims

of wineglasses and we will toss the cores into a love cairn as high as

an air traffic control tower, hopping trees and, eventually, planes

and whenever I am asked in forty-one years what our marriage was

I will say We knew each other very well, holding back the location of

us fugitives and our impossible April apples.

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Alexandra Munck is a flowering hybrid of speculative fiction and poetry. Her work has appeared in Three-Lobed Burning Eye, Lackington's, MORIA, SOFTBLOW, and others. She is currently planted in Illinois.

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by Maggie Mumford



I will myself young again. Smooth out my crepey arms and turkey neck. Magic my hair, thick and long once more, down to the ass that I made taut with my bitter wishing. I harden my fingernails until they shine, then smear away the dark bags from under my eyes until my skin is the color of cream. From my deepest cavern, I siphon a rush of blood. Cup it into my hands and flush my cheeks with it.


Grandmother claimed to be a witch. She said anyone could do magic if they hurt badly enough. “This is why most witches are women,” she said, stripping thyme stems and tossing them into a pot with a turkey carcass, fat around the chest like a baby. Like most things Grandmother said, I didn’t really understand the truth of it until I was a grown woman myself. But there was a logic to all her tales that made them easy to believe. My husband hurt me bad, and so I can do this magic. It’s more poetic this way, more homespun, like one of Grandmother’s quilts or the sparkle in her eyes when she told me these stories.


We tried counseling, like every other couple we know. My husband told the counselor that he loved me from the second he first saw me. He described the way I stood leaning against a pool table in a frilly peasant top.

The counselor asked him, “What made you attracted to her?”

My husband answered, “She was sexy. She was—I don’t know what to call it. Carefree.”

Together, they concluded that he couldn’t be attracted to me when I represented a lifetime of stress and household responsibilities.

“Have you tried to be carefree with him?” The counselor looked at me over the black frames of her expensive glasses, her lips pursed, her lipstick sitting in the wrinkles.

“I have not,” I said. “I am in pain a lot.”

This was before the hysterectomy.

“That’s the thing,” my husband said, excitement in his voice like we were getting to the bottom of something. “I associate her with pain. I come home and I’m going to make love to her, or laugh with her, and she’s lying in the dark.”

The counselor nodded, wrote something down.

My husband continued, “It’s like we lost that spark when we had kids.”

“That’s the responsibility factor,” she gestured with her pen.

Together, they built each of my hurts one on top of the other, brick by brick. At the end of the hour, my husband and I are given homework. He is to go about his life as usual and I am to be waiting for him in a sexy nightgown, once in a while. 


This will be my only spell.


The first thing I do after I turn myself young again is shop with my new body. When I first had a body like this, I was mean to it. I told it that it was ugly and fat. This time I know better. I have learned from experience not to hate my new body like I hated my old one. Not on the other side of years of pain and slow walking in public.

I go to one of those boutiques that are so small it’s like shopping in a closet. I buy something tight and short with straps that slip over my shoulders when I move my arms just slightly.

I stop in the mirror to admire the shifts that I made to keep myself unrecognizable for him. I examine my eyes, which are the same shape, but no longer completely brown. Acid green swirls there. I suppose it’s obvious: this spark of jealous anger. But in that sense, I kind of like it. I stare until the swirls expand and eclipse the brown. I’ve always wanted green eyes.

Into my fuller lips, I’ve put the sting of my husband-memories, the bristles of him, the steel wool of my life.

I hold up my longer fingers. This change I planned merely to please myself. In the bright lights of the boutique, I see that I’m still wearing the stack of engagement, wedding, anniversary, mother’s rings. A lifetime of choices and chores, of responsibility. They are loose, clinking and crowding one another, like I can no longer be a young bride, a wife, a life partner, a mother. I let them slide onto a display of scarves, hard metal stacked between silk, and wonder who I am without them.


Grandmother also said, “They’ll make you hate yourself. That’s men’s magic.”


When Grandmother’s words finally made sense, my husband and I were trying out a carefree romantic vacation—part two of the homework from the counselor we’d long since abandoned. I was excited.

Post-hysterectomy, I was relatively pain free. Although my endometriosis was being filled in by other types of pain. Arthritis in my knees, difficulty with my eyes. Still, I felt I would be able to put it aside for one week. I was willing to do that.

We went to the beachside resort where we had stayed on our first anniversary. We arrived in the evening, the insects screeching from the palm trees. The place had gone downhill, but I didn’t say anything. I don’t know if he noticed.

