Today, we’re pleased to publish “Bad Dangerous,” an excerpt from Genevieve Hudson’s new collection Pretend We Live Here, which is out now on Future Tense Books. It’s her debut collection of fiction, and has earned praise from the likes of Jon Raymond and Chelsey Johnson. It’s been a busy year for Hudson–this comes on the heels of her book A Little In Love With Everyone, an exploration of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home. In late August, Hudson will begin a tour of several West Coast bookstores, beginning on August 21 at Los Angeles’s Skylight Books.
The yogurt in our fridge reminds me of sperm. Clyde the Dane’s sperm to be exact. His creamy baby makers, those swimmers he will give us again tonight. I grab the coffee can and light the stove. In the other room, Frankie sleeps and does not ovulate. My body is the one that’s doing that.
Frankie and I made a list of all the traits we wanted in a donor. Gentle, meek of spirit, witty, no intravenous drug use, not right wing, spiritual but non-religious, nurtures an artistic skill, good relationship with mother. Creative is on our list, too. And Clyde the Dane works as a Creative. That’s his actual job title. He helps tech companies convince people to share human-identifying information like voice IDs, face structure, fingerprints, geo-locations, photo libraries, home addresses, and retina maps in exchange for cool stuff like being able to ask a robot if you can have groceries delivered to your door by 5 p.m. that very evening.
Clyde the Dane is shepherding us toward the future. Me and Frankie specifically, but also the entire world. In addition to those creative skills, Clyde the Dane is dewy with youth. His skin is pheromone-rich and smells like softness. Young and virile. Clyde the Dane with his tender eyes and lips that bulge open just a touch, of course he wants to help us. He wants to help everyone. He wants to help the whole world.
Frankie doesn’t even let us have smartphones.
“Maybe his sperm is radioactive,” she once said. “From all that computer work.”
“Maybe that means we’ll have superhero babies.”
“Maybe that means we’re just shooting thick milk.”
In my dreams, I kayak through a sea of Danish sperm. Waves crash in the distance and I am on a boat alone, rowing toward an island filled with babies that need me.
A Dutch ballerina recently moved into the apartment above us, and it was like she brought elephants. Herds. The word ballerina had sounded so delicate, poised. I imagined someone floating just above the floor, landing on it only long enough to make contact with the tips of her toes. I thought: thin, pin of a person with a mind sharpened to a point and rituals that send her early to bed. Every day and night after the ballerina moved in, it felt like she was pulling the planks from the floor above us, sloughing off the wall skin, conducting surgery on the bowels of her kitchen.
“Ballerinas can be very aggressive,” said Frankie.
This month’s ovulation corresponds with the new moon. It seems like I should perform some ritual, like paint the walls with stolen menstrual blood or bang hammers onto metal planks at dawn like my friend Pigeon does with his witch friends.
“Let’s just get Clyde out of here ASAP, and I’ll inseminate you,” Frankie had said, raising an eyebrow toward her hairline. “I think that’s enough.”
But that’s not enough for Frankie. Not really. To prepare, she will make us light aromatherapy candles. We will sip kombucha from wine glasses for probiotic health. We will place jade, moonstone, and rose quartz on my body’s acupressure points.
“The stones help your womb get ready to catch the sperm,” Frankie said the first time.
“How?” I asked. “Do they send vibes down there and tell my womb to like redecorate or something? Make it nice for the sperm dudes so they’ll stick around?”
“I don’t know exactly,” said Frankie. “But there’s a goddess connection.”
Once, Frankie and I ran into the ballerina on the stairs. I had already become obsessed with her heavy footfalls, the relentless crash bang through the night, and found myself putting an ear to the door as she passed by outside clompclompclomping up to her apartment.
“Hi, girls,” said the ballerina when she saw us. She wore all black and not like a goth.
The ballerina made a smiling motion by baring two rows of small yellow teeth. I bared my teeth back. She clutched a leopard print bag in her hands.
“Girls,” she said again as if we needed an extra reminder of our gender. “I’m having some ballerinas from Mongolia over next week. They’re going to stay with me while they rehearse for a show. It’ll be five of us total, so we might be extra loud. Just a couple months.”
“Okay,” said Frankie. “No biggie.”
No biggie? I mouth this to Frankie because I’m noise-phobic so it was a biggie and partially because she never says No biggie. Who does?
“Five ballerinas from Mongolia,” I said to Frankie when we were on the street alone, walking to the corner store for bruisend water, which means sparkling water, which I’ve never stopped thinking of as bruised. Bruised water.
I felt panicky. I couldn’t help it.
“It’s none of our business,” said Frankie. “Who she has over.”
“I can’t conceive a child while I listen to five dancers from Mongolia clomp above me!”
