No Cure by Lucy Zhang

🏆 Nominated for Best Short Fictions

Art by Lois Emma Harkin

The first thing I looked up was whether girls enjoyed giving guys blow jobs. If girls drank everything that leaked from the same tips where pee came from, or if they refused to swallow; their mouths like basins overflowing with saliva and sperm, fluid dribbling down their chins. If girls enjoyed getting their faces slapped with dicks. If they thought spittle and bodily fluids smelled good, or at least good enough they could hold their heads amid the odor, noses buried in pubic hair—how could they stand the itch? If triggering the gag reflex so frequently was normal. If they had to fast for six hours before going down on someone.

No one had taught me which part was supposed to be enjoyable. Google assumed you’d derive pleasure from seeing your partner in pleasure, although that had never been the case for me: dragging my tongue and squeezing my eyes shut because things went faster if I didn’t see anything, and then running to the bathroom to rinse, spit and gargle. Why couldn’t it be an equal exchange? If I don’t give you blow jobs, you don’t need to give me blow jobs. In fact, don’t give me anything. Fingers do a more efficient job.

Google proved unhelpful, so I visited the Witch. She lived down the street in the house with the yellow grass that had completely transformed into hay. I didn’t even water my small patch of land, and it still turned green every year thanks to seasonal rains. The Witch told fortunes and sold medicine––mainly fortunes these days since girls preferred birth control over what they deemed witchcraft pseudoscience: acupuncture, opening up meridians, bone-setting, herbal supplements made from honeysuckle, and Forsythia meant to dispel wind, clear heat, expel toxins. But the Witch’s predictions were always on point: when your water would break, when menopause would strike, when your parents would discover your relationship with a White coworker and disown you until you found someone, if not Chinese, at least East Asian. People slept better knowing what to anticipate.

But I wanted medicine, not my fortune told. Nothing else worked. I’d tried eating the beef liver perpetually on sale at ShopRite. I cut out instant coffee. I bought omega-3 supplements since real salmon was too expensive. I started jogging in the middle of the day when I knew drug dealers wouldn’t be loitering by the parking lot. I meditated for five minutes before jump-starting my crap battery-plagued car. I swallowed Flibanserin.

No cure, the Witch told me. What do you mean, no cure? I asked. She had the audacity to cackle at me. The Witch dumped a fistful of pills into my hand. I fished out the Ziploc bag from my pocket since she never prepackaged anything. Take one a day with a meal and water, she told me. See, there is a cure, I told her. No cure, she insisted, shooing me out of her house.

I kept the pills next to my desk and downed two of them every morning. They were long, pink capsules shaped like Bacillus, rod-like critters reduced down to oval endospores, the kind bio teachers project from their microscopes onto a screen without considering that maybe bacteria don’t like being stared at so closely. They looked suspiciously similar to Avasia prenatal vitamins. After a few days, I wasn’t feeling any different, although my nails seemed less brittle, and my hair felt silkier. I turned to Google again. “Believe in your own skills,” one article said. “Incorporate food,” another recommended, which would get rid of the taste and smell, but certainly not the gag reflex.

The next time I was asked to give a blow job (since these things had to be scheduled, I needed at least a day’s notice to mentally prepare), I dreaded the evening, as usual, waiting in bed after a scalding shower, scrolling through Reddit and YouTube, not reacting until prompted, and only then, dragging my body over, filling my mouth. It didn’t turn out to be as bad as I had anticipated, perhaps because I had lowered my expectations, no thanks to my lost faith in the Witch. Can we not do this anymore? I asked the next morning. I was given the most pathetic, sorry stare in response. Just kidding, it’s OK, I conceded a split-second later. I got out of bed, brushed my teeth, found the remaining pills on my desk, and dumped them in the trash. What’s the word for someone who suffers for a greater cause again? I asked. Depends on the cause. Martyr? Altruist? That didn’t feel right. Pushover? Self-important? Stupid?

Lucy Zhang writes, codes and watches anime. Her work has appeared in The Boiler, The Hunger, Fractured Lit and elsewhere. She is a finalist in Best of the Net 2020 and included in Best Microfiction 2021. She edits for Barren Magazine, Heavy Feather Review and Pithead Chapel. Find her at or on Twitter @Dango_Ramen.


Art by Lois Emma Harkin


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