I unpacked various nightgowns in ice cream colors, all too uncomfortable for sleeping. He checked the status of the cable and searched for a nearby liquor store on his phone. “Find anything?” I asked.

“Hmm?” he said, distracted.

“The liquor store?”

“Oh,” he said. “Right.”

Before we left home, I’d found a photo from our honeymoon in the back of our closet. The image was me, in nothing but a pair of black panties, lying sideways on a bed with my original young body glowing from the flash of a film camera in a dark room. The darkness had oranged over the years, but my skin stayed petal white, my back stayed arched in the kind of defiance that demanded attention.

I could say I happened on this picture while packing, but I knew it was there, secreted away when my daughters were young. I didn’t want them to happen upon it and recognize the raw desire in me, or the fact of their father being nowhere in the picture, and that being the whole picture. The way he could take this image of me for his own pleasure, and the pleasure I took in this attention. I didn’t want them to ask any questions about where it had gone.

While he slept, I took his computer out on the balcony. The flash drive, burning in my palm. What does it say of him, and of us, that he’s never changed his password? As soon as I clicked on the browser, a notification popped up from a name I didn’t know. I clicked it, although I should not have.

There were many messages. None from the same girl twice. Young, carefree, in the age range of our daughters, or younger, eyes without wrinkles, hair thick, inside each a uterus where inside me was a space where something once was.

I remembered the sound of his step the night he’d taken my picture. How I’d posed, knowing what he would do, waiting for the flash to lick my skin with white light, his laugh somewhere behind it in the dark. This photo, I’d thought, would help him to remember what we were, who I was. I’d even thought the word carefree, when I pulled it from the box. Though by now, even far away from home, carefree was its own opposite. It hung, heavy lead, in my mind. It wasn’t just my nakedness. It was a time when I was sure that he would never look away from me.

I didn’t want him to have the picture anymore. I didn’t want to convince him to remember.

I didn’t wake him. I put the computer back where I found it and walked to the shore. I threw the flash drive into the water, watched it come back on the next wave and bob pathetically against some shells. I sunk to my knees and pulled fistfuls of sand into my hands and rubbed them into my chest.

I remembered that I could do magic.


I find the bar without difficulty. Even if I hadn’t written the name down, I would’ve been able to guess. The hurt sticks me like a pin: I know him better than he knows himself, and he had still made me feel like a fool.

A patio winds around the brick walls, flapping black awnings slope over the neat little tables, mostly for two. Candles flicker inside shot glasses at the center of each swath of white linen. There’s always a candle flickering. I sling my bag over my bony shoulder and wonder if fire extinguished in one place lights in another. Perhaps the fire whispers of what it saw, who was talking to who. I wonder what the fire knows of love’s beginnings and endings. More than me.

I walk on platform shoes, back in style, and my legs chill with the evening air. They haven’t been out in a long time.

I stand by the door waiting for him. He walks up with a bouquet of roses. Is this why younger women date older men? Because they use tired worn out gestures? He walks slow, and I know because I am his wife that it is because of his knee. When he realizes I’m the one he’s coming to meet, he hitches himself up, quickens his pace. He pretends he is not hurting. I think, is that what you wanted? 

I bite my tongue until I taste blood, lick it over my lips, feel its copper magic make them plumper. I smile to show the strong bones in my gums.

“Hey,” I say. “I’m Luna.”

We get a table for two.


At seventeen, it began.

“The pain is because we are healers,” Grandmother said, putting hot tea on the bathroom counter, painfully out of reach.

I was throwing up, curled on the tile floor of the bathroom that I shared with her, and too drained to stand. I didn’t say anything but felt blood gush from me, as if in response. The bleach smell, from her weekly cleaning of the toilet, stung.

“We smooth over,” Grandmother continued, as if excited to be finally making this lecture to me. “We make people comfortable. We feed and host, and nurture. You can’t heal without taking some pain away. That’s how it works.” She leaned back against the counter and after a long moment blew over the rim of my tea and took a sip.

I groaned, “I don’t do any of those things.”

She shrugged, “Women have been doing it for so long that our daughters and granddaughters hurt before they’ve made their first pot of chicken noodle soup. You come from a long line of healers.”

She took another sip of my tea and then asked, “Are you going to drink this?”


