My Llama

A woman with a UTI sleeps her way through Manhattan in search of antibiotics.
Atalay Yavuz, Belli ki şansım dönecek (Apparently my luck will turn), 2023. Watercolor on paper, 33 x 44 inches.Courtesy of the artist.

Heaven Tonight is a series of erotic stories that transgress the conventions of desire. Authored by artists and writers, each story offers its own perspective into the effects of passion, shame, lust, loathing––and all things sex-driven.

Yuxi sits in the waiting room with one hand deep in her pocket, pressing a thumb against her urethral opening through the lining in her pants. The pressure is enough to alleviate the pain, an iron bullet ripping through the core of the earth.


She leaps up and lumbers toward the woman in burgundy scrubs.

“Yoo-shi.” She corrects the woman. “Can I do the urine sample now? I really have to go.”

“I’m going to measure your bladder. I’ll get the sample from that. Don’t use the restroom yet.” The woman leads her into an exam room and points to a recliner where there is a doggy pee-pee pad and gown. “Put that on and take a seat.”

Yuxi does the Kegel of her life, rips off her clothes, throws on the gown, and sits. The nurse practitioner comes in and inserts a catheter while Yuxi lies back on the raised recliner, feet in metal stirrups, knees splayed. An attendant holds a kidney-shaped plastic bowl between Yuxi’s legs while the urine flows out on its own. She feels so much gratitude, her eyes water. She closes them in ecstasy. This is the dictionary definition of R-E-L-I-E-F.

The nurse removes the catheter. With a purple-gloved hand, she inserts a speculum into Yuxi’s vagina. Click click click.

“Yeast infection. I’m going to test for BV.”

“What about a UTI?” Yuxi asks. “I have a UTI too.”

“You’ll get the results back in a day or two.”

“Can I get a prescription now?” Yuxi is desperate.

“How am I supposed to treat something when I don’t know what it is?” The nurse practitioner pulls off the latex gloves and drops them in the trash. “You’ll get an email from the lab.”

“Is the doctor going to see me?” Yuxi asks, pressing her whole palm between her legs, wincing.

“The urogynecologist won’t see you unless I refer. You seem fine,” she says, closing the door.


Fine. FINE? Yuxi flings open the medicine cabinet door. She has a swimsuit on where she’s wedged a bag of frozen blueberries in her crotch. The whole area is throbbing with a different kind of pain, a cold stabbing, which is preferable. Aspirin. Tylenol. Ibuprofen. The Lexapro she never took. The sunscreen she never wears, but always intends to. And in the back… an empty bottle of Cipro. Wait, no. There is one pill left. This is like striking gold! She knows one antibiotic pill isn’t going to cure her, but it will be enough to get her through the night. She hopes.


They are sitting next to each other at an Irish pub in the East Village. The lime wedged on her gin and tonic is outlined in brown. Her urinary tract puckers. Yuxi has forgotten his name. A mirror on the wall behind him is positioned perfectly to reflect his bald spot, which glows in the honeyed light like a bespoke yarmulke.

“So, you build furniture?” she asks, momentarily glancing at his long face before her eyes are drawn back to the mirror and the richly negative space of his hair.

“It’s just a hobby. I’m building all the furniture for my new apartment.” He shows her images on his phone. Tufted rose-gold chair. Tufted rose-gold headboard. Tufted rose-gold ottoman. “I cofounded a performance group. We sold it a few years ago.”

“Like Wooster Group?” Yuxi asks. “What do you mean, sold?”

“No, it was just three guys. We played music and there was choreography. Did some stuff in Vegas and then sold it to a Canadian company. I was nominated for a Grammy. But I didn’t win.” He looks down. “I’m recently divorced.”

Grammy? Vegas? It isn’t intriguing enough for her to pursue, so she lets it go. She is just relieved to be pain-free, if only momentarily, and makes a note to always leave one antibiotic in the bottle just in case. Pay it forward to the next UTI.

But what about tomorrow? She knows she’s going to be in another realm of burning hell come morning.

“Do you want another?” He holds up his empty glass.

Yuxi shakes her head.

“Let’s get out of here,” she says.


The tufted rose-gold sofa is oily beneath Yuxi’s ass. Pantyless, she is perched awkwardly on the sofa’s edge, her dress hiked up around her waist, while the man kisses her. His thin lips are hard, pressing into her face while leaving a trail of saliva on her chin as he laps, his tongue coated in white fuzz.

