take care of me forever

An empty Michelin restaurant on the top floor of a mall in Midtown. The worst part of the job is when the men make you eat sea urchin. The spiky black ball is like a message from outer space. The man scoops a spoonful of the ocre colored meat and waits for my lips to part. I fantasize about a bunch of different terrorist scenarios: airplanes, incels, biological weapons. I open my mouth and swallow obediently. The check comes to $2600.

Go die in a war, we tell the men, but they don’t listen.

The man presses money into my hands for the powder room. I do not tip the attendant.

Men like this about me: I don’t come from anywhere. I’m not just talking about cultural poverty, cornfields. I am talking about my mother.

Another thing men like about me: I am aggressively plain, prudish, in love with my father. I have a Biblical name.

Let’s do something really American, the man says. Maybe he feels patriotic because of the new president. Maybe he just wants to kill time. We go to Madame Tussaud’s. We go to Dave & Buster’s. We get a reading from a psychic in Times Square. Under the glow of the green neon light she grabs my hand. She says men will take care of you forever.

Anika is a fiction MFA candidate at Columbia. She edits Forever. 

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