My husband and I finished our carefree vacation in fake ease. We had nights by the sea with bottles of wine. I participated in love-making that no longer hurt me, physically. He laughed and sipped his wine and checked his computers and told me he loved me. The magic fermented inside of me, grew hot, began to boil. He didn’t notice, but I wasn’t surprised. He had grown used to my pain. It had become background noise, a static that he could tune out if he chose.

I let him sit in the damp sand at high tide, clinking wine glasses with me while we held hands and faced the black gulping of the ocean.


We get a table on the patio. I enchant the spring breeze to loop my hair around my face and neck, to whip it around the flush on my cheeks. My husband smiles at me the way he used to. The magic burns, can’t wait for the big finish.

“Luna is a beautiful name,” he tells me, winking.

“My parents are big hippies,” I say.

He swallows his scotch, shows his teeth with the sting, says, “I’ve never had time for that. I was already working my ass off.”

I can see that he is wondering whether or not he should’ve said that. He drums his fingers against the table, nervously butters bread.

“That’s so cool,” I say, smiling.

He turns to me and apologizes, “I’m a workaholic.”

I laugh, but am not amused. I remember this dance. Laugh no matter what he says, smile, tell him what he is saying is brilliant and funny. Make him feel handsome and wanted, like a genius, like more than himself. Carefree.

I say, “It’s easy to work hard when it’s something you care about.”


When I got married, Grandmother sewed a sachet of herbs and violets into my dress. She held me by my lace sleeves and looked me in the eyes and said, “Love only lasts so long.”


My husband, I now realize, probably started fooling around early. He probably went through phases where he stopped, felt guilty, and then phases where he began again and was relieved to feel the rush of himself, whoever that was.

When we had been married ten years, I waited up for him one night. One of the nights he was working late. I wanted to surprise him with champagne and roses. I fell asleep in the chair with the tv rumbling company.

When I heard him shuffling in the kitchen, heard him clink the bottle of champagne as he picked it up and then put it back down quietly, so as not to wake me, and heard him bypass me on the couch on his way upstairs, I knew. Though it has taken me a long time to admit this, I knew then.


Dinner turns into dessert and then, very easily, into a hand in hand meander to a nearby hotel. I remember to attach myself to his arm like I will lose my balance if I don’t walk against him. Even though it’s for his benefit, it feels good to giggle again, like something painted shut has just been worked open.

When we kiss against the door, he becomes a little younger, too.


I thought Grandmother would go on forever, but she died two months after my first daughter was born. In retrospect, it was clear that Grandmother wasn’t fully with us, even then. She had paled, softened, become something of a shadow, as if we were watching her transition from this world to the next.

I remember the crumpled look of Grandmother’s skin as I handed her this new pink life, her hands grayish and spotted while she kissed the baby’s forehead. I felt angry when the first thing she said was, “Poor thing, poor thing.”

I didn’t have to ask her why my daughter was a “poor thing.” I knew what she would say, and I didn’t want to hear it. I watched the old woman rock my daughter, cup her head like trying to hold water, and sing a song about a maiden finding, and then losing, a man.


Before my husband left for work this morning, I made sure to sit with him and have breakfast because it was a favorite part of our marriage. I liked the way his smile looked over orange juice and coffee and eggs in bright light. Everything sunny.

I made sure to take his hand and look in his eyes and say, “I love you.”

He said it back, the bastard, he looked at me, and said it back.


In the hotel room, I get lost in the desire. I’ve been starving. I kiss him and make love to him, but I’ve never stopped doing that. The difference is him and his hunger for my new body.

He reaches for the lamp, but I tell him to leave the lights on. I want him to see me when it happens.

We ride the waves, we plummet like swallows, we wriggle like worms.

He gasps, he grunts, he groans, he says that I am the best he has ever had and I think he means it.

I vault my venom from my veins, I hold him like vines, I envelop his heart with my magic until I am clutching it with invisible fingers. I vacillate between joy and pain. I take my last bit of pleasure, and then I lift the veil.

We unify. He recognizes me. I age.

We melt, his eyes tear up, his hand touches the side of my face.

He loves me before he is horrified, before I rot, taking him with me, until we are tumbling into each other, growing over each other, until we are just bodies. He is the last thing I see and I—rotten, teeth falling out, hair in clumps as he tries to get free—am the last thing he sees, too.


The first time I heard the scream of feral cats mating I was just a little girl, and I was frightened. I must have screamed, too, because Grandmother rushed to scoop me into her arms and hold me to the cloying softness of her neck.

