artwork for Noa Sivan's short story

Come as You Are
Noa Sivan

You’re alone in an elevator just big enough for four people of average weight, average height, everything average like you. No turning back. No room for regrets. You don’t understand why someone would pay you for sex.

The mirror in the elevator goes all the way down to the floor that’s carpeted in red. The carpet smells like there had been a fire and they’d replaced it, but couldn’t get rid of the smell. At least the soft light was complimentary.

You didn’t wear anything special, just a pair of jeans and a black Nirvana T-shirt.

The guy who set up the meeting—you went out a few times—was waiting in the lobby with instructions. He was pleased with the way you looked.

“Come as you are,” he’d read off your T-shirt and petted your head.

He said that’s what people looked for these days. They wanted to feel as if they’d just met someone on the street. The client was probably one of those people and that was all right. It could have been so much worse.

By the seventh floor, your heart beats so fast you have to stabilize yourself by reaching your arms to the walls. There’s no turning back, come as you are. But who are you?

Nobody raped you as a kid, drugged you, or beat you up. You’re not poor—you get money and an energy bar for school every day.

Your stomach growls. It’s also sticking out a bit, even though you had nothing to eat so it would stay flat. But then you had that piece of cheese. You put your hands up and sniff your armpits. It’s been 30 minutes since you scrubbed yourself in the shower. Maybe the client is into earthy scents.

You swab a finger in your vagina to check how you feel. How do you feel? You remember that article about girls who had an orgasm during rape. They didn’t say how many of them were virgins. Maybe you are special.

Two more floors to go, and now you remember you never asked who’d be waiting in that room.

The elevator stops and the doors open directly into the suite. Nobody’s there.

A note on the table says: “Ugly, stupid cunt.”

You assume it means you, but you’re happy anyway.

Noa Sivan’s Comments

When you write in languages other than your mother tongue, it affects your style and choice of materials. I can’t feel as free with my topics in Hebrew. The focus shifts from typos and grammar to the story itself.

The protagonist in this story has no shame and only the lack of it is present. For her, it’s a game of chicken. The shame is sucked into a vacuum of low self-esteem and wanting to win something, anything, even under those humiliating conditions.

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FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 48 | The Shame Issue | Spring/Summer 2016