“Just a minute,” she says, leaping up.

In the bathroom, Yuxi looks at the mirror. The vague smell of his sour saliva wafts up from her chin. She rubs it with hand soap and splashes some water on her face. She pulls at the edges of the mirror. It doesn’t open.

Looking behind her, she sees a cabinet. Bingo. Inside, there are vials, ampules, an empty tube of itching cream. Finasteride. Valium. Viagra. No antibiotics? Where is she going to get antibiotics now? Stupid rose-gold asshole. She came over here for nothing.

He had warned her that he was on antidepressants and Adderall, which made him jerk off and speak in tongues to her cunt ferally without direction or end.

She sits on the toilet and squeezes out a few painful drops. She can feel its trajectory, her urethra lighting up red as the hot burn slides through her. Uhhhh, she groans.

This is all their fault.

The hot anesthesiologist who ate her out until she was raw and swollen on his 44th-floor balcony overlooking Times Square. The pleasure was liminal—horny, painful—and there is nothing that turns Yuxi on more than straddling thresholds. He had warned her that he was on antidepressants and Adderall, which made him jerk off and speak in tongues to her cunt ferally without direction or end. On antidepressants, he couldn’t come or stay hard. Yuxi, bent over the glass balcony’s ledge, felt the Manhattan wind slide over her skin as the sound of strangers honking diffused into the air between skyscrapers.

The anesthesiologist made her come a few times, eating her out before his leg cramped up, his mealy dick slapping against the glass balcony wall as he stumbled. Its modest print marked their encounter. Yuxi calls him the ED Daddy. Because, erectile dysfunction. Because, six years ago he got off the antidepressants long enough to ejaculate into a cup and make an IVF baby with his ex, an unhinged psychiatrist.

Then there was the poly psychonaut who fed her pills whose names she could never remember because they were a complex sequence of numbers and chemical compounds. Sex with the psychonaut always began with him clinking a pair of chrome butt plugs. They would argue over who got the smaller one. Yuxi has hemorrhoids but she tells herself that if she really lubes up the plug, it’s ok. Just no anal sex. The loser would get the big one jammed up their ass. They would hallucinate and stick things into each other while high. The remote control, once. And the last time, two nights ago, a tiny ceramic llama sculpture. That one was for a video they made called My Llama. That probably kicked off the UTI.

Drip, drip, drip.

When she squeezes it all out, the pain subsides. She wipes and flushes, cups water from the sink into her palm and splashes it between her legs a few times. The bathmat is soaked. She squishes her bare feet into it, finds a clean hand towel in the cabinet and rubs herself dry.

On the rose-gold sofa, a poor Chesterfield knockoff, the man holds his half-soft dick in one hand, stroking the tip with his thumb and forefinger. Men, Yuxi thinks, hah. What confidence they have. A framed photo of the Blue Man Group hangs on a wall behind him. He stares at her through heavy-lidded eyes, one long arm draped over the sofa’s freshly upholstered back. She stands there watching him, waiting, out of reach.


Washington Square Park is so crowded, Yuxi has to elbow her way through the NYU students raving around the desiccated fountain to happy hardcore.

It is just after 9 pm. She had left the man’s apartment in no time at all, having gotten down on all fours ass-first in front of the rose-gold sofa doing slow Kegels while he jerked himself off. Yuxi had meant it to be taunting and ridiculous and grotesque all at once. She pushed her asshole, making her hemorrhoid pop out and go back in again as she contracted her sphincter. Her special skill.

It doesn’t matter. She can do anything if she times it right. It is pulsing flesh, after all. And she needed to get the hell out of there while it was still early.

Exiting the park’s northeast corner, she dodges a skateboarder who eats shit on the asphalt. The skateboard shoots out from under him, narrowly missing her. He’s thrown into a parked car. A blond dreadlock flies off his head and slides down the windshield of a van. Yuxi stops, squeezes her labia together through her dress like a hoagie. The bacteria is flourishing. She can feel it reproducing.

She had not been able to locate her underwear in the apartment and rushed out when he went to the bathroom—before he could discover that she had taken the Blue Man Group photo. Sans underwear, bonus collector’s memorabilia.

The skateboarder grabs the dreadlock and retrieves his board from beneath the van. He stands on the curb, fastening the single dreadlock back into place behind his ear. It is a clip-on, Yuxi realizes.


