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I HOPE THERE’S NUZZLING by Marisa Crane

The universe is held inside a crunch bar. Everyone knows it. We are all just waiting for the sloppy giant to unwrap that beautiful blue wrapper and take a big bite out of it.

And then what?

Well, fuck if we residents of the universe know. We’re just here.

Will time stop? Cease to exist? Learn how to dougie all on its own?

Will Saturn and Jupiter finally rekindle their romance or will Venus slip on her lace thong and distract Saturn yet again?

Will the protons and electrons set aside their differences and make a pot roast together? Or perhaps a quiche? A quiche would be nice. A quiche is an adult thing to make.

Will the sun have an identity crisis? Join a cult? Begin dressing in drag? Become a levitating street performer?

Will the various alien species quit fighting over who deserves to possess the Earthlings as slaves and shake hands, then nuzzle each other’s soft fuzzy cheeks instead?

I hope that there is nuzzling involved. I really do.

These are the things I think about as I stand in the corner of the party. Drinking from a red solo cup. Because that’s what you do. You hold a red cup full of toxic fluid, then pour the poison into your mouth-hole, and let it weasel its way down your elastic tube until it hits your stomach where your stomach lining inevitably screams in agony. That’s what happens when you burp. It’s your stomach crying out for help.

X walks over to me, kinda smiling, kinda snarling, and Y, who’s sticking a vial up her nose, laughs like, oh, you two know each other? And I’m like shh, I’m trying to listen for the crunch of the crunch bar, and she thinks I’m kidding. Says something that is either a backhanded compliment or a fronthanded insult.

I decide that I’m okay with either.

X asks what I’m doing. I think it’s fairly obvious what I’m doing, but I hold up my red chalice of poison as a response anyway. She slams her cup into mine, thinking that I was signaling for a cheers situation. My golden poison spills all over my pineapple shirt. It happens.

X holds her hands up like, how did that happen? She says that the walls are shaking but no one ever notices.

I excuse myself to go retrieve more beer, holding onto the walls as I walk. Kind of like a secret agent in those movies. You know.

At the keg, Z makes a noise that sounds something like an alien having an orgasm. I think this is nice. I hope that an alien is getting off right this very moment. Before the giant tears the blue wrapper open.

Z gives me a head nod. I return it to him, unused. He says the beer is cold or mold or bold. I drink it. It tastes bold.

Back in the corner, X is gone and Y is giving me the silent treatment, I think for acknowledging X’s existence. Or at least she’s trying to. Every time she says something, she follows it up with—okay that’s it, I’m done—then eyes me like a pit bull wondering why it doesn’t get to sleep on the bed or eat crème brulee with the rest of the sad humans.

Y breaks her vow of silence. Says, you know X has one of those male sex dolls, right?

No, why would I know something like that? I ask, drinking my bold beer. Fucking intrepid. It travels to my stomach, slaughters every cell inside.

Haha, I don’t know. I don’t know, okay? Says Y. She’s grinding her teeth. I wonder if I am a male sex doll. That would explain a lot.

Z’s fluffy cat approaches and rubs up against my legs then Y’s.

Hi hi, little guy or girl or non-binary feline, I coo, bending down to pet it. It hisses. Fine, control freak.

You ever think about how Seaside has tons of cats outside but you never see any at the beach? It’s one massive litter box, says Y, holding her arms out to show me what the word massive means. I pour more beer down my mouth-hole.

Shit, you’re right, I say. None of the cats shit there. It’s like this beautiful, pristine toilet they’re missing out on. It’s like if someone turned down taking a dump in Buckingham Palace.

Yeah, she smiles. She sticks the vial up her nose and winks at me. I listen for the crunch. Nothing yet. I bet Y is one of the Rice Krispies.

I know Y really means it when she says yeah. She says it with gumption like I just asked her to join Beyoncé’s presidential campaign.

Yeah!

We leave the party without saying goodbye to anyone because saying goodbye is kind of like holding your breath underwater in the shallow end of the pool. Just stand up, fool.

On the walk home, Y laces her arm in mine and I can feel her protons wiggling around in their skin suit. We see three dogs, all of which bark at me. I bark back at them.

You’ve gotta practice your bark, says Y.

We talking ‘bout praaaaaactice, I say, making an outdated Allen Iverson reference and thinking I am funny in the way that time thinks doing the dougie is.

X texts me that it was good to see me tonight. I write back that she needs to find the giant and then we’ll talk.

Do you like her? Y asks, her skin translucent. I look through her and read the For Sale sign tilted in the grass. She is not for sale.

No. Do you?

I heard that she has zero credit, like literally. It’s like she doesn’t even exist, she says. I take that as a yes.

When we get home, Y puts a homemade mask on my face. To de-bloat it, she says. It has egg whites, coffee grounds, and I don’t know what else. I’m supposed to lie down while I wear it so that gravity pulls my cheeks back instead of down, but instead I decide to make a quiche.

Like the protons and electrons. I want to settle the differences within myself.

The important thing to remember when you’re making a quiche is that you’re not Martha Stewart. No one is paying for your recipe. Most likely you’re going to ruin the quiche and everything else around you. Your cat doesn’t care if you smile like a clown while whisking the eggs. You’re not Martha Stewart. You didn’t go to prison and increase your street cred. You don’t hang out in kitchens with Snoop Dogg. You don’t get to forbid Snoop Dogg from dropping the pan like it’s hot and watch the joy dissipate from his face.

You don’t get to crack the shell of yourself and cascade into a mixing bowl and come out 30 minutes later looking like a million bucks. Sorry, not even your therapist can help with that.

I am making a quiche. More accurately, I am making 12 muffin-sized quiches. Each its own tragi-comedy. Each its own little world.

I put them in the oven, wave goodbye.

My jowls are dangling past my nipples by the time I wash off the mask. I don’t bother sliding my skin back into place.

I wonder what Saturn and Jupiter are doing this very moment. If they are kissing, I would like to kiss Y. I go into the bedroom where she is reading a book about snails and underlining her favorite ones. It’s such a Y thing to do.

I give her a kiss on the cheek. Her skin is so warm and alive. I almost can’t believe it. I crawl into bed with her and nuzzle my face into her neck.

I forget all about the quiche and I wake to us burning beautifully, the giant standing over us, like hey, man, I’ve heard so much about you.

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