She had always had this expectation that she would love love, but she didn’t. When she was chubby and acne-speckled, with braces on her teeth, the only thing she wanted was for a boy to love her and sacrifice everything for her and make empty promises of running away together and getting matching tattoos. And then she was still chubby with occasional acne and teeth that were slowly sliding back into their crooked positions and she realized that she didn’t need to look like a supermodel to have people tell her that she looked like a supermodel and she didn’t need tangible bones to make men fall in love. After all of that, after she had love and sex and irrational promises she realized that she would rather spread out in her bed and eat that whole pizza herself and travel for months at a time than have a man like that, a suction cup that preferred to attach itself to her breasts.
She met him at a friend’s house party and then again at a board game night and then a third time at a bar. No one ever said that men fell in love with her immediately. Instead, men loved her as an accumulation. After their bar meeting he asked for her phone number and they went out to dinner and afterwards had sex and he said things like, “No one has ever made me come like that before,” and she was unsurprised because she had made lots of men come like that before.
She met him at a painting class she was taking in the evenings. She met him in the grocery store aisle bent over the meats. He invited her back to his condo to make some steaks and she said, “sure” and then later, after some steaks and some drinks and some sex, he said, “No one has ever made me come like that before” and she was unsurprised, again.
They were different hims, but also the same him. They both were white, one with sprawling curly hair and the other nearly hairless, and both wanted to love her and be with her forever and have babies and she was at a spot in her career where she might need to relocate and where she really just wanted to go to sleep at nine p.m. without any hands touching her body and she wanted to be able to get up at five in the morning and go to the gym because her chubbiness was not an indicator of how she treated her body. It did not occur to her that he might be threatened by a second him as she had always lumped them together into the singular. It did not occur to her until both of the hims declared their love for her within the same week that it was never love that she wanted and instead what she wanted was to be the object of desire from afar, an object worth fighting over.
She had recently joined a hiking group. Her doctor had indicated that she had low levels of vitamin D and she enjoyed the fresh air. So when he and the second him asked what she was doing one Saturday morning, she invited them along. She did not expect them to pick up large sticks off the trail, the way a dog might, and she did not expect them to rip their shirts off as though transitioning from man to beast and she did not expect them to start swinging the sticks at each other in the air. As they swung, their cheeks cut open and their breathing heavy, she recalled a scene from a nature documentary of two bucks entangled with each other, as though in love, their horns locked in a competition to win over the doe. All the doe really wanted was to see some bucks fighting over her body, which was hers to begin with and hers to end.
Tasha Coryell is an MFA Candidate at the University of Alabama, where she is working on a novel about murderous sorority girls. Her work has been featured in [PANK], The Collagist, Word Riot and other journals.