“Don’t cry,” she said.

“What is it?” My small voice choked with panic. “What is it?”

Grandmother’s voice scratched the dark: “Love.”

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Maggie Mumford is a writer and director with a BA in theatre from the University of Mary Washington and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Memphis. She teaches English in rural Virginia. In 2017 Maggie received an honorable mention from Glimmer Train's Emerging Writers contest for her short story "The Flying Circus." Her essay "Ether" appeared in the August 2019 issue of Crab Fat Magazine and was nominated for Best of the Net.

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by Christina Drill

The Goddess Isis (Just the Head)

It felt like Vanessa had walked miles, but she still could not find the man’s apartment. She was late and lost so as she crossed the Eastern Parkway she texted him saying, I’m close.

K hurry, he texted back. And then immediately after, as though he had already been drafting it:

Can you pick up olives? Otherwise it’s caper martinis.

Vanessa exhaled down her coat to warm her neck. She was afraid she passed the last bodega, and no supermarkets were open past ten.

Out of bodega territory, Vanessa texted back. Capers are fine I guess. 

She guessed? Sure, capers were fine. She patted at her hair, which she had recently dyed a light green after bleaching it a snow white. She took her phone out and switched on the front-face camera to see what she looked like. The tip of her nose was red and maybe she had colored in her eyebrows too dark, but ringlets of curls were still flowing from the carefully constructed updo on top of her head. She had created each curl herself, by twisting a chunk of her wavy hair around a finger, which she’d dipped in gel, and counting to twenty. She had just learned how to do this today—kind of dramatic, but she liked it.

It turned out she had memorized his address wrong, solving the problem by going back in their texts to double check. The building number was 674, not 746.

I’m five minutes away, she texted him, when really it was more like ten.

Sheesh. K, he texted. Was trying to time dinner!

She upped her pace, the heel of her leather boots clicking at the sidewalk. She could not tell if she was annoyed or horny at his impatience.

Warm air hit her when he opened the door to his apartment, revealing himself in person for the first time.

“You exist,” he said, his eyes wide and hungry. She could smell meat being broiled, and a sweet orange incense.

“Hi,” Vanessa said, and it was only now that she began to wonder who he was.

“Let me take your jacket.” Vlad had a soft, deliberate voice. He was tall, built, and bald, like his photos had advertised.

“Sure.” Vanessa shouldered off her floor-length pea coat and gave it to him. Vlad touched the coat’s right arm, feeling the material.

“It’s nice,” he said, in a way that made Vanessa think that she should feel honored by this compliment.

“It’s my dad’s,” Vanessa said.

“That’s stylish,” Vlad said, hanging it for her. Her eyes were being drawn to his mouth, which was small and gummy and corporeal. His teeth made their own inner circle inside of his lips when he smiled. It reminded her of Gumby’s mouth, but she wasn’t sure if it was word association, because she could see a lot of gum, or what. Aside from his mouth she found him sexy. He led her into his kitchen by gently clamping two of his fingers over two of her fingertips, like he was taking her pulse and walking away with it.

“I forgot the olives,” he repeated. He stared at her like he wasn’t expecting her to forgive him.

“It’s really okay,” Vanessa said, picking up a cigarette from the pack on the windowsill and lighting it with a match. The window was open. His kitchen was spacious with lots of cabinetry.

“You sure,” he said, more a sentence than a question. “Like I have olive juice, so they’ll be dirty. But no olives.”

“Oh, good,” Vanessa said, exhaling smoke out the window. “As long as they’re dirty.” She spotted the spire of the Empire State Building in the distance, flickering blue.

“You’re so far out here, and you still have a view.” She was trying to act very detached, which was easy since her defense mechanisms were doing most of the work. She imagined what she looked like, sitting here with her leg up on this man’s windowsill, in a tight cream turtleneck one size too small. Desperate or hot? She never did this kind of stuff.

Vlad was at the oven checking on the food—filet mignon, he told her, was what he was making. She smelled saffron. He stared at her like he wanted to do or say something but then returned to prodding the meat.

“Yeah, well,” he said finally, with the belabored voice of an old man. “My friends make fun of me for living in Hasid town, but look how big this apartment is.”

For a one bedroom it really was huge. Well-decorated, too—a Persian rug and a giant plant, taller than Vlad, loomed in the living room.