I drink my coffee while Frankie sleeps and Google How do lesbians shoot sperm? I’ve read these blogs countless times, but I keep coming back to Google like an addict, itching for the same information over and over again. I find an advertisement for a dildo that ejaculates “just for lesbians.” It’s called The Spermette, which sounds to me like some kind of kinky kitchen toy. I eye the photograph of a dyke daddy with spiky hair gazing at me from the website. I slam the laptop shut and gnaw at my thumb. Frankie’s going to make us do organismic meditation before we use Clyde’s semen. I just know it. She always wants to OM when she’s thinks I’ve been distant, and I’ve been a practical mutant for weeks, disappearing in the morning and staying at the pub all night until only the canal rats are left on the streets, and I’m sauntering home alone like a young James Dean in my vegan leather jacket. I’ve been drinking Club Mates, nothing alcoholic, but just being near drunk people and witnessing their bad decisions makes me feel dangerous and alive. Last night I sipped my Club Matte in the pub and talked to Butch behind the bar. Butch’s mustache looked dapper with her new glorious afro. I told her so. I told Butch how Frankie and I were going to have a baby. She loved the idea. Slapped the bar. Said she would crochet a onesie for us. Said we could have a baby shower right there.
I’m getting stress sweats and craving cigarettes and weed. The coffee has done nothing except make me want to do jumping jacks. It’s already the afternoon! The sun broods all orange and full in the white sky and rains heat down on the city. I hit the town in a sleeveless tee, sniff my pit hair to make sure I don’t smell like funk. Today, I think, might be my last day as a true daddy-less bachelor, empty-wombed and angular.
I stop by the fish cart to get a herring broodje with extra pickles. Sometimes when I eat fish, everything feels better. The chewing sends happiness through me like hot steam. Wait, I think, I’ve heard something about fish and pregnancy. Bad. Dangerous.
Whatever, says my brain, which sounds a lot like Frankie. Just eat the herring.
The park is filled with tourists lobbing Frisbees, joints dangling from their mouths. Bad Euro-techno and American pop blares from personal wireless devices. A group of French men try to ride bicycles but keep half-falling or getting cut off by Dutch people. I watch to see if they’re going to eat shit and ruin those nice tailored trousers. The Mongolian ballerinas haven’t moved in yet, but I keep imagining the parade of dancers running up the stairs just as we’re getting the sperm ready. Everything is always about to be ruined.
The girl working the fish cart is cute as hell. She keeps plowing her hand through the fish bins and pulling out fists of scaled bodies. They look muscular and tough even when they’re dead. The girl doesn’t flinch as she digs into the bins. Blood is smeared all over her apron. She stares at me with no emotion behind her eyes, which is a common Dutch thing to do, and asks in English if she can help me. It’s always an insult when someone doesn’t think I’m Dutch. What is it this time? Probably the baseball cap or maybe the grin plastered across my face. It screams American.
Sometimes, like right now, I realize I’m wearing a flat bill cap and get self-conscious. I catch a glimmer of myself in a window as I pass it or see an expression reflected in the face of a stranger, like fish girl here, and I realize I don’t look how I want to look. Sometimes putting on boy clothes does not make me feel more like a boy, but more like a girl, as if the hipless long coats or flat-chested shirts draw attention to all the things I’m not instead of infusing me with a kind of androgynous serum.
I have a friend in Seattle, an old-school, suit-wearing butch. Her cargo pants and workman shirts fit like a second skin. After she got married, her wife couldn’t conceive a child, so my friend decided to step in and try. She got pregnant on the first go. I thought it was sort of like nature saying fuck you. You do have a womb under those boxer shorts and Dickies. During her pregnancy, she went through a total transformation. She began to wear dresses and grew out her hair. She’s now a different person on the outside. Soft or something. I don’t know.
I try to be inspired by this, like, we can recreate ourselves endlessly. But my brain snags. I check myself out in the plexiglass siding of the fish cart while I eat my fish sandwich and contemplate how I would feel if pregnancy made me want to wear a dress. That’s when I see them behind me: Clyde the Dane and the ballerina sitting on a park bench. Flirting.
Frankie knows I get obsessed with people. I’m a Cancer after all. I reach out my crab claw and snap someone in my pinchers and won’t let go. It’s compulsive. I just keep pinching the shit out of this new thing until one day I lose interest and let it go.
Once the ballerina came to our door, knocked, and asked me to show her how to use her thermostat. I felt like a mechanic or something.
“Uh. Sure. Let me see here. I think it works like this.”
I jammed my finger into some buttons. Mine and Frankie’s thermostat had been dead for years. We just wear thick sweaters and two pairs of wool socks when it gets cold. Frankie would think it was hilarious, me fixing anything, but I was overcome with a new dedication to understand the ballerina’s thermostat. It was a test of some kind.
Just how resourceful are the dykes downstairs?
She would definitely call us lesbians. Not queers. Girls.
