Like An Animal by Janel Schroth

CW: Sexual intimacy, racial microaggressions


“My ex and I broke up last month.

She had blonde hair and blue eyes,

but you’re nice too.”


The boy from Durham doesn’t notice how much I fidget during our first evening at his

place. We sit at either end of his white couch, surrounded by white walls, not a sound to

be heard other than our sparse conversation on the 25th floor of a Financial District

skyscraper. No, I haven’t been down here much, I say. I live across the river in New

Jersey, where the houses are only as high as his building’s lobby. Every laugh from him

relieves me, so why do I keep fidgeting? He inches closer to me as we speak, but speak

is all we do. He tells me of his mother’s liking for vintage tupperware, his right-wing

leanings, his passion for architecture and design, and his preference for white women.

The boy from Durham sure knew how to pick ‘em, so why did he pick me?


“I dated an Asian girl in high school though.

The day we broke up,

I went to her house to pick up my stuff,

and she was clinging onto me

like an animal.”


I fail to think twice when I ask him to touch me. I notice as we meet more and more that

he hides behind his kindness and a bush of a mustache, but he obliges. Routinely, he

leans over the couch to kiss me, taking my hands into his. I’m not sure if I’m on his lips

or the stache, but his face is on mine, and that proximity is enough to bury me dead. We

have nothing in common, I think, as he slides my glasses off my face. We have nothing

in common, I think, as he places them carefully on the coffee table. There is

reassurance in the way he walks me to his bedroom that he’ll take care of me. Without

my glasses, I can do nothing but follow.


“What do I like about you?

Well, let’s see.

You’re easy to talk to,

and your voice drives me wild.

There’s not many girls like you back home.”


We stand before each other after he shuts the door. He’s close, but I can barely make

his face out in the dying light. We peel each other’s winter layers off one-by-one. How

am I not trembling? The boy from Durham unclothes me nude, slowly crawls up to me

as I lay, and we kiss again. He barely touches me, hovering like a specter. I feel my

body uncontrollably rise to meet him. Without the sound of conversation, I hear only the

sudden howling of wind between skyscrapers. I find I can’t make a sound, though he’s

soon inside me.


“I’m going back home to Durham during break.

Maybe I’ll meet the love of my life there.

I’ll take her on a drive,

she’ll put her feet up on the dashboard

and live right around the corner.

A girl I’m comfortable with.”


His arms give out, and I am pinned down. My hands are on his back, but I stare at the

ceiling. In ten minutes, I learn a language beyond a look, a conversation, and a touch. I

certainly learn what weakness is, what dissatisfaction is. In the quiet moments where

I’ve traded stories with my mother, she told me once over bread and coffee that she

was never interested in white men. They scared her too much with their brashness and

confidence. Yet what is fear to a girl who’s been praying for months: I want to be

desired, I want someone to want me, I want, I want, I want I want I want? I close my

eyes and turn my back to the shame. He weighs me down, yet still I rise.

Janel Schroth is a Fil-Am writer, artist, and community organizer born and raised in Jersey City, NJ. Since 2017, she has written, produced, and independently released 3 EPs and 2 singles under the name Holyveins, mapping out intimate spaces through nostalgic and ethereal soundscapes. She is currently finishing up her BFA in Recorded Music and Asian/Pacific/American Studies at NYU and working towards writing about artists of resistance and revolutionary soundscapes—a field inspired by her time as a member of Anakbayan. She hopes one day to write a book (or two) about resistance movements, communities she serves, and her own life.

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