He started to make the martinis, which Vanessa had requested in the app’s chatbox a few hours before. She watched him measure two shots of Grey Goose, then one and a half shots of Vermouth, into two glass cups.

“I meant gin,” Vanessa said, putting out the cigarette on an ashtray. She noticed how much liquor was in each glass and already felt lightheaded with the tobacco in her blood. “So Russian of you.”

Vlad smiled at her with his eyes, not with his small circular lips, and pulled out a baguette. He grasped it like it was moving torque, or a living snake. Then he dropped it on a wooden cutting board, where there was already a wheel of white smelly cheese, and told her to help herself.

“Nostrovia,” he said as he handed her the martini. It had little capers floating near the bottom, like tadpoles swimming in a shallow lake.

Vanessa clinked her glass against his. “Does nostrovia mean ‘I know where this is going?’” she said, jokingly.

“No,” Vlad said, taking a long slow slug of his martini. “It means, ‘let’s get drunk.’”

When dinner was ready Vlad asked Vanessa not to put her shirt back on. It had come off soon after they began kissing against the pantry door, halfway through the drinks. Both Vanessa’s turtleneck and her bra had ended up in a pile during the proceedings.

“Seriously?” Vanessa said, make-up totally ruined now, a swirling hickey already forming under her collarbone, the buzz in her head a pillowy buffer between her brain and her body.

She took a few steps away from the pantry and scratched at her head, near the crux of the updo.

“Stay like that?” Please?” Vlad asked again, between deep breaths. “If you’re cold I’ll shut the window.”

In case Vlad had an extraordinary penis—so far she had only felt it through his slacks and did not have a read—Vanessa decided to indulge him. After all, she was here to get laid.

“Fine, perv,” Vanessa said, sitting cautiously at the table without her shirt on, her palm-sized tits just out like that, someone’s fantasy.

“My fantasy,” Vlad said, as if he were reading her mind. He sat down across from her at the little table.

“Your kink is a girl eating steak, while you stare at her boobs?” Vanessa said. Vlad reached over, his face inches from hers, and pulled her head back by grabbing some fallen hair at the nape of her neck. He twisted it towards the window. She stayed in this strained position for a few seconds, at his discretion, and she got turned on knowing he was studying her compromised profile, at her long neck curving backwards like a dying goose. “Yes,” he said softly, then let go to pick up his knife. Vanessa rolled her head around her neck until it was back on it normally, set her napkin in her lap, and gently, cut into her steak. Blood juice flowed in a parting stream to the edges of the porcelain plate, right at the level where her nipples were.

“Is it good?” Vlad asked her, preemptively, which annoyed her. His eyes were doing small loops from her chest to her mouth.

“I mean, I’ll tell you in a second,” she said. She sounded angry but a blush spread across her neck. She popped a piece of steak into her hungry mouth and chewed. Then she ate a fingerling potato. There, she knew it. The saffron.

She slept with him after dinner, obviously. The penis was not extraordinary—in fact, it was what her friends referred to as bad dick, dick that never really got hard, even after it rose with blood to its most functional form. But the bad dick didn’t seem to be getting in his way. Vlad kept sticking it in, cumming, pulling it out, reviving the boner, going again. He was rough with his hands. He whispered things in Vanessa’s ears she’d never heard before, creative things that made her feel useless and worthless and hot for it.

Yes, it was technically bad dick, but it wasn’t all bad. Vanessa usually reserved orgasms for when she was alone, in her room with the door locked, just her joystick and porn from the internet. But on round two, something alchemized while he was squeezing her tits and slapping her stomach and she didn’t even see it coming until it was a freight train two inches from her face and then—pop. Pleasure, heightened by the vodka. To Vanessa this felt like the kind of sex one would expect to have with an alien—too weird and sick and consummate for earth.

They cleaned up and lay in bed for a while, him spooning her a little, both of them spent. Vlad’s eyes were closed but Vanessa was studying the tableau of his bedroom window, the view outside it, like it was a painting in the Met. What might have been buildings and sky during the daytime just looked like shadows now, but she could still see the spire from the Empire State, only it was in the left corner of the window frame, not below front and center like it had been in the kitchen. The gauzy translucent curtains surrounding it were skewed to one side. She liked the curtains; they looked well-made. She wondered where they were from.

“Let’s take a bath.” Vlad stood up suddenly, awake and energized. His legs were long, and with his penis at her eye level for the first time Vanessa noticed that it was not circumcised.

