Sink Monkey

Alyssa Proujansky

In the video, the monkey sits in a woman’s bathroom, legs dangling. I don’t actually know that the monkey is a boy, but still I think he. I watch the video on my phone, sound off, curled on my side in my bed. I watch it over and over. Sink Monkey is what I call him—though he is actually sitting on the edge of a bathtub. Sink Monkey has a large head, long, tufty fur. Heavy eyelids. Expressive eyebrows in constant motion. They go up, up when the woman’s hands move into the frame, down as she washes his spindly toes. She cleans the bottom of his feet with a cloth. Pats them dry, places them gently on top of each other. I press my palms to my abdomen. I’ve been bleeding all day, though nothing like before.

Sink Monkey is the only way I’ve been able to imagine going through with the pregnancy. Whenever I pictured a human child, I felt nothing. I’ve been ambivalent for weeks,
going on long walks with Ethan, talking in circles. Neither of us wants a child—in fact, it was one of the first things we agreed on. But as we talked, the question evolved: was it an accident or an “accident”? On a scale of one to ten, how badly don’t we want one?

Mandy texts and I press pause on the video. I’ve been swiping away texts all day—she’s the only one I’ll answer. I feel like I caused it, I write, by not wanting it enough. Every time I go to say miscarriage, I screw up and say abortion. Then I hate myself for using those words. I have no claim on either. I deserve nothing, I think—not grief, not sympathy.

I text Mandy a long paragraph about ambivalence. About two robust cells floating in fluid. How I’m stuck, as always, in the space between them. How this stuckness encroaches on all aspects of my life. But as I type, I buzz with a secret: I can still feel Sink Monkey curled inside me, warm and protected.

While I wait for her reply, I replay the video. I think dear about each of Sink Monkey’s features. Dear tummy, rounding out over his legs. Dear face, turned up toward the woman as she cleans his ears with a Q-tip. Dear legs, hanging gently over the lip of the bathtub. Dear eyes, fluttering closed as she combs the fur on his chest with a wide-toothed comb.

Mandy texts back a flurry of sorrys. She ignores the ambivalence paragraph, which feels like a kindness. She wants to know whether it hurt, and I sit up. I pause the video at my favorite part. The woman is preparing Sink Monkey’s toothbrush. He’s touching his mouth, craning toward her.

The internet, I write, says it’s like bad period cramps. It’s nothing like that. Like, not even remotely. I tell her that now I know what contractions are like. That I can only describe the smell as kind of like honeysuckle. Then I can’t breathe. Gonna try to sleep now, I type.

I go back to Sink Monkey, try to focus. I list words about his eyes: Trusting. Eternal. I write down whatever I want, no matter how stupid. But as the woman moves behind him, I notice her arm. Pale and puffy, like she never goes outside. A scaled rash creeping from wrist to elbow. Who am I to think that Sink Monkey is happy? It’s not like I’m a primatologist, I think, in the hacked-up voice Ethan and I use to mimic our neighbor. I turn off the video and then I turn off my phone. I lie on my back and stare at the ceiling.

I think: drink water, eat toast. Take iron, take B vitamins. I can see myself leaving the bed, walking to the kitchen. I can see myself having, getting. I imagine these good things raining down into the glowing chamber of my body. Repairing Sink Monkey, making him thrive.

Alyssa Proujansky is a writer from Ithaca, New York, currently residing in Brooklyn. Her fiction appears or is forthcoming in Gulf Coast Online, Passages North, Third Coast, Columbia Journal, Hobart, The Rumpus, Moon City Review, Lunch Ticket and SmokeLong Quarterly, among other places. She is a member of the PEN Prison Writing Project’s Poetry Committee. Her website is www.alyssaproujansky.com.