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And we all write about him. His first lover in college calls him Ajay in a flash piece the shape of a bee swarm, and he’s the queen. His army leaves a wreath of bloody needle shots around his lover’s head. No tweezers can pull out the stingers, no balms can soothe the pain. All his lover can do is scratch the wounds day and night. When the lover is interviewed, he doesn’t talk about how Ajay’s Samoyed liked to carry around a raggedy bumblebee plushie in her mouth, or how he once borrowed the bumblebee for no reason other than because he wanted it, and Ajay reluctantly permitted it. The bumblebee now rests with the Samoyed in her grave.

His second lover calls him Elias in a short story that approaches the erotic. They take too much molly in his Upper East Side apartment, but instead of euphoric sex with such a surplus of love their dicks stay semihard, they don leather jackets and wrestle on the bathroom tiles. They don’t laugh when they lick the blood off the scrapes they’ve left on each other, their devotion out of religious obligation to the male body rather than the original Greek meaning of philanthropy. Then there’s a surrealist swerve: Elias stops licking—his ears prick up at the scurrying of ghost dogs, he sees their pawprints over the walls and follows them out of the apartment, abandoning the second lover.

My boyfriend is Ibrahim in my novel, and he doesn’t understand why I’m reading these stories. I don’t understand him either because this is a first draft. What I do know: Ibrahim’s anti-plot. Whenever he’s supposed to unleash active protagonist energy, he drives back home and tells me he misses his Samoyed instead. At the novel’s open-ended close, nobody knows where he has gone, and it’s a shitty “frozen in a moment of possibility” ending.

You don’t have him figured out at all, huh, he says. No, I say, but am I getting closer to the real you? He tells me they’re all real because he doesn’t know any of them. He seems a little sad about this, so I chill the champagne. Then at night, I twist the cork until we hear the sweet note of release and I listen to him talk about his Samoyed and her bumblebee, how he doesn’t know why everything returns to them. Perhaps it’s periphrasis—he hypothesizes he may be orbiting around the heart of something universal but so expansive that it’s beyond any of us, and he builds upon this theory until his name becomes Oscar. To that, I raise a toast.