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August 10, 2017 Fiction

Exceptions to the Equation

Christina Sun

Exceptions to the Equation photo

My fiancée wants to have a threesome. He tells me this when he comes home from his new job and I wonder what it is about data analysis and interpretation that gets him going. Apparently this is something he’s wanted for a long time and since our wedding is in two weeks, he’s determined to execute the task before crossing that threshold.

“With who?” I ask. “May?” I think of how quickly his eyes go to her ass when she walks into our house. “Or maybe Diane? She has a nice rack.”

He kneels down beside me and takes my hand in his. “I’m thinking man,” he says, his tongue rolling around this word with a hitch of desire—the same voice he uses on me at least one night a week. He tells me about a speed dating event in downtown Boston tomorrow night and that he wants me to pick a guy up and bring him back home.

“What do you want? Twenties? Thirties? Built? Skinny? Light? Dark?” I know what he looks for in females: thin lips, husky voice, and a booty, but I’m not sure if the same applies to the opposite gender.

He shrugs. “You decide. Bring me someone who you think will blow my mind.” 

If someone had asked if having a threesome was one of my sexual fantasies, or at least something I wanted to cross off my bucket list, I would’ve said no. I get terribly jealous when he talks to the pretty cashier at the local farmer’s market, which needless to say, is why I find the idea of him having sex with another person unnerving—even if I’m involved. But lately he’s been getting distant, and I’m worried that if I can’t grant him this one request, he might leave.

The next night, I dab a smokey gray onto my eyelids and pull on my strappiest heels. The venue is at The Bell in Hand, a bar located in Faneuil Hall. There are fifteen men and fifteen women total, and the ages run from twenty-four to fifty-two. Before we can begin, the host gives us a set of four simple rules: We are not allowed to ask for each other’s last name or phone number. We cannot reveal our income. We cannot disclose where we live, and please, please, try to keep it clean.

My first date is Number Seventeen. I smile politely at him as he sits down across from me. He tells me I remind him of his mother and asks if I, too, am experiencing menopause at my age.

“I’m thirty-five,” I say.

We sit in silence for the remaining five minutes.

When Number Two takes his seat at my table, he doesn’t seem to know where to look. We make small talk about the weather and discover we both work at the same healthcare company. Throughout our conversation, his forehead dots with perspiration that multiplies to his temples. A pool of sweat collects in the small curve under his nose.

I hand him a paper napkin. “Are you alright? It’s okay if you’re nervous.”

“Oh, I’m not nervous,” he says, mopping up his face with his sleeve, “but it’s possible that I’m under the influence of LSD. Right now, you look like the perfect composite of Mickey Mouse and a Van Gogh painting.”

My next date looks to be a man in his thirties with an eight pinned to his chest. He smiles at me in a way that makes me think he’s already seen me naked. “You know why they gave me an eight, don’t you?”

“I think they assign everyone a random number.”

“Is that right,” he says and nods towards his erection.

I don’t know what to say. I’m not sure if this is what my fiancée wants—this short man with stocky arms and a Mom tattoo on a slab of shoulder. Does he want the male version of me? Or, does he want the complete opposite? Someone who you think will blow my mind. I don’t know what he’s looking for, but I don’t think it’s this.

The quality of males does not increase as the dates go on. I meet a police officer, a retired tennis player, a stripper—but nothing clicks. By the time my last date settles into the chair across from me, Number Thirty, I don’t think I can do it anymore. I don’t look at him even when the start buzzer dings.

“So,” he says after an uncomfortable silence. He looks around the room and settles on his glass of water. “Ice. Great stuff, am I right?”

I look at my phone.

“Did you know the mass of atoms, their size, and how they’re arranged all determine density? Take this ice cube here, for example.” He pokes at a cube with his straw. “Since the ice structure takes up more volume than the liquid water molecules, it’s less dense than the water. It has a density of approximately 0.9167 g/cm3  at 0ºC, whereas water is about 0.9998 g/cm3.” He speaks with such enthusiasm that it’s clear numbers are his passion.

“Can ice ever sink?” I ask.

Number Thirty scratches his beard. “Without tampering with it? Impossible.”

I try not to think about my fiancée, and how he might react to this lesson in physics. He seems very far away in this moment, as distant as the two white streaks left behind from an airplane. “Are you willing to have a threesome?”

Number Thirty sips quietly from his water and waits until I’m finished with my explanation before speaking. “It sounds like your fiancée might be into men.”

I consider this. “He might be gay. Or bi. Or getting cold feet—I don’t know. But you do things for the ones you love, right?”

At the end of the date, I pen out my contact information next to Number Thirty’s name on the date card in a cursive script. My pen is runny and leaves behind little blots of ink that I smudge with my thumb. As I’m writing, it feels like I’m signing a contract, and if I were to submit this form with my name on it, I would be finalizing the end of something important.

We end up walking outside along the waterfront, me and Number Thirty. He tells me about his work as a mechanical engineer and I tell him about how I can never make my own decisions. It’s a problem I have. Sometimes I stand frozen in the middle of the room, debating the options, until someone shakes me out of it. When we’re sitting on the bench overlooking the harbor, a young couple walks over to us and asks me to take their picture. They hold each other and pose while I snap a few shots on their iPhone.

“Can we take another one?” the girl asks, flipping her hair to one side. “I need to cover up my pimple.”

The boy smiles knowingly at Number Thirty. “Women, am I right?”

Do we look like a couple? It seems to me that we’re just talking. I look at Number Thirty with his scruffy beard and thick-rimmed glasses and wonder if he is someone that could make my life easier. I wonder how his extensive knowledge of physics would come into play in our relationship—if he could conjure up an equation that could reduce the scramble in my mind for every time I freeze. I wonder if he is someone that I could love.

Night comes quickly, the way it always does in the fall, melting the sky with as many colors from the palette before stripping it black.

Number Thirty nudges me with his elbow. “Should we go? Is he waiting for us?”

I say nothing and skip a few rocks out onto the water. It doesn’t really work because of the waves, so they all end up sinking to the bottom. Number Thirty watches for a minute before grabbing his own fistful of pebbles.

Together we throw our stones into the water, one after the other, waiting to see which one will float.

image: Aaron Burch