Jane wanted to go to the fetish ball. Jane was my experimental friend. I’d been described as dark and strange and pretty but Jane was darker and stranger and prettier. She had green winged eyes and surrounded herself in gauzy fabrics and did spells. She flickered in and out, sometimes becoming so bright it hurt to look at her 40s hair and red paint mouth but other times she faded, looking doughfaced and smeary and barely present at all. Jane worked part-time in a psychic store and lined her eyes thickly while I worked as an English as a Second Language instructor and penciled in my eyebrows light brown and sometimes wore sheer pantyhose. When other people I knew met Jane, they were confused or weirded out. I felt as though they were seeing me naked.
The night of the fetish ball, Jane brought over a small suitcase. I had to become someone grander than my own closet would allow me to be, and Jane was a good friend, or she wanted company.
Jane laid everything out across the laminated fake-wood floor. My landlord was always yelling at me for walking on this floor with shoes on (shoes!) and I’d go, “it’s laminated!” Anyway, everything Jane laid out: a pile of garter belts with their tiny bows and snaps; a mélange of bras: lace, satin, padded, cupless; endless stockings; corsets, shiny and boned like exoskeletons. I chose a pink satin underbust and Jane said I could wear it. She pulled hard on the back laces until my waist looked like something impossible, like something out of a Victorian magazine or Gone With the Wind, until I looked like a doll people would protest for giving girls the wrong message about what bodies could be; I felt gorgeous. I tried on several of my own skirts before trying one of Jane’s, a black one, simple cotton and short only on one side, with some of her garters and pink stockings she’d bought for me at Goodwill. The six-inch-heels and fur stole were mine, recent acquisitions from day-drinking excursions with Jane. “I look crazy,” I said.
“You look amazing,” said Jane.
“Thanks,” I said, because I had thought so too but I wasn’t sure. “You do, too.” Jane was wearing a gray girdle with built-in suspenders, a purple bra, red lipstick, and combat boots.
I met Jane from the internet. Her profile pictures had all been taken by webcam in her room and her skin was powdered and her lips a bloody pout. Her profile mentioned rooibos tea and knives. It was full of nouns for liquids. I had been looking at Jane’s profile occasionally for two years when I finally contacted her, and what was happening now was both what I had imagined and not.
Jane and I were both listed as bisexual, on the internet, but we were only kind of that. She’d had one long lesbian affair in her early youth—an obsessive enmeshed thing that involved mutual cutting and watching each other shit. And me, I had only held hands with a lesbian once. It had been night out, and cold, and a third friend, someone I had only just met, was holding her other hand as we walked down a populated street. How I had felt was electric and very alive. How I had felt was like very alive electrical wires were taped to my bones.
So I could barely walk but I felt gorgeous. I had a headache though so I took Advil, only after I swallowed three pills I realized I’d taken melatonin. Everything felt ruined. I told Jane.
“Puke,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. I left the door open and plunged my fingers into the back of my throat.
“I think if I’m going to puke I’ll need to drink more,” I said.
Jane handed me whiskey. I chugged some and plunged again and vomited into the bowl.
I smeared Jane’s shimmery violet powder around my eyes and then held her arm hard as we walked to her car. “I can’t walk,” I said. “I am like a queen.”
“You look like a queen.” Jane laughed. Her voice had been faux condescending but also it had wrapped me, like a cheap satin quilt.
“Do I need a fake name for this? What should my fake name be? ”
“Do you have ideas?”
“I was thinking Annika,” I said.
“Or Chloe.” “I like both of those,” said Jane.
We already knew Jane’s name, because she’d been a professional once: Clarice.
BDSM worker play names were weird. I’d met Jane’s coworkers and if their names weren’t colors or nature objects—Blue, Violet, Raven, Snow—then they were little girlish names, or literary-sounding French lady names—Zoey, Josie, Juliette, Simone. What was weird was that people actually had these names, in real life, the little girl-sounding ones or the French-sounding ones, their parents assigned them, these names that were so obvious to use for sex.
We drove for a long time down dark freeways. There were paper fast food cups in Jane’s cupholder and on the floor and an oldies station on that neither of us had picked and it felt like we didn’t even care about going to the party anymore, like we were on our way to a night shift job. Our freeway exit was near the airport. There were rental car lots and rows of unmarked buildings—warehouses, places for putting unwanted things, or things that might be wanted, later. Everything here felt related to transit or storage. Jane pulled into the parking lot of one of the unmarked buildings. It looked identical to all the others. “It’s this,” Jane said.
