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SmokeLong Quarterly

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You with You

Story by Janelle Bassett (Read author interview) December 28, 2020

Art by Akira Miyamoto

My résumé made me sound more eccentric than capable—someone you’d be thrilled to sit next to at the boozy paint-by-number class you’re doing with your aunt, but not someone you’d necessarily hire to answer your customers’ emails in a way that sounded both genuine and blameless.

Most of my work history has been stand-based: Five seasons at the roadside grape stand. Fireworks stands across three states. Pumpkin stands near corn maze entrances. A crystal stand at a rather progressive county fair. A potato wedge stand at an “underground food” festival.

The jobs were flexible, temporary and never involved walls. If capitalism were a used tissue, working in stands is holding the tip of that snot rag with two fingers. But once I got pregnant, I needed stable income. I’m due in October and my pumpkin boss said he doesn’t offer a maternity leave package, though he did offer to throw a baby shower featuring gourds painted to look like long-necked newborns.

I sent my résumé to a smoothie place on the bottom of a fifteen-story building. If I had to work inside four walls, I at least wanted to maintain contact with the ground. For the last four months I’ve been making fruit and vegetables gulpable, while subsisting on canned fish and any bites I can nab on the job.

Unlike my stand gigs, full-time smoothie making leaves no time for me to engage with my real job skill: energy matchmaking, knowing who should meet whom. (This person with a pesky inner dialogue could benefit from a friend who talks constantly. Calm, meet nervous. Denouncer, meet diplomat. This one with the tight smile should have lunch with the one who wears her belt loose. The man at the bus stop should be introduced to the man I saw pumping at the gas station. They make the same face while they wait and I think they’d have a lot to say to each other about common decency. The florist must make contact with my mail carrier, they both carry out their work with a lot of joyful wrist movements.) This is not a lucrative skill, putting people together, improving their lives through perfectly calibrated connection. No one pays for my skill. And they always thank the universe instead.

My energy matchmaking services are advertised through a patchy network of acquaintances. (Literally. Many of my third-tier friends wear patched clothing. Some cannot afford new pants and jackets every single fall, and some are simply going for the “I’ve been through some shit” look.)

I am not able to match myself. It doesn’t work, like tickling. But I know when someone is not my match, such as this baby’s father.

In terms of who is growing inside me, forget having a boy/girl preference. Forget IQ, athleticism, or where it comes down on cilantro. All I really need from this child is a vibey aura.

When I feel the first labor pang, I think it’s the two scoops of protein powder I put in my water bottle to keep my stomach from rumbling until break. Labor is more like vomiting than I had hoped. The waves, the loss of control, the bargaining. But when my daughter is born, I’m surged with a cosmic, all encompassing, my-meat-has-always-been-leading-up-to-this-new-meat love.

As she finds my nipple, I find her aura. The person she needs to know most of all is… her paternal grandmother. My baby is a match with a person who thinks climate change is “inappropriate,” that immigrants should “be more grateful,” that women should never squat. I pull my nipple away from my child, breaking the seal of her lips. But then I give it right back.

About the Author

Janelle Bassett‘s writing appears or is forthcoming in Passages North, New Delta Review, The Offing, Washington Square Review, and Wigleaf. Her story collection THANKS FOR THIS RIOT is a semifinalist for the Pamet River Prize and she is a fiction editor at Split Lip Magazine. Find her on Twitter @hazmatcat

About the Artist

Akira Miyamoto (Mak) is a street photographer from Matsuyama, Japan. You can buy him a cup of coffee.

This story appeared in Issue Seventy of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Seventy
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Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.