Fox Without Den by artemis lin

Fox Without Den

I couldn’t let go of being a girl. Faith barreled in on a Saturday night, bringing the storm with her. Sat outside of my apartment, dragging her long red nails down the door, until I opened it. Sneaked in with a quick kiss and a smirk. I didn’t really want her here. But I wanted her too. I told her, “Hey, you know, the way you do that sounds like nails on a coffin, right? Like something dead trying to get out.” I wanted to tell her that sometimes different versions of me fight to get to the surface, and sometimes they kill each other, and sometimes they rise again. She got up close, her eyes tracking mine. “Sweetie, why do you look so sad?” I told her that I didn’t know I looked like that. I told her I don’t even know what sadness is about.

We were still young enough to think that sadness could be solved by sex. Let’s make a joke: like plugging a hole in a leaky dyke. Faith led me by the hand to my own bedroom. A ritual-dance. Pushed me down on the bed and said, “I wanna eat you out.” She was never really smooth with words, but I was envious of her anyway: she reminded me of everything I wasn’t. She wore her femininity so well, and I wondered if I ran away from mine just because I couldn’t. No, well, that was a lie; it’s more complicated than that. All the names for emotions are lies because in truth, emotions are more complex than they let on. Like a dodecahedron, like how snowflakes are actually fractals. Sad, happy, angry — the brevity of these words aren’t ever enough to stretch themselves over the wide fruit of things. For example, instead of saying “I feel sad,” it would be more accurate to say, “I feel the way an ocean does after it loses the light of day,” or “I have the sentimental fragility of a bruised pear.”

Faith’s hands were cold under my shirt. I had always loved the way they looked, larger and more elegant than mine. They bumped along the skin of my belly, and then skipped forward to squeeze my breasts. I used to be self-conscious of how small they were, until I learned that being not-female was a choice, and then I loved them. Was that how love worked? Her hands kept working my flesh — they unknotted the tightness in my chest — one undone — two undo — “Stop,” I gasped, sitting up, she pulled away and asked what’s wrong, and I knew I’d hurt her but I couldn’t explain why. She’s too close, everything wept, she’s too close, and anyway, we don’t know what that old sadness means, so how can we understand the new? 

She leaned over, opened my bedside drawer, dug around for something inside. I couldn’t see. Faith came back up with a cigarette, which she lit with the casual flair of someone who didn’t care if they weren’t supposed to do that, which I told her she wasn’t. But to be honest, I didn’t care either. I loved the smell of smoke. “I can’t spend Saturdays alone,” Faith said, “I feel pretty restless when I’m not around you.” And maybe what she meant to say was, I am like fox without den, rabbit without burrow, goose without flock, and nowhere is home to me, nothing even comes close.

The cigarette sizzled and shed ash onto the sheets. Tomorrow, the stain would be greyed out, like a smudge. 

artemis lin is a queer writer and filmmaker currently residing in Los Angeles, CA. Their work is often a deep dive into their Chinese American upbringing, and explores the intersection between mental illness, trauma, dreams, memory, and family history. Their writing has been published or is forthcoming in Sinister Wisdom, Bright Wall/Dark Room, Rose Water Magazine, and Cha: An Asian Literary Journal.

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Next: Dark Larries by Heather Cripps

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Image: Moritz Calisch Public Domain (presumed)

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