“Did you decide on a name?” Jane said. I wanted her to pick but I didn’t want to ask.
”Chloe, I guess.”
“I like that.” Jane took my hand in hers and led me inside.
Inside were short-haired girls prancing barefoot in fake satin thongs. Rope circled their necks and bound their bare tits which stuck out like traffic cones. There were boys chained to giant crosses with pink raised lashes across their chests, flanked by girls with horsewhips. Somehow what I felt most was tired, but in a pleasant way, as though I’d been dropped into a happy dreamworld I wouldn’t have to interact with.
I felt glamorous, too, though. I felt I could afford to be tired. I thought of glamorous tired words: lounge, laze, wanton.
Lady Cyanide was hobbling to the bar in glitter heels and pastel eyeliner. I didn’t know yet that her name was Lady Cyanide but I thought that she was the kind of glittery young gay boy I always wanted to befriend, the kind of boy whose existence proved that glitter could be armor. Her studded gold hot pants and a duct-taped black cincher looked as though they were made by excited broke twenty-year-olds who loved each other, and her nipples were visible through holes in her chain mail top. She was smiling big, clutching the shoulder of her pale chubby dyke friend. I was sitting in a chair holding my head above my fur collar in a way that felt regal and Lady Cyanide made me smile.
But anyway I hadn’t even met Lady Cyanide yet, she was just some boy, and Jane came over to where I was sitting in a white folding chair next to a tiny table with a white tablecloth. She was holding mixed drinks in plastic cups. “Red Bull vodkas,” she said. “You know, in case you didn’t puke up all the melatonin. I flirted with the bartender and got them for free.” I adjusted my fur. I sipped the Red Bull vodka through a thin plastic straw. Onstage was a dyke in a onesie whose hair was half-shaved and half dyed rainbow colors lip syncing to a child’s Christmas song. I crossed and uncrossed my legs. I made eye contact with a woman in a feathered burlesque dress and smiled. She was black and immaculately sequined and renaissance statue-sized. She smiled back and I felt a jolt through my body. I whipped my hair. Jane set down our drinks and sat in the chair next to me. She leaned in and whispered, “I’m so turned on!” I felt strange because I was not turned on but maybe I was turned on, too. Like a lamp. Like a lava lamp, maybe—something tacky and alluring, with too-bright inner life, churning. Maybe it was exposed now, here, in my corset—what was too bright and hot and bubbling, maybe it was turned on.
Next onstage was my glamour giraffe, my wigless queen in blue shimmer eye paint to the brows. Her pale skin, the visible and awkwardly-fitted assemblage of bones, the glossy glossy Angelina Jolie lips, the obvious cheap construction done with cool friends and internet tutorials. And what became obvious during Lady Cyanide’s lip sync dance was, she was so so sweet. It was her smile, I think, her face’s obvious desire to connect with the audience, rather than to seem cool. “Look!” I whisper-shouted to Jane. “Yeah,” Jane said. “She’s cute.”
After the show, Jane went out for a cigarette. “Maybe it will be easier to meet people if we separate,” she said. “I want to play.” Jane had somehow become my twin, or I’d become hers. We shared lipstick and talked to people wordlessly with our big lined eyes. We wore each other’s dresses and drank the same whisky. People asked all the time, were we sisters. This gave us the air of retro carnival freaks, which was sometimes attractive to people, but only sometimes. I didn’t plan to meet anyone anyway, but I wanted to watch. I sat on a throne that was pushed against a wall. I crossed my legs and watched a girl in an acrobat costume spin around a stripper pole to Tori Amos’s “Leather.” I realized the girl was someone I used to teach with, years ago, at a stuffy and corporate language school in a rich part of town it took me almost 90 minutes in morning traffic to drive to. She had always seemed like someone only posing as a teacher temporarily, with her shimmery lavender Urban Decay liner on for casual Fridays. So I was watching this former colleague invert on the stripper pole, head facing the floor and legs splayed 180 degrees and then Lady Cyanide was heading toward me and asking if she could sit down. I hadn’t even had to make eye contact. Sometimes if you costume yourself the right way, who you are and all of your desires become apparent, and this, I think, was like that. Lady Cyanide and I were both in a kind of drag that we felt invited to perform in a dungeon, but which was an expression straight from the parts of ourselves that were compatible, completely. “Can I sit here?” she asked, and I said that she could.
