Rumpus Original Fiction: Three Flash Fictions by Nathan Xie




The problem is I watch too much porn. Because any kind suffices; it only matters that as I work from home, my second monitor keeps the private browser open. Because I admire the male body, yet I never take off all my clothes when I masturbate. Because I only date men who dress like me, in a button-up shirt and chinos and loafers. Because I am confined to my singularity, and so is he. Because he is not wearing leather straps or a latex suit or a dog helmet. Because the most important question to me is always: What are your kinks? Because if he blanches, I blanch too. Because if he smiles not with his lips, but with his eyes, and he says, Yeah? then I want a slow burn. Because I tell him, Let’s hit the club, and I wait for one of us to lose patience, but the facades never drop. Because what is the most human thing: articulate speech or abstract thinking or is it how we deny our hands what they most want to touch? Because we can subsume ourselves in our lust, but instead we feign nonchalance and tell each other how good we look in stuffy shirts and tight pants and stiff shoes, and I spill some paloma on my collar. Because we are smoking too much weed then passing the second-hand smoke between us, and the high feels like I am glimpsing into a black hole. Because we have gone nowhere. Because I cannot voice my desire. Because when he puts his palm over my crotch, my precum leaks through the fabric, and he asks, You want me inside of you? and I say nothing because I am not and will not be sober enough to remember the scratch of his beard or the notes of alcohol-breath in his cologne or the way his voice breaks when he comes, and so, alone, I lean against the walls of a strobe-lit club, breathing in my cigarette, glimpsing men through smoke.



An Attempt to Explain Myself

after Richard Siken

If I may tell you this story without being in it, then a man always remains a boy. You know what kind of father he must look up to: one who suffers from invisible wounds, wounds the father must inflict onto his son. The father is better absent, but then another man must fill the hole. You know what kind of mother must shovel dirt into the hole: one who is there but does not want to be, because men are boys are wounds and unfortunately she must attempt to treat them. You know the boy then hides in his bedroom to find release in his little deaths until he encounters another boy just like him.

If I may speak in circles, because history has yet to break free from its cyclical nature, then a boy loves a boy just like him because he needs to love himself. But you know how love works, he can only love the way he has been loved before, which is to say, he hurts as both the subject and the object. Which is to say, his father’s expectations about boys emulating men who look like his father and his father’s father and his father’s father’s father are met, but homoerotically, in a way his father disapproves of even though his father’s relationship with other men is homoerotic as well. Which is to say, his mother’s belief that men are pathetic, men are worthless, you can’t trust a man to do anything but fuck it all up is correct, always has been. Which is to say, the boy breaks up with himself.

If I may speak of things I know nothing about, then the boy is always missing something. He abandons his parents, and they die without him. He abandons his fiancée, and she hopes he’s getting help. And now, he’s about to abandon an older lover you know very intimately; let’s call him Y. You know Y does not want to be a father to his lover; he has no interest in living up to any father’s expectations, he is tired of men always fucking it up, so Y says the boy is a man, please stop making excuses, please do something, anything else, which is to say, one of us must be wrong. Which is to say, the man who is a boy—he does not know a reality where he is wrong, he does not know a reality where Y is right, there is a difference between these possibilities, or perhaps we are all right, or perhaps we are all wrong, or perhaps this is simply the end of a story where we return to the beginning, and the boy is left alone again, hearing voices rise up the stairs and slip under his bedroom door and into his sheets, where he clenches tight onto something that cannot last.


The Last Norwegian Wolf

In a city far away from home, I told several discreet profiles online that I needed someone to guide me through sex, and it would be hard because I had recently abandoned god—though his breath still blew cold down my neck. One of these faceless men confessed to being a former pastor, and that night I decided to give him my virginity. He was gray-haired, skinny, and he kept his head on a swivel as he entered my hotel room. He spoke tersely. Hair covered his chest then trailed down into his white Hanes briefs. His penis stayed soft as he gently placed me on my back and raised my legs. When I was younger, he said, men thrusted into me with spit or lotion, but now there are much better lubricants. He slowly pushed a finger inside of me; I was tight, and he said I resembled him as a young man, neither of us the kind of men who could naturally loosen, we had to be broken in, roughed up into something fuckable, and then his sad smile showed teeth, he bit my lips, and he went from two to three fingers, and eventually he penetrated me. I cried, but he told me to hush, to accept the pain, because men like us, men who hide and hunt in the dark, were going extinct. He flicked my nipples and said that was why his parents had immigrated from Oslo to here so many years ago—not to escape god but to escape toward god. When he pulled out, the condom was streaked with lube and shit. I was about to apologize, but he put a hand over my mouth and said, We live in human bodies. Then he lingered in bed with me; perhaps he was waiting for me to invite him to dinner. I ran my fingers through his fur and avoided his gaze, until he placed his hands around my face and lifted it up to his pale eyes. I was not sure what he saw in my eyes, except he suddenly made the sign of the cross. When I closed the door on him, he said, God bless you. Out the window, I saw him running with a slight limp through lamplights and fallen snow, and I wondered what blessing he had given me because, in that moment, I wanted nothing more from him.




Rumpus original art by Peter Witte

Nathan Xie is a recipient of One Story's 2023 Adina Talve-Goodman fellowship and a Periplus Collective fellowship. His work can be found at More from this author →