This one lives in a prewar duplex on Mercer, a corner unit with a lofted bedroom overlooking a massive living room and kitchen with cast concrete countertops. Yuxi hangs her bag on the backrest of a stool and kicks off her platform boots.

“Drink?” he asks.

Yuxi nods. She leans her forearms against the counter, then lays her cheek down. The coolness of the concrete travels from her cheeks and arms down to her crotch, which is flickering with activity.

“It’s hot outside, Pedro,” she says. “Some kid with a clip-on dreadlock nearly took me down.”

“Did you go through the park?”

“It’s like Burning Man there on the weekends now.” She gets up and turns around, hoists herself up on the counter. Her vagina is in direct contact with the concrete. She shifts a bit to spread her labia like an open-faced sandwich. Feels good. It’s the next best thing to frozen blueberries. “What do you have to drink?”

“I’m having scotch. But you might want a spritz?” He swirls a tumbler beneath his nose.

“No alcohol. I’m feeling dizzy.” The truth is that her body temperature increases dramatically when she drinks, which seems to exacerbate her UTI. Maybe the increased heat creates optimal conditions for bacteria to thrive.

“Wheatgrass?” He points to a masticator behind him. “Electrolyte water?”

“Sure. Both. Why not.”

He hands her a bottle of chilled electrolyte water from the sub-zero fridge. Reaching up, he snips a handful of wheatgrass growing in a flat on a shelf above the sink and shoves it into the masticator. He flicks on the switch and the sound of the machine fills the air.

“It’s loud!” he yells, smiling.

Yuxi shrugs, wiggling her open-faced sandwich on the concrete griddle to itch. The extruder begins shitting out a dense green turd, as dry as any constipated bowel movement. Out another spout, green juice begins to drip. She feels her pee hole begin to water. Pull it in, tighten the valve. With every drip, she feels herself losing a private battle against herself. The thing about peeing is that, every time, it burns. And the more she pees, the more urgent it feels to keep returning to the toilet. On some days, she can’t leave her apartment, a small studio that she sublets with a toilet in the hallway, though the shower is in her apartment. She has an empty cat food container the old tenant left behind that she sometimes pees in. It has a wide mouth and a handle. It’s a fantastic container to pee in, the perfect height for her to squat over, and with a screw-on lid so she doesn’t have to empty it right away. Once she forgot to empty it when she went out of town for two months in the summer and it was so rancid when she returned that it smelled like what she imagined a dead body macerated in ammonia would smell like.

She leaps down from the counter. No holding it anymore. There is a huge splat of cream darkening the concrete. It is a Rorschach that looks uncannily like the llama the poly psychonaut nudged in her cunt. A bolt of terror floods Yuxi’s body. Had they forgotten the llama inside and this is its way of sending a distress signal? She rubs the Rorschach with her palm. It is like a moisturizer, penetrating into the pores of the concrete. Fuck. She splashes some electrolyte water on it. There. She can blame the water.

A glass beaker beneath the masticator is filling up. How much of this green shit does he think she can drink? He keeps feeding more into the spout.

“Where’s your bathroom?”

“Down the hall. Third door on the left.”

She sprints to the bathroom. It’s breathtaking, the rose-veined marble sink, the hinoki bathtub. The aroma of the wood is full, warm, a counterpoint to the heaviness of the marble. No medicine cabinet here. She plops on the toilet and lets go of the muscle, a little bit of urine dribbling down her thigh. She spreads her legs wide and rips off some toilet paper to dab her thigh while the deluge continues in the background. It burns so good. Her eyes water.

She presses a button on the side of the toilet and it flushes soundlessly. Toilet envy! Yuxi didn’t even have her own private toilet, much less a silent one. This must be some Japanese import. The bar of soap is brand new. It has notes of oud, bergamot.

She had taken eight years off her dating profile. Asian don’t raisin. Who had told her that?

Back to the task at hand. The clock is ticking. If she doesn’t get more antibiotics by the end of the night, she will be in hell. It’s Friday night. The only places open tomorrow are urgent care clinics. And she has already racked up a huge file at the prevailing chain of clinics around the city. None of the doctors there will prescribe her any more antibiotics. She has been put on some blacklist. She has staggered into the clinic too many times begging for Bactrim, Macrobid, Cipro.

Will she have to take the PATH to Jersey to find some other clinic out of state that doesn’t have her records? Do different states have separate digital files for patients? Will she have to go to the ER?