We introduced ourselves: Lady Cyanide, Chloe. She asked if I was new to the scene and I said I wasn’t in it. This felt obviously duplicitous as soon as I said it; either I was in the scene or my name wasn’t Chloe. Is anyone’s name actually Chloe? She asked what, then, I did, outside the scene.
I smiled and looked down. Nothing about who I normally was made sense here and that made my mouth fill with blank. “What do you do outside the scene?” I said.
Lady Cyanide was studying to become an exotic animal trainer, which made so much sense that it felt made up. She said her favorite animal was foxes. Her eyes were even blue and surrounded in thick but evenly applied silver glitter. She told me that cats didn’t like repetition, and that female baboons didn’t like human women.
I smiled and nodded, sure that Jane’s pink corset and my fur stole and platforms said everything already, like trying to react in an interesting way would just be unnecessary work.
“So do you want to play?” she asked. Her eyes burned into mine sweetly when she asked. So direct, so easy.
“Are you submissive?” she asked, and I felt submissive so I nodded again.
She told me to wait and I sat there on the throne. I sat, feeling claimed. I was being flaunted the way there’s always one really exquisite piece of furniture at the thrift store with a stuck-on paper marked SOLD.
“Can I sit there?” one boy asked.
Another stopped twice to compliment my outfit. He was so enthusiastic, the way hippies and train kids are enthusiastic, a way that seems so authentic and impossible to account for. Still, no one responded to me this way out in the world, outside the dungeon. Outside the dungeon people called me ma’am if they had to address me. My body felt more mine in Jane’s shiny pink corset so tight it constricted my breath, more mine in long synthetic eyelashes glued above my real ones.
Lady Cyanide returned with a riding crop and a flogger and her chubby dyke friend. “Can my friend watch?” she asked. I smiled at the friend. Lady Cyanide looked at my eyes again and grabbed my hand. She told me my safe word could be red and then she bent me over a low leatherette table.
She didn’t ask what I liked or wanted and I was glad. She just hit me hard in various places until I reddened, and then switched where she hit. I didn’t have to say “red” because she could see it, she could see the red. She stood me up and chained my wrists to a hook on the ceiling and stood me in front of a mirror and I was glad because I looked gorgeous and why should other people be the only ones to get to enjoy that? People only appreciate your gorgeousness if you do not, if you don’t know you’re gorgeous, which is unfair and maybe even tragic and I was glad Lady Cyanide could appreciate my gorgeousness while watching me appreciate it, too. And Lady Cyanide was gorgeous, too—we were gorgeous together and I wanted to see that and I was glad that she let me see, that she’d arranged for this. I thought of my former coworker from the stripper pole, what would happen if she walked in and saw this. Nothing would happen, I thought. Or something would. The world-slide when someone you’ve been around a lot breaks character. It’s not comfortable unless you already suspected something or felt an untapped connection, but we never had one.
Lady Cyanide turned me around and kissed me and we kissed and kissed with our glossed pink mouths and our mascara lashes and then she said, “I’ve never kissed anyone I’ve played with before” which surprised me because I thought kissing was just part of things here, that it was obvious, or polite, and then I wondered what it meant, to kiss here. It felt exciting, now that she had said this, like we liked each other. After the kissing ended, Lady Cyanide gestured me atop a wooden box with arm and ankle straps dangling on its sides. I was lying bellydown on the box being flogged between the shoulders when I heard Jane’s voice saying my name, loudly. Her voice was saying my real name, not Chloe, and I wondered if she was angry or tired or trying to re-claim me. When I looked up, everything was sharper lines and more saturated colors and I felt more awake and motile than I could remember having felt and I felt happy to see Jane’s face there, her green winged eyes between the hanging hooks, her hip cocked against a leatherette spanking horse, her red lips smirking as though she had arranged this. Lady Cyanide asked for my number so I gave it to her and then Jane wanted to go home, so we did.
The Del Taco drive-thru was closed so we had to go inside, even though I hated fluorescent lights and being seen out in public. Del Taco was the true public space now. Everyone went to Del Taco. They even had internet, even though it barely worked. Jane always ordered everything she liked at the same time—mac and cheese bites and veggie burritos and fish tacos and fries, so that our order was over $20 and would take forever to be ready. She did this instead of grocery shopping—her fridge was full of paper-wrapped drive thru food. As we were collaborating on the decision of two fries versus one, the guys behind us were like, “Are you girls models? You’re so beautiful.” Jane rolled her eyes like she was disgusted and kept talking about fries. I looked at Jane and her dark-lined eyes. Jane was someone who made you think retro words like kohl. I thought she was beautiful. I felt a weird mix of power and shame. Maybe we were amazingly beautiful. Or maybe our faces were dripping with smeared end-of-night makeup and we looked easy to fuck. If we really looked like models, I thought, he’d be too intimidated to ask, but then I’ve never been a dude, so possibly even loser-type dudes at Del Taco felt more entitled to other people than I did.
