Val Prozorova


You know you shouldn’t be here, looking like you do. Despite the way you dress and the places you roam you’re a smart boy. But perhaps it is because you are a smart boy that you are here. It is an endless cycle, like a caterpillar to a chrysalis to a butterfly to faded dust on wing frames. Life to death and back again like some messed up swing night after night.


Comfortable jeans. Loose shirt. Taped up boots that you refuse to mend. Your only armor against the cold night and the reeking bar. You’ve already had some fun with the pool table, draped over it like a shroud, pale and trembling with every exhale of your cigarette, ash hanging precariously off the end, balanced as much by your imbalance as your deliberate uncaring if it falls to the felt, so it doesn’t.


Murphy’s a prick, but his law’s fairly sound.


You’ve swindled a guy out of three hundred bucks, laughing with childish snorts as he raises all holy hell at you. You could die. But anyone could die, at any moment. You could step in front of a bus when you’re not looking properly, get hit in the head with falling airplane parts, choke on a peanut in the movie theater. So you just watch him, you, all skinny wrists and pink knuckles, fingertips yellowed with tobacco you weren’t meant to be smoking anyway.


Hardly formidable.


You watch him get angry.


You let him come close enough to you so you smell the three-day-old aftershave remnants mired by sweat and someone else’s perfume on his skin. You wonder what he smells on you. You wonder if he’ll notice.


You let him take a swing at you and laugh from the floor at how your blood tastes like motor oil and ask if he’d like a taste.


“Smartass little prick.”


You watch a few guys hold him back from kicking you near to death on the floor that is stained so much you can’t tell its original color anymore.


“Count yourself lucky, kid.” He spits.


You just grin. You grin and you get up and you drape yourself over the bar and you purr about wanting some shots and you count them.






Miss. A. Few.


“What’s your name, baby?”


“Lucky.” You say. And you suppose that for the night, you can be.


You watch the man with only mild interest. He’s large, he’s heavy, he’s sweet-voiced and soft in his touches and you let him touch, you let him think you’re too drunk to be able to break free as he pulls you from the bar and to the bathroom, as he shoves you up against the closed stall door and works your pants open and you count the mold spots in the ceiling plaster and crave a cigarette and you wonder if he’ll notice.


It’s easy enough to moan, to play along, to let him lay claim to you with his mouth and his thoughts for however long it takes him to realize that you won’t get hard, you can’t. You lick your lips and apologize for being too drunk. He offers to take you home, promises sweet nothings and bitter realities and you laugh, sweet and little, and you excuse yourself.


“I just needa -”


And you go, steady steps and undone laces, tripping up just once and laughing before leaning over the bar and whispering to the barman that your daddy will pay for your drinks when he comes out of the bathroom. You leave before he does.


Outside, the air hits you like a freight train and you stagger, (far) just far enough to feel hard wall against you, and not an infinity of air and waiting. You light up and watch the smoke coil, it’ll follow you down the road like some strange friend who’s too shy to actually say hi to you. You like the smoke. You like the dark. You like the relative quiet of the street so you keep walking. You don’t bother timing how long it takes you.


You wonder, really, if the man at the bar was even worth your time. You wonder if you could have held out for someone nicer, someone who would notice, and if it even matters. You wonder why you do it at all.


To find yourself, maybe.


To lose yourself, most likely.


To please him, and that’s answer enough.


You walk and suddenly the pavement is grass and grass are stairs and you’re at the door with your keys shaking in your hands and you don’t know what to do with them.


Too drunk.




Too tired.


Definitely not.


Something else. Something behind the door that has you hesitating, has you excited enough to genuinely fumble before the teeth of the key settle, align against the lock and turn, and you’re inside and it smells clean and warm and safe and you close the door to the smoke and midnight air. You did well. He’ll notice.


He’s where you left him, reading in bed from a book with no pictures, glasses halfway down his nose and pen behind his ear. He’s where you left him because this is his house and he’s decided to share it with you, and you came back to him with your smoke friend and your split lip and your tired eyes and you’re a smart boy. He’s told you you are. You’ve proven yourself to be.


He doesn’t even look up with you in the doorway.


So you watch him, and you feel your shoulders unfold from the origami of confidence you held them in all night, and you feel your toes curl in your boots before you kick those away and (pad – ?) with mismatched socks to the end of the bed and crawl into it.


It should be strange that you fit in so well out there. You have quickly become a creature of clubs and salt and lime. A creature of drugs that burn you and drinks that cool you, your engine developed to run on alcohol and smoke, your mechanisms oiled and cleaned and cared for between uses.


You crawl under his arm, bent, as he holds his book and feel his heart beat against your cheek while yours ticks against his hand. You’ll need to be reset with new settings for the next evening run, but for the moment you are what you are, turning cogs and metal gears, intricate wiring beneath a pretty shell.


You shiver at the fingers in your hair, when he touches it, you stretch your little body –  flat and vulnerable and almost skeletal because that’s how he made you. Because you exist to test the blindness of the sins of human idiots.


“You got into a fight.” He says.


“Left the other guy with the bill.” You answer.


He draws his thumb over your lip, slick with the oil that keeps your jaw working as it should. “Did he notice?”


“No one did.”


He simply hums, moving his hand to stroke your back until you feel almost like a human being. As much as you can, anyway, before he resets you for the next evening and you forget you aren’t one.


You are bent gears and twisted springs. A smart boy who has passed the Turing test every day since the day he was made.


You wonder if he’s proud of you. He could be.


Or maybe you’re just lucky.


Val Prozorova is a transboy based in New Zealand, but his heart belongs in New York. Constantly tapping away at his keyboard, Val is a fan of homoerotic short stories and novels, speculative fiction and the occasional attempt at dark humor. When not fighting his chihuahua for the keyboard, he fights his cat instead. The cat tends to win. Val has been published with Torquere Press, Love Slave, Transmundane and Polychrome Ink and looks forward to expanding his portfolio of work.

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