Yuxi curses herself for lying to the anesthesiologist about her age. She had taken eight years off her dating profile. Asian don’t raisin. Who had told her that? She has more currency as a 26-year-old. It isn't her fault. She didn’t make the game. But she has to play it. Who cares anyway. But it’s the reason why she can’t just ask the anesthesiologist to phone in a script. It’s too embarrassing to call him with this request and then have to tell him her real birthday.

There is no medicine cabinet. No cabinets at all. The walls are flush.

This is the guest bathroom. That’s why there’s nothing in here.

She takes out her phone and types his address in the search bar. Bingo. Sold in 2018. 8.5 million?! She clicks on the old listing and swipes through the staged photos. The last image is a floor plan. Two baths. Just as she thought. The other is in the primary suite. A broker she met told her that master bath, master bedroom, is linguistic imperialism. And who wants to invoke the vestiges of slavery every day, he had said to her.

So, Yuxi will have to breach the boundaries of the bedroom. She doesn’t want to just go roaming around the apartment and get caught rifling through drawers. A place like this will have security cameras anyway.

Complaining about her tight shoulders and lower back pain does the trick every time. They start sitting on the couch. Then she lies down, face first, on the low modular sectional, her nose smashed flat into the saddle leather. Pedro is kneading his thumbs into her traps while perched on the edge of the sofa. She groans, then a little louder.

“… basically didn’t sleep last night… new film… leaked… Paltrow… cease and desist…”

He is extremely hot. Rakish, dark. And all this lawyer talk plus the massage is making her bacterial vaginosis extrude. Anyone who serves her fresh juice is already winning. She squirms, her thighs creamy and slick.

“This sofa is—I mean, it’s lovely—but it’s a bit uncomfortable.”

“I know better than to invite you to the bedroom.”

“Oh, it’s fine,” she says, twisting around to look up at him behind her. She pivots onto her side and props her head on a bent arm. “It wouldn’t mean anything. Just a change of locale.”

He leads the way, Yuxi trailing behind him to wipe off her thighs with the inner hem of her dress.

The massage doesn’t last long. Two minutes in, they are kissing, tongues wrapped around each other, seeking deeper passages to inscribe their desire. Pedro’s hand glides beneath her dress, pausing ever so briefly at her hip, a pause that lets Yuxi know that he has taken note of her pantyless state. His hand glides upward over her ribcage and finds its place on her breast. He squeezes it firmly, a message. She moans and he does it again, harder this time. Their legs are entangled; his linen pants are damp at the crotch.

Wait, control yourself, Yuxi tells herself. She cannot, absolutely cannot have sex with Pedro right now. She is riddled—no plagued—with infections, multiple and acute. Maybe she even has an STD, who knows? The lab results would not arrive for another day or two. But she is doubtful of her own will to resist.

She pulls her face back, though the effort isn’t without difficulty. Her body keeps writhing, locked into his, like a beheaded snake whose flesh continues thrashing while the nerve endings in its muscles are still firing.

“Would you like to stop?” He is panting, belying his speech’s calmness.

“Not really.” Yuxi sighs. “It’s just that I have a flaming UTI.”

“Ah, I see.” He nods sympathetically. “Can’t be comfortable.”

Actually, Yuxi can no longer feel the pain of the UTI. All she feels is a different kind of throbbing. Pedro lets go of her breast, removing his hand from inside her dress. On the way out, he brushes her belly with his fingertips, the hair on her cunt, her cunt. The lightest touch. It sends her reeling. She attaches herself to his face again, doubling down on her desire. Mouth sucking tongue. Her hand travels down his back, circling his ass. An instinctual bracing for disappointment.

Things can be superlative until the moment of reveal. A dick that points sideways. A lumpy misshapen one that makes her feel as though she is being penetrated by a drunkard’s elongated nose. Sizes to elicit pity. Sizes to elicit pain. Women should get hazard pay for those.

Pedro’s dick is an iron rod on the other side of the damp linen. Touching it is an act of synesthesia. She can hear the sound of the iron pinging. It is perhaps the hardest cock she has ever heard.

“What would you like to do?” he murmurs into her ear. “Just tell me.”

“I want you inside me so deep that my ancestors from the Qing dynasty will feel it.”

“That deep? Ok.” He smiles at her, amused. “But what about your predicament?”

“Do you have any antibiotics?”

Horniness on pause, Yuxi waits for his answer. If he has antibiotics, she’s up for anything. She could slide both his balls into her pussy while he fucks her—something she once tried and failed at. But she could try again. The idea is appealing to her if only for its absurdity. She wants it. She wants it all.

