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  • “This is my city,” he said, of the place where I was born and raised. “You’re lucky to be a guest.”

    Then he snapped his fingers and made my heart stop. Only for a moment, but the moment said it all.

    “I’ll try to go easy. I’m sure you’re not that used to power.”

    That night I didn’t come. He didn’t know the difference.

    I went home and washed. Elbows, knees, scalp, vagina, extra fierce on the soles of my feet: the arbitrary sequence the therapists said I had to learn to break. It didn’t help this time. I soaped up my belly and his energy kicked back, a feral psycho-fetus. My heartbeat shuddered hollow and dormant. My breasts were somehow under- and overstimulated at once.

    In my bed I finally gave in. I let his coiled energy unfurl and funnel down, and I released it the only way I knew how.

    I’d meant to take the day for myself, but when he arrived at the coffee shop, I didn’t throw him out. I should have. “What can I get you?”

    “I’m not here for the coffee,” he said. “Face it, this place is a shithole.”

    “It has a two in Zagat’s.” My loyalty was suddenly hawkish.

    He shrugged. “Zagat’s is run by mortals. Come on. Get someone to cover your shift. I’ll take you someplace real.”

    The coffee we drank tasted too thick, musky, almost meaty. Almost human. “I shouldn’t be drinking this.” I imagined a live-action CAT scan, buzzing clusters of caffeine undoing the synaptic order my medication fought so hard to regulate.

    “It’s fine. It’s psychosomatic. I don’t even know why you think you need medication.”

    “OCD is real.”

    “It’s a matter of control. Why cede it over to some drug? Learn to do it yourself.”

    “Some of us are mortal.”

    “No excuse.” He was grinning now. “Hey, come here.” He reached for my waist. His fingers were five tasers. The energy raced through me and shocked my caffeine-addled brain. I pulled away, reflexively, and retched.

    “I barely touched you,” he said. “Get hold of yourself.”

    “You said you would go easy.”

    “That was easy. Jesus.”

    He didn’t call me for a week. I took more hours at the shop, slogging through the summer, eager for classes to start. I wore headphones constantly. When I listened to my thoughts, I heard them in his voice. Felt him, defiant, in my fingertips as I prepared shitty coffee.

    One day his mother came in for a latte, and the words fell out of my mouth. “He hasn’t been out of town or anything, has he?” My pride shriveled.

    “Not that I know of. He should be in his apartment today, actually. Said something about plumbers coming by.”

    I hung up my apron and punched the clock. Muttered something about menstrual cramps and a dead grandmother. Every excuse in one; to hell with credibility.

    He opened the door shirtless. His eyes were surprisingly guarded; he looked almost afraid. “Oh…hi. What’s up?”

    “I just wanted…” What did I want? Was I acting out of anything other than sheer masochism? “I want…something concrete. Either dump me or don’t. Don’t string me along for a week. You’re making me crazy.”

    “You’re making yourself crazy. I never promised you a relationship. Why can’t you take it one day at a time?”

    “Because…because…” And there it was, the naked, squirming core of my desire. “I want to be powerful.”

    “You are powerful. For a human.”

    “Powerful enough for you to love me?”

    His eyes were guarded again. “You know that very few people…”

    “You said I had potential.”

    He shrugged. “You say what you need to say.”

    I heard a rolling-over from his bedroom. A distinctly female snore. He closed the door on my ire. “I’ll call you sometime. See you around.”

    His power, as I walked home, was sooty in my human lungs. Rotten in my mortal gut. Heaving and writhing in my all-too-tender arteries. This is my city, he said. He wasn’t content with owning every alley and haunt and crippled cobblestone I’d grown up thinking was mine. He had to colonize my body, too.

    I barricaded my bedroom door, but it would never keep him out. It was his city. I was just a guest.

    You can take my home, I told the presence in my brain, the extra beat in my heart, but you cannot, for the life of me, take my body.

    I slammed the bathroom door and I did what all the therapists had warned me against, what they’d cautioned me never to let my OCD become. Two fingers down my throat dragged up a sandwich, several liters of water, and a burning ring of stomach lining. I purged until my bones felt scrubbed. My heart raced with the restoration of all the power he’d sapped.

    Even as my throat and gut and bowels wailed, something deeper cried out with glory, with defiance, with affirmation of my body as my own.


    Image from PostSecret.
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