In this two-part issue, Iman Hariri-Kia grants us a voyeuristic glimpse into (what could be) the tipping point of a relationship unique to our time.
The world looks very different than it did a year ago, at the time of publishing Bloom, our very first issue of The Daly News.
After a year of confinement, solitude, reflection, and loss, the world is now opening, unfurling, stretching its arms towards the sun in relief.
In this issue, our first foray into not only a new format (a two-part series), but a new medium (fiction), as well, we are opening our own minds to new ways in which The Daly News can evolve and expand in its second year.
After a year of seclusion, are our hearts and minds ready to follow suit, and open up? The couple at the center of Iman Hariri-Kia’s two-part short story aren’t so sure.
Read on for Part I, and get ready to open Part II of the story when it hits your inbox, next week.
The actual sex was just “okay.”
Not that there’s anything wrong with “okay” sex. I, for one, am wholeheartedly against the antiquated notion that every fuck must feel like The Fuck — you know, with the breaking of the lamps and the montage of the switching of positions and such. As an apparent adult, I’ve come to learn — nay, expect — that not all fucks will be The Fuck.
This was the kind of “okay” that I thought I’d left behind in college. It smelled sweaty and tasted of cough syrup in the way that all alcoholic beverages eventually do on the breath of a stranger. It was quick and to the point and he said “oh my god” three times, which was three times too many.
At first, I thought about how avant garde I was for daring to be naked in front of someone with two first names and a eucalyptus plant. While he was still inside me, I thought about what it would be like to tell my friends that he’d been inside of me. I thought about how, one day soon, my grandmother will probably die because she’s 95 and that’s just how life works. And where is my social security card? I haven’t seen it in years. In fact, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it. Eventually, I thought about nothing at all.
When he was done, he fell heavily on top of me, but I still didn’t feel as small and as frail as I’ve always wanted to, which was irritating. What was the point of “okay” sex with anyone other than Him if I wasn’t going to evaporate like a puddle, sink into the stained cotton of his navy blue sheets until all that exists of me is a worn-out, faded pink thong purchased from Victoria’s Secret in 2013? This felt like a waste of my time, but still, I forced myself to lie awake with my brain and body until light freckled his popcorn ceiling. I’d promised myself I’d commit to new experiences, hadn’t I?
I didn’t say goodbye because he was still sleeping, with his back all soft and pink, and also because I never wanted to see him again. My phone was dead, but the distance between where I had landed and where I was going was walkable, and New York City before 7:00 a.m. is unassuming enough to pass as a small town. The light and the locals aren’t yet harsh, and there’s a sort of wet stench to the air that feels specific to late April. I begin my trek down Avenue A.
When I told Him I wanted to sleep with other people, He took it too well. The truth is, I didn’t want to sleep with other people until He didn’t try to stop me.
What I really wanted to do was attend a sex party in Bushwick with a slew of artisan glassblowers or fuck a ficitional vampire. I wanted to have a miserable time at a crowded bar in the village and lock eyes with someone in line for the bathroom and feel my vagina grow a pulse.
But fantasizing about sex with bathroom guy will always be better than having sex with bathroom guy. Even I knew that. The only person I wanted to wake up next to was Him. In the end, it’s not that I even wanted to sleep with other people—I just wanted Him to not want me to. To scream and cry and throw me against a wall with a passionate urgency born of an alternate reality in which He was forced to live without me.
“So, we’ll be open,” He’d said.
“Good,” I’d said. ”So, we will be.”
Bodega flowers are best in show when it’s mid-spring: tulip season and hyacinth season and stale potato chips and six-minus-one-packs of Four Loko season. When I was little, my father told me that one day, I’d grow up to appreciate gardening and so far, he was wrong. But I do love the colors of a makeshift 24-hour corner store garden, the changing of the guards every three months. I guess I crave nuance, excitement — which is precisely what got me into this whole mess in the first place.
There’s a bagel shop on 11th that’s kind of famous, but I won’t say the name. Not to gatekeep or anything, I just find it embarrassing to like what everyone else likes. The dough is made fresh and it wafts onto the sidewalk and dissolves everyone’s manic depression like a cloud of smoke.
It’s closed right now, which is too bad. I could have really used the pick me up. One of the women that works there has tattoos all over her left forearm and a gap between her teeth and a name like Margaret or Marie. One time, she replied to a customer’s “thank you, have a nice day” after they were rung up, and she replied, “Fuck you, too”, which I thought was rude, but also cool. I can’t decide if I want to have sex with her or if I want her to have sex with me. Mostly, I just want her to tell me that everything is going to be okay, then play with my hair.
The thing about New York is that everyone who lives here hates it, but is fiercely defensive to the point that, if anyone from anywhere else has a single bad thing to say about it, they’re dead meat. I don’t know if I hate or love the city. I don’t know if I hate or love myself. Both options feel unoriginal. I’ve been trying to cry for weeks, but nothing.
I reach my apartment, but stop short of letting myself in. I’m afraid that if I go inside and lie on top of my bed, I’ll discover that this was all a dream that I’ll forget as the day goes on. “Okay” sex is still sex with someone else. If I’m going to be open, I want to be good at it, the best at it. I think about calling my mom because she hasn’t slept since our cat died and then the doorknob rustles and He’s standing six inches away from my face, scratching his beard and holding the Sunday paper. He moves his body towards mine and I go in for a hug, but He stiffens. He feels cold and foreign and I wish so badly that someone, at this very moment, would drop a piano on my head.
“Sorry,” he says. “I was just trying to get by.”
Get ready to open Part II of the story, which will hit your inbox next Tuesday.
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