by Anna-Claire McGrath
After Hera Lindsay Bird’s poem ‘The Ex-Girlfriends Are Back’
Your college boyfriend is back from the dead. He has risen out of the grave to ask you if you’ve ever read any Charles Bukowski. With his sunken eyes and yellow teeth, he wants to know what you think of Annie Hall, and he is disappointed to hear that you do not like it.
Your college boyfriend would like to explain to you the importance of eating vegan. He places his decaying left hand on your right shoulder as he tells you that, “This will be really good for you, I swear.” Then he swallows a fly that looks vaguely like David Foster Wallace, but more specifically like Jason Segel playing David Foster Wallace.
Your college boyfriend is hoping you can tell him where he can find your old friend Tom, the one who you said you were going to the movies with and your college boyfriend looked like he was going to cry. Ditto that barista you always had a crush on, and your professor who you spent long hours in the office of. Your college boyfriend gets a redness behind his eyes when he talks about them, as if he might dismember all of them limb by limb.
It is hard to get him out of your apartment. His rotting legs will not seem to move him off your couch, as he tells you that he thinks he “never really gave us a chance, you know?” He thinks he spent too much time telling you about The Dark Knight and that he regrets. “It’s just so much more than a Batman movie,” he adds, as a spider crawls out from under his eye.
Now that he is a member of the undead, your college boyfriend has been spending a lot of time listening to jazz records. He always appreciated them before, he says and you remember, but he doesn’t feel like he ever really understood what jazz was about, until he was six feet below the ground turning into soil. Now that he understands jazz music, he thinks he is a totally different person, not the loser you used to date. He wonders, do you want to listen to some jazz right now? He thinks you will really like this one album he’s been listening to. It’s called Kind of Blue, do you know it?
“His poetry has gotten worse since he died. He writes fragments that all end in “unghhhhh, unghhhhh” which he reads aloud to you for your feedback.”
Your college boyfriend worries you love your friends more than him. He doesn’t understand why you don’t want to feed him Elizabeth’s brains, or Sarah’s, when he needs them to survive. “If you cared about me, you would consider me the most important,” he tells you. You will not tell him where Elizabeth and Sarah live.
His poetry has gotten worse since he died. He writes fragments that all end in “unghhhhh, unghhhhh” which he reads aloud to you for your feedback. When he finishes, and you do not applaud, he shakes backwards and forwards like he might collapse, and his gray skin peels above the temple.
At a certain point you decide he is not leaving. The only thing to do is to jam something through his head, and let him be fully dead again. He is explaining how people abuse social media, and how real activism doesn’t exist anymore. He says something about “Tiananmen Square” as you find a meat thermometer you think will do the trick. He is telling you how much better his life has been since he got a flip phone as you raise the meat thermometer slowly to his temple.
As you do, he looks briefly like the boy you met at a party late one night sophomore year. You remember looking at him as he sat with a beer alone in the corner, thinking how lonely he looked. He started telling you about how he missed his parents, how he still slept with an owl stuffed animal to remind him of being at home. You told him that you were lonely sometimes too, and he kissed you because you had made him feel better.
You jab the meat thermometer through his temple, and the groans fill your apartment. He lies there on the ground motionless and you feel sad for the boy you thought he was, but then you carry his body to your trunk and dump it in the river outside of town, where he swishes down the stream with a sound that reminds you in a small quiet way of early Radiohead.
Anna-Claire McGrath is a second-year MFA student in fiction writing at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia. Her plays have been read by Torn Out Theater, Spooky Action Theater and Inkubator Lab. She has been published in no. 2 magazine, and of course Dear Damsels. She probably talks about Harry Potter too much.