Perhaps this can serve as a eulogy for my beloved friend and roommate, Maya. She didn’t deserve what happened to her. No one does.
I guess it started with a lecture on the first day of classes that semester. Everything just seemed to go south after that.
The professor’s name is Laura Oxley-Vereen. Remember that. She’s taught here for thirty years, is tenured, and is politically connected. She is untouchable.
Her course is mandatory.
“It’s important to remember who are and who are not your allies,” Oxley-Vereen lectured. “It’s simple, really. Only women are your allies. Real women. Not crossdressers, or ‘transgenders’ as they like to be called. They’re gay men in costumes. Don’t let them convince you they’re anything more than that. They will never experience the issues women endure, no matter how they dress or what they change their names to.”
Low murmurs circled the lecture hall. Maya sank into her chair. Even I could feel the eyes on her. I seethed.
“I know this isn’t a popular opinion nowadays,” the professor continued, undeterred, “but it is a fact of biology. They will never menstruate. They will never be raped and forced to carry the rapist’s baby. And hell, if they worry they’re making less money than their male-presenting coworkers, they can just take off their wigs and scrub away their makeup for a quick raise.”
“Sooooo….what is it?” I asked, chewing the tip of my left pigtail.
“I think it’s an old treehouse,” Lisa replied. Her face was speckled with dirt. We’d crossed the wide creek an hour before. It had been mostly mud.
“We can probably climb,” I mused, pointing my dirty finger at the ragged wooden slats nailed into the side of the tree.
Lisa studied the slats. They were rotten. Streaks of rust ran down below the old nails. “Yeah, maybe.”
“I’m gonna do it,” I announced, and started toward the makeshift ladder. “Just catch me if I fall.”
“You know you’re too heavy,” my friend sighed. “You’ll break my neck.”
I pretended not to hear. I placed a tentative foot on the first wooden slat, then shifted my weight back and forth. The piece wobbled, but it didn’t break. I put more weight on it, then grasped the rung above my head and pulled. Still steady. I was fine.
“I think it’ll be okay!” I called behind me, and began my ascent.
The late-July sun hung like a drop of molten slag in the western sky; not as bright as it had been a few hours ago, but it didn’t feel any cooler. Sweat poured down my brow and chest and legs, spattering Lisa. She clicked her tongue in annoyance.
I stared up through the narrow, jagged square cut into the bottom of the treehouse. Spider webs clung to the faraway ceiling, drifting in the weak breeze.
About two weeks ago, a new couple moved in across the street. Julius and Bill. I was surprised the house sold, to be honest. It was a hell of a fixer upper. I guess they really liked the place.
It’s an old farmhouse built in 1712 or something. Looks it, too. I mean, it’s better now since they got all the garbage out of the front yard, but the curb appeal is still seriously lacking.
Not long after they moved in, I invited them over for dinner. I figured they’d want to know that their new neighbor was, well, neighborly.
Plus, I was curious.
I’ll come out and say it: I’d never really talked to guys like them before. Maybe I’m old school, but in my day, I wasn’t exposed to those kinds of folks. Even though I know it’s supposed to be a different world nowadays, I still have a hard time believing two men would make the choice to be what they are. I mean, what kind of man looks at another man and says, “hey, let’s be florists?” Continue reading “Missing Mousetraps”
As one might imagine, a degree in Film doesn’t immediately lead to job offers. At the age of 23, I was desperately looking for a job – any job, really – but if I could find one that used my talents and my passion, I’d be ecstatic. When I refreshed the job section of Craigslist and saw, “Cameraman Wanted” with an email address, I shot off an email as fast as I could and within an hour I heard back.
After a brief email exchange, the next day I ended up interviewing with a thin, well-dressed man in a beautiful midtown apartment. The man, who introduced himself as Andrew, was polite and straightforward. “Do you have any moral issues with homosexuality and filming homosexual acts?” he asked, studying me for a reaction.
“No,” I insisted. “Absolutely and unequivocally. No.”
I studied his face. It looked like he was prepared to accept what I was saying, but somewhere in his eyes I saw what I’d been hoping for. Something I barely wanted to admit, but nonetheless what I wanted most of all: he understood that behind my protestations was a plea to be convinced.
He opened his mouth and I studied his tongue. It was pink and firm and marked with tastebuds. The sheen of saliva on the muscle was both inviting and repelling; I loved how it felt inside me. I enjoyed the sensations it produced. But it left things behind. When he pulled away, I would feel the air on the wetness it deposited. It was cold. Discomforting.
