Asexuality requires a rigidity that most people don’t have. Or maybe, now, it’s more about the convenient laziness of it, the zero to no effort of not caring about the feel of another’s flesh on your own. Brown-haired, dark-eyed Emma LaMoor had always speculated that there was something a bit unhinged about the asexual human, though she herself had once thought herself to be just that before she had sex a few times with someone who knew what he was doing. Yes, it was men she fucked–Jesus, is that too heteronormative for you? However, she had often been told she might want to consider investing in a strap-on and a sexual orientation change to better suit her mentality with regard to the opposite sex. Which is to say, she abhorred men everything except their penis, the one useful part of them (and even that wasn’t always certain).
She rather resented this frequent suggestion from males and females alike that she should “just become a lesbian,” as though it was as easy as returning a sweater. But even returning a sweater isn’t that easy (especially if you’re dealing with one of the mentally impaired employees at Forever 21). And Emma was having a challenging go of reconciling her recent dry spell with the notion that maybe the universe was forcing her into an asexual existence.
That’s certainly what it felt like one mid-summer day as she sat on the terrace of her apartment in Brighton Beach (close to the Hasidic-heavy Midwood neighborhood), the only bona fide American–so she liked to tell herself–amid a sea of Russians and half-Russians. It had now been day sixty-six of her nonconsensual celibacy. And she was beginning to grow moody–emotional. Highly irascible might be the most accurate term. Maybe that’s why she was beginning to let her anger out in unusual ways. Primarily, lashing out at any Hasidic man or woman she saw on the street. There was something about them that drew out all the contempt and dissatisfaction she couldn’t express through the release of an orgasm anymore. Though, to be fair, she thought, they were constantly seeming to goad her on: glaring at her as though she was trash or deliberately moving to the side when she got too close to their path, like she was diseased. One day she finally let loose on a woman pushing a stroller whose wig was askew enough for Emma to simply pull it off and scream, “Get some real fucking hair, you bitch!” Those who saw it happen watched in horror, shocking Emma out of her rage long enough to realize she might get on the news for a hate crime if she didn’t flee the scene, which she did. And for a while she didn’t leave her apartment for fear that her anti-Semitism would get the better of her again. That’s the benefit of being able to transcribe foreign movies, educational shows and create subtitles for closed captioning from the comfort of one’s own home.
But that didn’t mean she couldn’t go to Tatiana to see a floor show for her own amusement, maybe meet someone in the Russian mob willing to make her his moll for the night. Instead, she got too tipsy on vodka and started talking to the waiter (whose arm tattoo insisted, “My life, my rules!”) about her mother, who died when she was just fifteen in, naturally, a boating accident on the canals of Amsterdam. This is when she had to admit her Dutch heritage (which she was rarely willing to do, least of all to herself); that she had immigrated to New York with her mother when she was eleven, and that before coming to the States, she always remembered walking home through the neighborhood the Jewish Historical Museum was in.
Emma confessed to the waiter, “My mother would always go into the Jewish Historical Museum to take a shit every time we passed it. Some might call that anti-Semitic. I call it coincidence.”
Her so-called humor fell flat with the waiter, who merely stared daggers at her as he made the mistake of pouring her another drink. Russians aren’t exactly notorious for being anti-Semitic, what with the Russian Empire at one point hosting the largest population of Jews in the world, a diaspora founded upon so much discrimination elsewhere.
Emma paid no mind to his disdain, however, focusing her energies on another nearby man, Samuel (a good, solid biblical name, to be sure), who seemed to be alone in the abyss of Tatiana as well, and, from what she could gauge, looked fairly handsome, minus the thinning hair and the strong possibility that he was likely forty-five years old to her twenty-eight. But the pressing questions she always asked herself got the better of her: could he be the one to help her through the night? The one to make this unabated solitude vanish for roughly four hours before he disappeared into the morning?
It was precisely at this moment that Emma blacked out, allowed her body to do the rest of whatever work it might take to attract this man, like a spider waiting in her web for the perfect morsel.
When she came to, she was in her apartment pouring the man some red wine that, by now, would probably taste like vinegar. She shrugged at herself and continued pouring it for him anyway. She was acting like a real Jew, she thought to herself, being so concerned with wasting her wine, ensuring that she didn’t open another bottle for him so as she wouldn’t go through her supply so quickly.
Did it have to do with being Dutch? She never recalled herself being this way until she was relegated to this sexless existence. Or had she been relegated to it because of her latent prejudice? As though this undesirable quality could be sniffed from a mile away. Still, is there a correlation between anti-Semitism and asexuality? she thought to herself before unbuttoning Samuel’s pants to find he was circumcised, which wasn’t necessarily common in the Brighton Beach area what with a certain influx of a specific ethnicity prone to let this practice go unpracticed more often than not.
Emma looked into his eyes incredulously and asked, “Are you Jewish?”
Samuel smiled and nodded. “Of course.”
She looked up at the ceiling, briefly considering the strangeness of this circumstance of circumcision. She then broke the curse of her asexuality with him, and, perhaps in so doing, also her anti-Semitism. Until the next sexual dearth, that is.