“No, my dear. None. I’m sorry to say.”

“Are you sure?”

The desperation coats her words.

“I’m allergic to penicillin. I had a pretty traumatic experience in the Atlas Mountains. Hives, anaphylaxis, rash. Just thinking about it gives me flashbacks.” He shudders.

“Even if you’re allergic to penicillin, there are other antibiotics you can take,” Yuxi insists.

“True. But I do tend to stay away. Regardless, I can assure you I don’t have any antibiotics. You can look for yourself if you’d like.”

Oh, she will. She will scour his primary bath when she gets in there.

“Do you have any doctor friends who will phone in a script for me?” She is taking it farther than she had planned; she cannot help it. Desperation is ugly. Her urinary tract begins to pulse, the sand in the hourglass trickling once more.

“My ex. Not an option, for reasons that don’t need stating.”

“Would she phone in a script for you?”

“For antibiotics? She knows how triggering they are to me.”

Pedro, you twat. His relationship to antibiotics is making her flaccid. Just her luck. What a primary waste of time.

“Alright.” She accepts defeat. “Then you stay over there.”

Yuxi points to the other side of the bed.

“Yes, ma’am.”

Pedro scoots backwards to the far edge of the bed.

“Hand me a pillow,” she says.

Without breaking eye contact, he reaches behind himself and grabs one, hands it to her. She wedges it behind her head.

Yuxi spreads open her legs. Let him see her, smell her, feel her vibrations traveling through the bed. Until it is she who penetrates him with her scent, her tremors traveling through him by way of matter, energy.


Yuxi crosses the park again. It is midnight. There must be someone in New York City who has antibiotics. There are a dozen numbers she can text for various opioids and uppers. But antibiotics, come on.

Burning Man is in full tilt. The NYU students rage all around her, an organism that splits when she passes through it only to rejoin itself in her wake. A fog of weed hovers in a strata just above Yuxi’s nose. A saxophonist plays Kung Fu Fighting on a loop in the middle of the waterless fountain, kids skateboarding badly in circles around him.


She turns around.

Someone is rushing toward her in the shadows.

Oh no. She panics. The Blue Man Group photo. How did he find her in the middle of Washington Square Park? She clutches her bag to her chest.

“Sorry about earlier.” It’s a shirtless teenager with a skateboard in his armpit.

When he gets closer, she recognizes him. The dreadlock.

“No big.” Her heart is still palpitating. Of course it’s not the guy she flashed her hemorrhoid at. No way he would be here. The saxophone loops back again… Everybody was kung fu fighting / Those cats were fast as lightning. A girl kickflips in front of someone who is pretend kung fu fighting, chopping the air with rigid arms while spinning around.

“Want some?” He has a big spliff with a glowing cherry pinched between two fingers.

She hesitates.

“How old are you?” she asks.

“How old are you?”

“45,” she lies. “How old are you?”

“Not 45.”

He holds out the spliff. Yuxi takes it, reluctant but despairing all the same. It had felt like scratching an itch to rub her clit into a frenzy at Pedro’s. But now she is suffering. She chokes as she exhales, her throat burning when she coughs. She stamps her feet. Damn.

“You looking for anything?” he asks.

“Actually… yeah.” She is lightheaded. Bodies swirl around her. The kung fu song loops again and again. The bell atop Judson Church rings, a sound that ricochets through the park, through her urinary tract. “I need antibiotics. Got any?”

“Antibiotics? That’s crazy.” He laughs. The moon catches his cheekbones. “Antibiotics. Wow.”

“Do you know anyone who does? I mean, I don’t need a full bottle. Just like a few. One even.”

He shakes his head, his lone dreadlock swinging behind his ear.

“Are you sure you don’t have any strays left over? You don’t look like the type who’d finish all your antibiotics.”

In her Sliding Doors alternate reality, she could be at home popping antibiotics and binging reality TV instead of peddling her ass for free around the city.

“Don’t you think it’s twisted that you can walk into a store and buy a gun but you can’t buy antibiotics from the pharmacy without a prescription?”

Yuxi accepts the spliff again and nods. It is twisted. When she was in Mexico two months ago she should have bought ten boxes. She is even more dismal now. Why didn’t she think of it? Missed opportunity. Life was teeming with missed opportunities. In her Sliding Doors alternate reality, she could be at home popping antibiotics and binging reality TV instead of peddling her ass for free around the city. Maybe she’ll fly to Cancun tomorrow. It would be faster than waiting for lab results.