In Jane’s room, I ate fried balls filled with goopy cheese and overcooked pasta and Jane ate a burrito. I was glowing and rushy still, lying on Jane’s rose-colored Victorian loveseat and feeling my skin burn a little. Everywhere were small candles and huge ones, draped fabrics, statues of gods and sex organs, and books. There was an ungroomed orange Persian cat that looked like something impossible, like something too fluffy and animated for god to have created. Being here always made me feel special, charmed, for gaining access to a place like this. Jane was wearing leggings and a tank top. I was wearing a long-sleeved onesie with buttons up the front and feet pockets because I’d needed pajamas and this is what Jane gave me. I felt swaddled and bouncy.
How Jane’s room felt was incredibly enclosed and private, like its own world that had nothing to do with the world outside it. It was a big room with a hexagonal front and a fire escape. The only downside was Sylvie, a mean dominatrix who lived in what was officially the living room. To pee you had to walk through Sylvie’s room, where you were likely to become a forced audience for a story about one of Sylvie’s annoying slaves who didn’t properly understand the Mistress/slave relationship, or you’d have to listen to Sylvie reprimand you, telling you that you could actually be very cute if you would just go to the mall and, like, a real hair salon. (“What color is your hair?” Sylvie had asked me last time I’d needed to pee. “I’ll tell you,” she said. “It’s not even a color!” She shouted this like she was superannoyed, but she was smiling. She had been painting her toenails red and had teal foam spacers between her toes. She looked up. “Buy some fucking Clairol,” she said.)
A good thing was that Jane had built a little kitchenette in a corner of her room, with a hot plate and a convention oven and a cute 50’s Formica table, so we barely had to go through Sylvie’s. Jane had taken to peeing in Mason jars and leaving them on the fire escape.
Sylvie wasn’t around tonight though, or she was sleeping. “I’m so jealous,” Jane said. She said this but she was smiling a real smile and stuffing handfuls of fries into her mouth and smirking and kind of frothing.
“Whatever,” I said. “I’m sure that kid’s like nineteen. Which is creepy of me.” I was petting the orange cat, who was looking up at me with her smashed-flat face. But I knew I was beaming, that I was bad at downplaying. “But, yeah,” I said. “It was exciting. It is.”
Jane was smirking. “You’re wearing a onesie,” she said.
“You gave me this to wear!” I swatted her arm.
“Yeah but you like it,” Jane said.
Lady Cyanide texted. She was excited to have met me. I was so hot. Etcetera. I felt excited by the idea of having this blonde pastel baby drag queen drive to my IKEA-furnished apartment from Simi Valley with a bag of tools—paddles and cuffs and bamboo canes. We’d wear garters and sparkly shoes and she’d hit me until I was red and sleeping and then disappear. I loved the idea of coming together for only this mutual, secret, needed thing despite all the obvious differences that would prevent us from being together in any other way.
On New Year’s Eve, though, I wanted only to be with Jane. I hated the pressure of New Year’s parties. I bought fancy cheeses and a baguette and made cauliflower in béchamel sauce with sundried tomatoes and breadcrumbs which felt like not a proper dish at all, like something I’d made up, because it was, but it was all the things Jane and I would want and so it was evidence of the luxury of shared privacy. I made fried capers and shallots and beets and champagne cocktails and lit every single one of Jane’s candles except the dark magic ones so that we could exorcise everything bad from the prior year. I wore a dress and Jane wore a dress. Mine was green and shined brocade and fitted. It was from the 50’s. Jane’s was floral with a lace bib and sleeves that puffed at the shoulder and got tight by the elbows. She had lavender eyeshadow on, and dangling rhinestone earrings.
We smoked weed from a small glass pipe and returned to the kitchen table over and over, eating small amounts each time and making extravagant pleasure noises. Some of the lights in Jane’s apartment were red and this made her hair look magenta-streaked, not as though it’d been dyed, but as though nature had created it that way. When Jane’s hair looked like this, thick and endless and magenta-streaked, her winged green eyes burned at me and she felt intensely powerful, like a huge sea witch. I felt little and cared for and slightly afraid.
“Let’s burn everything we want to get rid of in the coming year,” Jane said.
