Girls Girls Girls

Cady Vishniac
| Fiction

Elkie isn’t used to crying, hasn’t cried about anything in years, but over dinner her eyes are red-rimmed and her bones might be made of jelly. Her mother, who still thinks she’s going through a breakup, tells her no boy is worth this kind of pain. She says, “You don’t need men, honey. You can make a life without any men around.”

Elkie knows. Every woman in her family has made a manless life, at one point or another, and now it’s her turn. They have cursed her with their manless genes.

Her grandmother shakes her head.

ס’איז ניט ריכטיק, ניט פֿאַר מיר. איך בענק נאָך מײַן מאַן, טאַקע
איך קען דײַן האַרצווייטיק

She spits three times, neatly, into her palm.

“That’s kind of gross,” says Brianna.

“She did it when I was a girl, too,” says Elkie’s mom. “Ice cream?” She goes to the freezer. Brianna offers to put on more Bob’s Burgers, and that feels like a good idea. Everybody watches cartoons in the living room, handing a box of Breyers back and forth until Elkie’s mother and grandmother both shut their eyes.

Brianna whispers, so as not to wake the older women. “Your mom is right. You should forget you ever met Don. I can tell his wife to leave you alone.” Elkie turns her phone on, and hands it over, and Brianna says, “Huh.” She shows the screen to Elkie.
    Don:         Look. I’m Maria.
                    Are you some sort of sex worker?
Elkie takes the phone.
    Crystal:     Yes.
                    I’m with my friend again. She texted you the first
                    time. I shouldn’t have called you a hag.

“You could also meet her, if you need like closure. I’d go with you to meet her. Just in case she turns out to be an axe murderer.” Brianna scratches her chin. She’s considering her price. “But you have to go to my dorm with me and watch Alien vs. Ninja, and you have to pay attention even if you think it’s like the corniest thing you’ve ever seen, because I’m writing about it for class. And you can’t just stare at my popcorn. You have to eat like three handfuls and tell me how good it tastes.”

Elkie doesn’t say yes and doesn’t say no. She takes the phone back. Weighs her options. Turns it off.

“Whatever you want,” Brianna says. “Either way.”

“I want to relax.” It’s a tall order, Elkie knows.

“It wouldn’t be the end of the world if you took out a loan. You’re going to be a doctor, right?” Brianna peers around as if she’s scared, as if Elkie’s mother is only pretending to rest, and will open an eye any second to ask who they’re texting so late. “I’m not saying this because I have a problem with what you do, I swear, but nobody works their way through school anymore, not since your grandma was our age. Like when do you sleep?”

Cady Vishniac studies Yiddish and Hebrew at the University of Michigan. Her work has won the contests at New Letters, Mid-American Review, Greensboro Review, and Ninth Letter, and is forthcoming in Glimmer Train.

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