“Okay, think, my man. Do you know everybody who has any access to antibiotics?”

She accidentally says everybody instead of anybody. The moronic song. It’s mocking her with its infernal repetition. She’s stoned. Her body sways to the beat, in spite of her spite.

“You know what? My brother had an ENT thing recently. Hold up.”

The skateboarder begins texting, his thumb sliding around the screen connecting letters at rapid speed. Yuxi cranes to see.

He sees Yuxi staring at him and tilts the phone up. She doesn’t know what the acronyms mean anyway. She stares at his dreadlock instead, wonders where he got it. A single one, no less.

“He has some. But you have to go get it. He’s home watching a movie.”

“How much?”

The kid snickers.

“That’s between you and him.”

“Fine. What’s his address?”


All roads tonight have led her here. Yuxi buzzes 4L. The door releases and she rushes through the vestibule to the second door, catching it just in time. What is she doing here, the farthest uptown she has ever been. Is this Inwood? The stairs are narrow. She holds onto the banister with a tight grip. The question is not, does she trust a random teenager who shared his spliff with her at a park but, just how far is she willing to go to get what she needs? This is how women disappear. She can see the article in the Post. “Torso Found in Freezer Belongs to Thief Who Stole Blue Man Group Photo, DNA Tests Confirm.”

She blames it on her death drive. On the anesthesiologist. On My Llama.

The bag swinging from her shoulder knocks against the wall as she climbs the last set of stairs to the fourth floor. Yuxi regards her odyssey with detached distance. Still stoned. Her legs are made of petrified wood. Her urinary tract, on the other hand, seems unaffected. It must be the weed. She can’t remember it having this specific analgesic effect on her in the past. Then again, she can’t remember the last time she smoked weed.

A door at the end of the hall creaks open. Yuxi stands by the staircase, in case she needs to run. She clutches the bag, holding it in front of her chest with both hands like a shield. A head pops out into the hallway.

“Are you here for CD?”

“No. I’m um here for antibiotics.”

“Yeah. I know. I’m CD.”

“Your name is CD?”

He nods.

“You can come in.”

Yuxi steps timidly toward his floating head. The door opens wider and she can see a poster for a film about New York punks in the eighties hung on the wall in the entryway.

“I love that film.” She steps into the threshold of the apartment and looks more closely at it. “This is the Japanese version?”

“It was a gift from my mom for my birthday last year.”


Yuxi is inside the apartment now. The door shuts behind her.

“Can you take your shoes off?”

“Of course. Right. I don’t wear shoes inside.”

“If you don’t mind.”


The apartment smells like food. Some kind of roast. She kicks off her boots as he watches her. His appearance is disarming. He’s in running shorts, barefoot, wearing a black t-shirt. A normal person.

“Do you want some water? Sorry it’s so hot in here. I hate AC.”

“No thank you. It’s really late.”

“Do you not drink water after midnight?” He grins.

“What? No. I do. I just mean I don’t want to bother you by staying. It’s really nice of you to offer… your antibiotics.”

“You’re a friend of my brother’s. It’s cool. He said you really need them.”

“I’m not, really. A friend. Of your brother’s.”

Yuxi shifts uncomfortably in the bright light of the hallway. A television is on in the living room. A fan in the windowsill vibrates on high speed. She recalls the scene in bed with Pedro just an hour or two ago. The wheatgrass blasted her, coursing through her veins, her fingers shredding her clit like Jimmy Hendrix on acid. Pedro had reached for her when she was close. She held up her other hand. I’m not going to do anything that you’re not already doing, he said. I have BV, she whispered. I eat BV for breakfast, he whispered back.

“So how do you know Sebastian?” He frowns, his bushy eyebrows furrowing.

She snaps back to attention.


“How do you know my brother Sebastian, then?”

“He almost ran into me when he fell off his skateboard. Then we shared a spliff. I think he was trying to sell me weed. But I told him I wasn’t looking for weed.”

“You just met?” He scratches his head. “Well, I definitely would not have told you to come to my apartment then, if I had known. What are you doing in some random guy’s apartment in Marble Hill? Could have been a bad idea.”

“Where are we?”

“Marble Hill. The only part of Manhattan that’s in the Bronx.”

“Is this Manhattan or the Bronx?” She was confused.