“Like our mothers,” I said. “Yes,” Jane said. “I think that’s a good idea.”
“No,” I said. Then: “Really?”
“Mhmm,” Jane said. “We can print photos of them off the internet.”
“Okay,” I said. I lay on the Victorian loveseat in my green brocade dress and sipped whiskey-tea from an old china teacup while I waited for Jane to get the photos ready. I slid my fingers into the cat’s fur and absently untangled some dreadlocks that had formed under the frizzy outer layer.
Jane handed me the photo of my mother. It was surprisingly good quality for having been printed on just regular paper. Her eyes were blue and her lips glossed. She had straightened hair and sparkly earrings and she looked girlish, still, like she was asking you to like her. I took a lighter off the table and put its flame against the edge of the paper photo. The flame licked up, searing my mother’s flat-ironed hair and creating a singed black edge that inched toward her eyes. The paper blackened and then became powder, my mother’s face turning to soot. I watched Jane’s photo blacken and crumble and fall, next to mine. Jane’s face looked gleeful and I wondered if I looked like that, too.
Jane and I rarely touched. She looked like a giant gorgeous doll or like an overgrown little girl in a play and I wanted my head in her lap but it wasn’t. I wondered if I just wanted it there for the photograph of it. We’d done photo shoots, lolling in Gibson Girl dresses, making round o mouths in suffragette bloomers. But now we were sitting next to each other on the Victorian loveseat drinking our third bottle of champagne and not taking photos. It was already almost midnight probably but we didn’t care that much about exactly when the new year started.
This room felt totally separate from the city where we lived but like it could only exist there. Even though this city had people, houses, buildings, trees, traffic, concrete, etc. something about it felt whorishly open, malleable completely, like it could support whole little worlds that bubbled up in it, and keep them secret. This whole city felt worth it for Jane’s room, for the space to create this small world and be ignored.
“I want Advil,” I said later. “The kind with the red candy shell.”
“Do you have a headache?”
“No but I might end up with one.”
“We need more champagne. We could go to the store.”
By this point I was wearing a grey romper that was Jane’s, along with thick knit white thigh highs covered in printed strawberries. My mouth was Pepto pink and my hair was up in a messy topknot.
“Okay,” I said. “The store.”
For the store, Jane put on a 1940’s burgundy coat and a navy beret. She applied more lipstick. I put a white sweater with a thick fur collar over my ensemble. It covered the bottom of the playsuit, but showed the tops of my knee socks. At the store it felt like we’d come from a movie set, from some fictional other-reality that we were carrying remnants of. People stared. Not unkindly, more like we might be special or famous.
We were lounging and dipping baguette into the thick breadcrumby béchamel sauce when Lady Cyanide texted to say Happy New Year. She wanted to see me, to stop by wherever I was. I laughed. “Invite her over,” Jane said.
“No,” I said.
But I didn’t know why not. I said so. I just felt like it would be a bad idea.
“Just do it then,” Jane said. Sometimes my failure to articulate plus Jane’s magenta-haired power led to my complete acquiescence. If I couldn’t find the words to explain why my suggested course of action made sense, I became convinced that Jane’s was better. Plus it was pleasurable, to acquiesce.
“Fine,” I said. I texted Jane’s address to Lady Cyanide.
“What if he comes and is a boy?” I asked.
“He probably will be,” Jane said. “He probably will be a boy and his name will be, like, Brian.” Jane started laughing this evil theatrical laugh, which grew big and out of control.
I pouted and furrowed my brows and said, “Ew.” But then I started laughing a little, too.
Jane nodded. “Uh huh,” she said. “His name will definitely be Brian.” She was still laughing. “Or something.”
When Lady Cyanide showed up she was wearing baggy jeans that sat on her hips. She was makeupless and a boy, completely. Cyanide-the-boy’s t-shirt said “I <3 Biters” and had a picture of teeth marks on it. I wondered if I had bitten Lady Cyanide, erotically, if the shirt was about me. I felt disgusted imagining the store this t-shirt came from, ugly oversized shirts with unfunny and sometimes misogynistic slogans. Cyanide-the-boy sat on the cream-colored Victorian throne that was facing the love seat. He looked wrong there. Last time he’d had an edgy lesbian sort of haircut but now it looked trailer park teenage skater. Now he looked nineteen, which was probably his actual age.
We all took turns looking at each other. No one knew what to say. I asked Cyanide if he wanted any food. He glanced at the table and shook his head.