“What?” Vanessa said, not sure if she’d heard him correctly. She wanted to check her phone for the time—she guessed it was probably around midnight. She should call an Uber soon. It was still possible for her to get a full night of sleep before work in the morning.

“A bath,” Vlad’s low voice echoed from the bathroom. She heard the tub filling up, the scraping together of Epsom salt, a hiss of a lighter providing a flame. “I’m drawing a bath.”

Vanessa sat up to deconstruct her ruined updo, taking the bobby pins out of her hair. She shook out her curls so they fell down her shoulders, and imagining they were natural, tucked her hair behind her ears.

Just like the rest of the apartment, the bathtub was spacious, wide enough to hold both their bodies. Vlad slipped in first, then Vanessa slipped in second, the top half of her body leaning against the back end of the tub, facing him from the other side, her legs tucked between his legs, which he had spread open so that hers could fit between them. Only from here did Vanessa notice the six or seven tea candles adorning the toilet. Vanessa couldn’t remember the last time she had taken a bath.

“Let it be known you’re really beautiful,” Vlad said from the other end of the bathtub. His voice did have an echo in there, still soft but with a depth to it, like it had been harmonized on a sound machine.

“Thanks,” Vanessa said, sheepishly, rubbing some rose scrub she’d found on the lip of the tub gently into her kneecap. She couldn’t remember the last time someone had called her beautiful. Not that she was blown away by the gesture, or even found it particularly romantic. 

“I mean it,” he said. “I was struck by you the second I saw your photo.”

“Okay,” Vanessa said. She rarely found men beautiful, and when she did she didn’t want to sleep with them, just look.

Vlad talked a little about his childhood in Arkhangelsk on the banks of the Dvina, the mouth of the White Sea. How his pee would freeze in his baby diaper. How he came to the states when he was ten, in the early nineties, at the same time as all the other Russian Jews, and started fifth grade in Seattle. He’d only been in New York a year.

“Jewish? But you’re not circumcised,” Vanessa pointed out, like a bad detective.

“My dad says it was safer to not know a rabbi,” Vlad said. Then he asked Vanessa if she had ever been to Saint Petersburg.

“No. I’ve not been to Russia at all.”

“This may sound forward,” Vlad said, reaching up with his arm and folding his wingspan in half to scratch the back of his neck, drops of water and tiny bubbles sprinkling onto his shoulders, “But, there is this sculpture of the goddess Isis, at the Museum of Fine Art there. It’s my mom’s favorite. You look like it.”

Vanessa blushed and, an automatic response, lowered herself into the water so that her head, and hair, were submerged. Oh, God, she thought, as she held her breath.

Then she came back up for air and Vlad said, “No I’m serious. The sculpture is only of her head, but the eyes, the nose, the mouth. It’s you. I didn’t make the connection until just now.”

Vanessa brought her hands up to her face and squished her mouth together. She slapped her cheeks, and combed her eyebrows with her wet fingers. She groaned. “Sorry,” she said, through the spaces between her fingers. “Trying to figure out how to deflect that corny flirtation.”

“I was being serious,” Vlad said, almost impatiently. “I’m not flirting. I’m just stating.”

“State something about Saint Petersburg then,” she begged.

And so as the tea candles burned, Vlad talked about Saint Petersburg. About two parallel streets and the flowers that grew on them, and a boy named Igor he befriended on a playground, who gifted him a tiny knife and then disappeared. Did she want to see the knife? Vanessa was only half listening. A calmness was seeping into her as she began to think about her work week, what she would wear tomorrow, the new films playing at the Angelika, and the party she was planning for Elizabeth, her first girlfriend to turn thirty. They had reserved the back room at a Szechuan restaurant, and an oversized piñata she had ordered online would arrive at her apartment tomorrow. What would she write on the party invitations? Something funny. She was looking forward to her week, rare for her on a Sunday, and in this calmness during which her life felt so full a radical thought came to Vanessa that maybe this was all she needed from a man—for one to view her as if she were a statue, a beautiful un-sentient composition, one that did not need to take but a breath for everyone to go, “oooh.

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Christina Drill is a writer from New Jersey. Her fiction has been recognized by Glimmer Train, Nimrod, and Key West Literary Seminars, and her stories can be found in Chicago Quarterly Review, The Florida Review, Blue Earth Review, and Hobart. She is a graduate of the University of Miami’s MFA program, where she was a Michener Fellow, and is currently based in Chicago. You can find her online at @stidrill.

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