In the Van

Last Halloween you splattered fake blood all over a sexy nurse costume and went as “Malpractice.” Your boyfriend didn’t think it was funny, but he doesn’t think anything is funny. He’s in his last year of college, studying psychology. You don’t understand how you can study feelings. You like to imagine him recording the salt concentration of tears. Your mother always tells you he’s the smartest man you’ll ever get.
            He asked you why you couldn’t just be a regular sexy nurse, why you could never just be sincere.
            “I would sincerely like to know where we’re going,” you tell the man driving the van. The only thing you do know is that a little while ago this man pulled up next to you to ask for directions, and then there was a knife, and then you were in his van. There was a second man waiting inside, who tied your arms behind your back and blindfolded you with a pair of stockings. He’s sitting behind you, holding you around the waist so you don’t get up. The thing is, though, the blindfold is sheer so you can see through it. Men are so typical, not knowing that stockings come in different styles, some sheer, some opaque.
            “Shut up,” the man driving the van says.
            “Yeah, shut up,” says his friend who is holding you. Well, you assume that they’re friends, but maybe they’re just acquaintances, like you and Lisa from work. You bring each other coffee sometimes, but you can’t imagine hugging her, or going over to her house. You realize that friendship is too big a thing to assume—that anybody really chooses the people they hang around feels unlikely.
            You ask the two men if they are friends. At first, there is just silence.
            “He’s my brother,” the driver says.
            “That’s nice,” you say. “It’s nice to be around blood. I have no brothers or sisters.”
            “We’re not really blood,” says the man holding you. “I’m adopted.”
            “That doesn’t matter,” you say. “If you were raised in the same house with the same parents, it’s the same as being blood.”
            “What about genetics?” says the man holding you. “I got chromosomes that he don’t. What about DNA?”
            “Those things seem too small to matter,” you say. “Unless your blood is purple, or green, it’s all the same to me.”
            “Purple blood,” says the driver, “that creeps me out.”
            “My boyfriend knows all about this stuff. He’s a psychology major.”
            “That’s not about genetics,” the man holding you says. “That’s all about wanting to fuck your mother. Your boyfriend wants to fuck his mother, probably.”
            You think about it. Your boyfriend’s mother has had three breast augmentations. They are hard, cratered and white. You imagine your boyfriend suckling from her, his mouth dripping saline.
            “I don’t think so,” you say. “But maybe.”
            You feel the van turn onto a different road. You can’t decide if changing directions is good or bad. You can never decide this.
            “Where are we going?” you ask.
            The driver asks where you want to go. You have no answer.
            “How’s this going to end?” you ask. Neither of them say anything.
            You let yourself lean into the one who holds you. You feel his heart fluttering against your back. You feel his rib bones. You know that the inside of a bone is spongy, like the froth-top of a milkshake. You imagine what he and the driver would have looked like growing inside the same mother. Sticky chromosomes fused together, fetal veins tangled like fishing line, tethered around two pulsating, liquid-filled sacs. You let your hands rest against your belly.
            You are not scared. You are blood and water and salt pumping all at once. Inside you are cells splitting and growing into newness, again and again. You are almost constantly being born, anew.
Alexandra Kessler is an MFA candidate in fiction at Brooklyn College. She received her BA from The Kratz Center for Creative Writing at Goucher College in Baltimore, MD. She was awarded two summer fellowships from the Kratz Center for Creative Writing in 2013 and 2015, the 2014 Lizette Woodworth Reese Award in Fiction, naming her Goucher’s “Writer of the Year,” and the 2016 Ross Feld Award. Her work has been published by Fiddleback Press, Spartan Lit, and Driftwood Press, among others. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Photography by Alyssa Yankwitt.