“So should we still call you Lady Cyanide?” Jane said. She was smirking but if you didn’t know her you couldn’t tell. Her voice was all drippy grocery store icing. She sounded like she was flirting.
“Sure.” Lady Cyanide looked uncomfortable in the chair. “Or you can call me Sean.”
“Sean,” Jane pronounced slowly. She looked at me, beaming.
We all sat there, sipping champagne and looking at each other. Jane was asking Sean questions, like if he’d driven far and what his astrological sign was. Jane’s phone buzzed and she checked it. She smiled. “Katya’s sending me photos of her vagina,” she said.
“Oh,” I said. “I didn’t realize she did that.” Katya was Jane’s long-ago ex, the one with all the cutting and shitting.
“Well because she dyed it blue.” She said it like she was impressed. She passed me her phone. There was a photo pulled up, a pale skinny body from navel to mid-thigh with a thickly grown blue triangle of hair. It was a hot photo. I passed the phone back to Jane.
“I want to do that,” I said. “Maybe lavender.”
“Yeah,” Jane said, “we should.”
“Hold on,” Jane said. “I have to go call her.” Jane had a distant inward smile. She climbed out the window onto the fire escape.
Almost immediately, Sean climbed on top of me, kind of straddling me, and started kissing me, like full make-out kisses, but they felt desperate and impersonal and like a lie. The whole thing made me want to vomit, but I knew that I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t vomit, I would just feel rubbery and absent while we made out. I made out with him for a few minutes like this, rubbery and absent and letting him touch my body under my shirt. Then I wanted to be present and flesh again so I pushed him away a little, with my hands. “Hold on,” I said. “I need to make sure Jane’s okay.”
I climbed onto the fire escape. Jane was sitting on its edge with her feet dangling into the dark sky. She was smiling and saying small affirming things like, “Yeah totally” and “mhmm, mhmm!” She looked up at me but sort of past me, only sort of in my direction and without any kind of recognition. Then she looked back down at her feet. I stood there for a minute and looked out. The sky had no stars and there was a film of white over the dark so that it didn’t even fully look like night.
I climbed back in the window and told Sean that it would be better if we hung out another time. I was mad that this Sean person had ever shown up, and disappointed that things were ruined now. If I were Sylvie, maybe, I’d be able to tell him that I didn’t like Sean, only Cyanide, but I wasn’t Sylvie.
I felt a little mad at Jane. If I had handled this more slowly, I could have had hot visits from Cyanide and avoided ever meeting Sean. I could have been more specific. I wondered if she had done this on purpose or was just careless. We stayed up drinking rosé and messing around with tarot cards. We were using them like a magic 8 ball, just asking questions and sloppily plucking cards from the deck.
“Are we disrespecting the tarot?” I asked. “Isn’t that bad?”
“No,” Jane says, “the tarot knows we’re its friends.”
Later in bed, I had to pee. “I have to pee,” I said.
“Don’t go through Sylvie’s room,” Jane said. “Stay here.”
We were both almost asleep and Jane’s arm flung over me, keeping me down under the blankets.
Then she released me. “Go in the litter box.” Jane said.
“Shut up,” I said.
“No,” she said. She propped herself up on her elbows.
“I’m serious. Go in the litter box.” “Really?” I asked.
“Yes,” Jane said. I couldn’t see her magenta hair but I could remember it. I felt strangely protected, by this person who would make up new rules for what was okay and enforce them. Then her voice got more maternal. She said my name. Then she said, “Pee in Dinah’s box.”
I got up from bed and walked over to the litter box in the corner of the room. I unbuttoned the front of my onesie. Jane stayed propped on her elbows in bed. I could see her green eyes, now unwinged and puffy, shining at me, encouraging and challenging. Or maybe I only imagined them. I squatted over the gray chemical-scented gravel and cat-piss smell wafted up at me. I should have felt humiliation, possibly, but what I felt was something else. I felt about to laugh as I started to pee, but I didn’t laugh. My ass felt cold and bare.
Jane laughed though, a laugh of witches and children.
She kept her eyes on me, or I felt them, as I pulled up the top of the onesie and rebuttoned.
“Good job,” Jane whispered, in a whisper that sounded completely like love, as I crawled back into bed. She put her arm back over me, an instruction for where to be, and held me there.
Sam Cohen has two chapbooks, one on Birds of Lace Press and the other forthcoming from eohippus labs. Her fiction has been published in Black Clock, Entropy, Gulf Coast, Night Papers, Joyland, sidebrow and other places. She lives in Los Angeles.