by Daisuke Shen
At times, I have fooled others into thinking we are the same. Inside lovers’ rooms, I would squeeze the other’s face—soft at first, then so hard it often scared them—under false pretenses of intimacy. But I only wanted to feel their incendiary contours, the limitations of their cheekbones. I never allowed anyone to do the same.
You of all people know that the world is not fair to people like myself. I was working the graveyard shift as always, at the job no one knew I had. Exhausted, I almost slipped on it. A plain, completely unremarkable face; of course I believed no one wanted it. It fit me perfectly. Every day I wore it, washed it, slept and dreamed inside of it. People began to smile at me. I quit my second job. But one day I walked into the courtyard and all my new friends with their summer hair fell silent.
My first day of dietary freedom felt majestic and grotesque. I found myself thinking about whale arteries, which are shaped like large foreskins with the penises missing inside. I ate twenty bags of Planters’ honey peanuts and four bags of Cheerios. I tried to eat my brother’s ancient CD’s from high school, but they cut the edges of my mouth. I am beginning to think that freedom is overrated, that CD’s should be made more edible, and that in two days I will walk down the aisle to marry a woman I do not love.
Sex in Kitchens
I am fucking a man on his expensive designer table. I have been riding him for around 30 minutes already. My thighs tremble with effort. He makes no sound and does not even look much at my body; his eyes are fixed upon my face, the gaze something more intense than pleasure—an unsettling and inarticulate hunger.
In the warm light, his kitchen is disconcertingly clean — all marble, not a dirty plate or stain in sight. Even my sister, the cleanest person I knew, would at least leave a glass out from time to time, and then she died. When I first entered his apartment, I’d taken off my shoes. They belonged to a previous lover. I scoped out the bathroom while he pissed. There was nothing in the enormous bedroom save for a mattress, one potted plant, and a carton of Parliaments.
When we first met, we were on molly. The drug makes me too open, open enough for all the good stuff to come out. I told him my dream about the doctor and the woman crouching like a cat on a kitchen island, the whole kitchen somehow fake-seeming, a movie set, the long white surgical table upon which they would lay my mother. How she’d clung to my arm, pleading: Don’t leave. She’d cried just like that when she’d lost custody of me as a child, desperate, pathetic: Don’t leave. He told me nothing about himself, not even his name. He asked our friend for my number after I left.
After fifteen minutes: a slight inhale. He holds my cheek as I start crying. I know he is prematurely grieving me. I cry not because I am sad, but because of how clean his kitchen is, how small our fucking makes me feel.
DESIRABLE ORGANIC CHICKEN
I sold naked photos of myself while dying. Think: desirable, organic chicken. Confetti unspooled from my ceiling. It wasn't my birthday. There was no cause for celebration. I'd fucked a man and a man'd fucked me. Those are two separate sentences that mean two different things. In that summer I moved into a room the size of a castrated Buddha's palm. I grew fat and happy in the city, like a chicken before slaughter. I never say his name out loud, but now you'll want to know:
On Sundays, church organs praise a God I've long since left behind.
Daisuke Shen is the author Funeral, co-authored with Vi Khi Nao (KERNPUNKT Press 2023). Their debut short story collection, Vague Predictions & Prophecies, is forthcoming August 2024 from CLASH Books. www.daisukeshen.com.