Great Barrier Reef
Mary Lynn Reed

I'm only in town for one night. I didn't have to call Nikki. I could have stayed at a hotel, ordered room service and a pay-per-view comedy. Instead, I'm standing next to a lumpy mattress on a hardwood floor, surrounded by gay porn videos and a rainbow assortment of flavored lubricants. It's Nikki's friend Roman's apartment. Nikki is thirty-one and lives with her grandmother. Her grandmother still blames me for turning Nikki into a lesbian.

Nikki lights a tapered black candle and keeps talking about oceanography. Last year it was horticulture. When I was her girlfriend, Nikki worked at Kinko's and wanted to be an electrician.

"The Great Barrier Reef is the largest living thing in the world," Nikki says, as she unbuttons her shirt.

I glance at the faded freckles on her chest and don't correct her. I don't tell her that, in fact, the Great Barrier Reef is not one thing, but many. All banded together in a system of cooperation. Thriving on their diversity.

I hold my shoes close to my chest as Nikki sits on the mattress, her shirt half-on, half-off, as if it doesn't matter.

Nikki left me nine years ago. Her appetite didn't mesh with my devotion. I didn't want threesomes, foursomes, dominance, submission. I just wanted Nikki. She said she needed her freedom to flourish.

Now Nikki removes the rest of her clothes, throws herself onto the bed.

I put my shoes down, peek into the box next to the mattress. A pink latex cock stares up at me.

"It would be cool, wouldn't it?" she says. "To swim around the Great Barrier Reef."

I sit down beside her, facing the wall.

"Sure," I say, as her hands find my waist, then work quickly to the insides of my thighs.

"Largest living thing in the world," I say. "Cool."

Mary Lynn Reed's fiction has appeared in FRiGG, The MacGuffin, Karamu, Happy, Night Train, Temenos, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in the anthology See You Next Tuesday: The Second Coming published by Better Non Sequitur Press. She lives in Maryland.

To link to this story directly:

Read MLR's "On the Way to Death Valley" from the archive.

Detail of artwork on main page courtesy of heart industry.

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