Design by Cassandra Sanchez
Image Description: A green fish is standing upright over a blue background wearing an orange and yellow vest and a dark green hat with a logo that reads “Human Pro Shops.” The fish is holding a person — wearing a green sweater, orange and yellow vest, blue jeans, and brown shoes — by their legs as they hang upside down. The drawing includes a white frame, a red circle with an “X” on the bottom left corner, and a green circle with a check mark on the bottom right corner.
I lost my virginity last weekend. I tried looking in the last place I had it – on the mattress – but it wasn’t there. I stripped back the sheets, leaving the mattress bare. Nothing.
I tried Find My iPhone, but I don’t think it works that way. I never got my virginity registered with my AppleID. I was hoping it would sound off an alarm, like a dog whistle? High enough for me to hear it, but not within the hearing range of anyone around me. Discretion is key.
Eventually, I gave up and made dinner. I didn’t notice it gone, not really – I drank my cherry wine in silence like I always do and sat down to my meal. In the quiet, I heard fork against porcelain; I heard the apple skin give under my teeth and I heard the clack as my teeth met & I finished my bite. I heard dogs outside. But I couldn’t hear what they were barking at. I hope whoever it was found what they were looking for.
Everyone always says you’re supposed to bleed when it’s taken, that it’s supposed to hurt. I always wondered if it was because it was physically attached; fused with your body, a sometimes-necessary organ. If I found it now, I’d have to ice it pronto and get it sewn back on.
If this kept up, would I have to get a transplant? I hope it hasn’t already contracted gangrene or started rotting. Maybe it’s like a growth. It sprouted limbs and walked off. I gave birth to it, named it Mary. “Hello, Mary,” I would say. And it wouldn’t say a thing.
I reported it missing to the local authorities, and they said it’s impossible to look for, but I think they’re just not trying hard enough.
The tags on my new piece of clothing. The freshness seal on my yogurt cup, the “do not purchase if torn or opened.” The one thing that protects me from mold, that keeps my retail value up, that means I’m young and spry and awaiting your tender kiss, o Knight; defrost me and preserve me again in the holy bonds of matrimony because it’s apparently okay when it’s in wedlock, it’s yours and yours alone forever.
I’m going to spoil.
I wonder if my partner took it. Tracked it out on their shoes, slipped it into their coat pocket, accidentally grabbed it with their phone. Maybe they snuck it out intentionally to show to their friends: “Guess what I have?” they say tauntingly, and hold it up like a prize bass. I’m imagining it just like that picture from their Tinder profile. Women want me, fish fear me, their hat said.
You’ve caught it. Now release it back to me. What else would you even need it for?
If you want to eat your catch, you’re going to have to gut it.
The sex was fine.
I’m looking in the craft area now, in my junk drawer. Is it sticky like an old wad of gum? Or more like a new piece of tape?
Am I the sticky one? That’s what the sex-ed classes always say. But their metaphors never make any sense, anyway. I find scraps of paper, old buttons, thimbles, receipts from 2011, dried up glue sticks. No luck.
I tear up the entire room. I still don’t find it.
Saturday 3:43 PM
TO: fishing guy (tinder🔥)
Hey! Hi What’s up? Hey, just reaching out texting to see if you have my thing lol. Come over to my place to return it plz. Hope ur having a good weekend When are u free next ?
Saturday 10:54 PM
FROM: fishing guy (tinder🔥)
lol i guess
i can see if i have it around somewhere
sure u don’t wanna do anything else while im there? lol
Saturday 11:01 PM
TO: fishing guy (tinder🔥)
No im good. just want my thing back
Sunday 2:34 AM
FROM: fishing guy (tinder🔥)
We met up on a Tuesday. It was the only time they were available, and I wanted them to come over in the daytime.
I heard a knock at the door. “Come in,” I said, and they walked in, wiping the mud from their boots on the mat outside. It didn’t all come off, though, and I noticed little boot-tracks leading in from the entryway.
“Maybe after this we can do somethi–”
“No, thanks,” I said, and motioned for them to hand it over.
They took a crumpled paper bag out of their coat pocket and tossed it on the table.
“I put it in there. There may be a couple leftover fries in there. You can have ‘em if you want.”
“Cool.” I guess. The bag looked soft from its stay in their pocket, pocked with grease stains and smelling like stale food. I think it had a McDonald’s logo on it, or maybe White Castle?
“So, uh, I’ll see you around I guess.” They kicked the floor.
I blocked their number after they left.
The bag was surprisingly light. I think they might have been lying about the fries. Not that I was going to eat them in the first place, but still. (Wendy’s fries are way better, anyway.)
I’d taken it back to my room to empty its contents into my lockbox where I keep all my special things: my first tooth, a lock of hair, poems, notes, old festival wristbands, my favorite memory, my future, my hopes and dreams.
Every time I add something new to the box, I have to take everything else out piece by piece. Partially to make sure that everything fits, partially because I want them to get acquainted, partially to see them all again. Because heavier things tend to settle towards the bottom, I’d never be able to see all of them if I didn’t. The weight of the bag seems to say that wouldn’t be necessary, that I’d see it right on top every time.
I comb through the lockbox’s contents, trying to find the perfect place for it. Right on top of the papers and manilla folders that sit on the bottom? Right below the fake rose petals I saved from junior prom?
I open the bag.
It crumbles as soon as I slot it in. I can hear it from the outside of the box – it sounds like destruction, like a bulldozer hitting an office building, like a house of cards collapsing, like someone folding in on themselves; it sounds like a shout, it sounds like a scream, it sounds like a whimper. My eyes are spilling over. A tear falls down my nose and hits the rug with a bang.
I take everything back out again, dust it all off. The small things also settle, I see. I collect the ashes in a small vial where I used to keep sand from beach days long past – the kind of vial you could wear as a necklace, that would tap-tap-tap against your collarbone as you walk. I don’t wear it this time – it seems too promise-ring-y – but I could if I wanted to.
I fold it tight in my hand while I slip on my shoes. I don’t want to lose it again. I want to be the one to see it off. I want to scatter it myself.
And as the ashes integrate into the atmosphere and climb around the carbon cycle, I want some of it to be incorporated into rose petals, sure, but also stinging nettles and death caps and honeybees and small pebbles and great, great mountains. I want some of it to get eaten by a fish, and I want that prize bass to never, ever get caught. I want it to eat boats and spit out hooks. I want it to tell that guy to fuck off. I want it to be free.