I met his mouth with mine and let his tongue slip between my lips. It brushed against my own and I tasted his saliva. His mouth was still salty and slightly bitter from our earlier acts together. Not altogether unpleasant, but still noteworthy. I assumed mine tasted similar. Continue reading “Tiptoeing the Line of Consent”
As Andrew got sicker, he’d point to perceived smudges on our bedroom window. Nothing discernible to him. Not at first. But the decline in my partner’s health brought with it a growing realization. “It’s a face,” he told me. “It’s someone’s face.”
I saw nothing.
I sat with Andrew through it all. Every sleepless night. Every shriek of terror as nightmares tore through him. Every sobbing declaration that he wasn’t ready. In the mornings, the smudged face would be there, ever clearer to him. He was terrified of it. Still, I saw nothing.
My girlfriend and I were crossing through a graveyard when she abruptly stopped and grabbed my arm. She grinned. I knew that grin.
“Here? In a cemetery?,” I asked. It felt a little weird. Disrespectful, too.
“Mmhmm,” she mewled, and pulled off her shirt.
I looked around. It was obvious we were alone. Even though it’d stopped raining an hour earlier, it was still misty and cool. New England autumn was in full effect. The ground was covered in dead leaves. The place looked creepy.
“We’re gonna get soaked,” I complained, but I started taking off my pants.
“I already am,” she whispered. I thought about making a joke and telling her that she should’ve brought an umbrella, but I figured it wasn’t the time or place.
We did what we apparently needed to do. She seemed to enjoy it, at least. Afterward, I was trying to pick leaves and grass off and out of myself while she grabbed our clothes off the headstone.
“Recognize the name?,” she asked.
She pointed. My eyes widened.
“Rudolph Jans Mendelson is fucking buried here?!,” I exclaimed. She grinned.
“I wish I could’ve met him,” she complained.
“Um, you know he would’ve killed you, right? Like the others?”
“No, I don’t think so. We would’ve gotten along just fine.” Again, she grinned. “I probably could’ve given him a reason or two to keep me alive.” She grabbed my crotch, as if I didn’t get what she was talking about.
The late afternoon dimness was giving way to full dark. Fog joined the mist and it crept down the hill into the cemetery like a shroud. My girlfriend looked enthralled.
“I’m getting chilly,” I told her. “It’s probably time we head back.”
“Hang on a minute, let me just take this all in.” She pulled her phone out of her pocket and started snapping pictures of the headstone. “I want everyone to see where we were.”
She got a couple shots, then gave me the phone to hold. Thick, cold raindrops began to fall. “Yeah, that’s probably our cue to leave,” I insisted, and started to walk away.
While I was pulling my sweatshirt over my head, I heard her gasp, then moan. “What’s wro–,” I started to say, but then felt the blood drain from my head as I saw what was causing her to make those sounds.
A hand – a cracked, skeletal hand – had burst from the ground and was gripping her ankle. I shouted and grabbed her arm, but she pulled away. Blood wept through her denim as the hand gripped ever tighter, and after a second, I heard the bone crack.
She didn’t cry out, though. Her face took on an expression of intense discomfort, but she refused to shout. I didn’t refuse. I yelled and kicked at the hand as profound horror forced adrenaline through my body.
Again, I tried to grab her arms. She struggled, but I held tight. I pulled as hard as I could. As I did, a hideous rotting corpse was dragged from its grave. Rudolph Jans Mendelson.
“Let me go!,” she finally screamed. “Let me go!”
I was sobbing now and expending all the effort I could to pull her away from the corpse. His misshapen head seethed with maggots and his eyes and tongue bulged out like some benthic atrocities that had never been exposed to light.
“Miiiiiiiiiine,” he groaned, and his other hand reached up and grabbed her back; his nails sinking into the flesh and using it to pull. “Miiiiiine!”
“Let me go, let me go, let me go!,” she continued to scream. My eyes were closed now as I pulled with singular purpose. I felt teeth sinking into my arm and my eyes flew open as I shouted with pain.
In that moment of agony and surprise, my grip loosened. My girlfriend fell back into Mendelson’s grip and he squeezed her against his rotting, pulpy body. His swollen tongue passed over her neck and face. She wasn’t struggling anymore. She just watched me and watched my reaction. Mendelson squeezed harder and I heard his ribs splinter as my girlfriend’s body was pulled inside.
“Thank you for helping me be with him,” she said to me, as she was drawn deeper into his putrid carcass. “I always knew we’d be perfect together.”