“It’s technically Manhattan but physically on the mainland.”

“What mainland?”

“The Bronx is the only borough that’s attached to the rest of New York State.”

“It is?” Yuxi is so confused.

“Do you live here?”

“Am I from the U.S., is that what you’re asking?”

“No! That’s not what I said. I was—"

“I’m kidding.” She swipes the air between them.

He looks nervous.

“I’m stoned,” Yuxi says.

“Oh, alright.” This seems to satisfy him. “Anyway, you’re here for the antibiotics.”

“That’s right.”

“Let me go get them.” He turns around. “You can have a seat if you want. Help yourself to water if you’re thirsty. Sorry it’s so hot in here,” he says again.

She is kind of tired. Maybe she is coming down from the weed. Maybe she is thirsty. She takes a glass from the drying rack and fills it from the tap. The cool water makes the glass immediately start sweating in the heat of the apartment. It is hot, she notices. She fans herself with her dress, tenting air into it, which rushes out the neck-hole and kisses her cheeks.

The kitchen is full of plants. She steps into the hallway. Books line the shelves. Sidestepping down the hallway, she scans the shelves, making her way towards the television. Literary stuff. Theory. Some art books, not a lot.

She feels something fall onto the top of her bare foot. Something wet. The glass in her hand is not even half-full. What is that? It looks like bird poop. Or tahini. On the top of her right foot. She looks up at the ceiling but doesn’t see anything. Then Yuxi realizes. Holy shit. She reaches between her legs and scoops out a palmful of yeasty BV. Before she can turn around and go back to the kitchen, she hears CD walking into the hallway. Quick, what are her options? She can wipe her hand on her dress, or… she makes her hand as narrow as it can get and dunks it in the glass of water. Basically fisting. She twists her hand back and forth inside the glass, wiggling her fingers around.

“Most of my books are in storage,” he says.

Yuxi takes her hand out of the glass and wipes it on her dress.

“You have good books,” she says, averting his gaze.

“Here.” He hands her a pack of foil-sealed pills. “There are only ten here. I think it’s all I’ve got. Amoxicillin. Hope that’ll work.”

She switches the glass from one hand to the other and takes the pills. She did it! Unbelievable. Magnificent job. Against all odds.

“You want some more water?” He takes the glass from her hand. “Ugh. This water is all cloudy.”

“I think you need a filter on your tap.” Yuxi frowns.

“This is tap? Why didn’t you use the Berkey?”

“I didn’t see it.”

She is soaring, happy as sunshine skipping off waves. Ten Amoxicillins! Two per day. A five-day supply. More than enough to tide her over. She pops one out and swallows it dry. CD or whatever his name is comes back with a fresh glass of filtered water. She drinks the whole glass immediately.

“I’m glad this can be of use to you. It was just sitting in my Dopp kit. I keep a supply of different things for when I travel. I work for an NGO so I’m all over.”

“I hope I didn’t take it if you need it.”

“I don’t need it here. I can just pop into a pharmacy when I’m in other parts of the world and buy it over the counter. Can you believe this country? We can march into Walmart and buy a gun but we can’t get antibiotics without a prescription.”

“The medical industrial complex.”

They both laugh.

“I’ll let you get back to your movie. Thanks so much. You’re a lifesaver. What do I owe you for these?”

“Nothing. They probably cost a dollar and a half for a box. This is what, a quarter or something? You came all this way.”

“Really?” Yuxi is overcome with gratitude. Now that she has this bounty, maybe she can go back to Pedro’s. But it is late. By the time she gets back downtown it’ll probably be 2 am. Anyway, she is tired. She just wants to go home and take a shower. “Wait. I want to give you something.”

“You don’t have to give me anything.”

“I have the perfect thing.” She reaches into her bag and pulls out the photo. “Here. It’s for you.”

“Blue Man Group?” He has a bewildered expression on his face. “Why do you have this?”

“I bought it off a guy in the park. What, you don’t like Blue Man?”

“I can’t accept this. It’s yours. You bought it.”

He tries to hand it back to her. Yuxi shakes her head and dodges him, heading back to the kitchen. She places her empty glass next to the milky one.

“I want you to have it. Please accept it. It’s a gift.”

“Really?” He looks sad.

“I have to catch the train. But thank you! You have no idea.”

She reaches for her shoes.

He holds the photo in one hand, looks at it, then looks at Yuxi.

“What is that on your foot?” ♦

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