Something very gender specific and impersonal sounding. Funny how that works.
I could feel the ballerina staring at me as I gazed at her thermostat in faux concentration. She dragged her eyes over my flannel and down to my Docs. I had already noticed that she wore ankle boots, the culprit I realized for the clomping. She, unlike Frankie and me, did not take her shoes off when she came inside. She stomped around in those booty heels. She had all of her pots and pans pulled out of the cupboard and spread across the floor. I gestured to them, said, “Some kind of art project?”
Her face looked fraught.
“Mice!” She said. “Mice! Do you have mice? I found mice droppings in my pots and pans and wanted to see if there was a rodent hole back there.”
We did have mice, but I felt like I shouldn’t admit it. I wanted her to imagine me as an immaculate mechanic, able to patch up mice holes, keep a kitchen clean, fix a heater with a turn of the screw.
I walk over to Clyde and the ballerina. Clyde’s hair is twirled back into a messy man bun. His rumpled pants and striped shirt are exactly how I’d dress my baby, his non-son.
Clyde’s smooth, office hands rest on his thighs. The ballerina sits upright, poised; some might say regal. A dollop of mayo from her fish sandwich has affixed itself to her lip crease. I tell her so, and she seems grateful. It appears as though Clyde and the ballerina are on a date. Tinder, I think. Fuming. Already I’ve gone there in my head. I’ve imagined Clyde coming to our apartment and ejaculating into a sterilized glass jar like he’s done many times. Then I’ve imagined him going upstairs and copulating above us with the ballerina while we use his sperm one floor down. What if we both got pregnant with Clyde’s babies at once? There would be two floors of Clydes. What if he has an orgy with the Mongolians and there are dozens of Clyde babies? Men can just do that, make entire baby armies.
Frankie and I told Clyde we’d let him know when we got pregnant. He eyes my midriff, flat as a board. He’s wondering maybe if tonight the magic will happen.
Clyde seems amused when I tell him Frankie and I are neighbors with the ballerina.
“Convenient!” he says.
“When do your Mongolian visitors arrive?” I ask the ballerina, pretending like I am just now remembering it.
She looks confused. Everything about her is suspicious.
“Oh,” she says. “They’re not. That was canceled.”
My grandfather once told me most of the things we spend time worrying about never happen. He’s right again. But now in place of that worry, there’s this one.
Clyde goes, “I was just talking about this new device I’m working on that lets you change songs on your Song-ify account by simply blinking your eyes. You have to wear these contact lens, but they’re going to be so light you won’t even be able to tell they’re in your eyes at all. They’ll be, like, a part of you. Like a remote control you actually control.”
“Super nice!” says Clyde, as if to himself. He blinks quickly to demonstrate how he’d change songs.
“I can’t wait to see what I’d look like as a baby,” Clyde told me after he’d signed the legal document releasing his sperm to us. This was months ago. We had gone out for lunch and were eating the Dutch version of vegetarian tacos: flour tortillas with butter lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, and Gouda cheese.
“I hope we have a boy,” he had said.
We. I had to remind him we weren’t having anything.
I used to really like Clyde. Maybe I even had a crush on him. I don’t know. I used to get crushes on men all the time, but I never actually wanted to touch them. It’s like my friend Ezra, who wanted to know what it would be like to go on a date with a woman, but he only thought about it sometimes and it was more like a science experiment and the woman would have to know he was only curious before the date so she didn’t get the wrong idea. A puff of heteronormative firecrackery that he could bask in for a splendiferous moment. Then he could go back to normal life.
“I want to see myself in another person,” Clyde had clarified. “See what I’d look like if my genes mixed with someone. With you!”
Something about that creeped me out. Was Clyde flirting?
We reached for the hot sauce at the same time, and our fingers touched.
Though, if I’m honest, I really did understand what he meant. But after that, any semblance of a crush disappeared. Poof. Gone.
On the way home, I imagine stopping by the fish cart and fucking the fish girl on the floor of the cart, right on top of all of those fish guts and blood smears. There’s nothing I want more at this moment than to do that.
My friend Jo’s girlfriend got pregnant, and now he wears a daddy breastfeeding bra called Milk Dudes over his chest scars so he can bond with his son. He carries the boy around in a Mei Tai and still goes to get flat whites from the street cart. It feels like the future. My future.
When I was young, I never imagined the future. The future always seemed like the credits at the end of the movie, something that was coming that I didn’t look forward to or even want to watch. But now the future seems like it’s here. Credits about to roll. Once I have a baby, the future will be my life. Babies are like little balls of future you have to keep from dying and shower with endless love. I imagine wearing a Milk Dude over my sports bra and staring at a little rosebud of a mouth. I imagine love for a human who doesn’t exist yet filling my body with a soft orange light like the British voice on my meditation tapes instructs me to do.
What would it be like, to feel content with all of that?