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.”
“Elective surgery.” It’s a term that makes people think of botox injections and liposuction. Maybe facelifts. Breast implants, too. Well, purely cosmetic breast implants; never the implants given to people who’ve endured cancer and mastectomy. “Elective surgery” is too pejorative a term to describe the procedures undergone by those who’ve suffered. It seems suffering is a requirement for the surgeries to avoid having a negative social stigma. That same suffering determines the insurance companies’ willingness to pay for the procedures, too. When you realize they’re the ones who determine who’s suffered, then you can see there’s a problem.
My husband’s name is Brian. From the moment he was capable of self-reflection, he knew he was a man. He had to keep this knowledge to himself. It took 20 torturous years before he could safely declare himself to be the person he knew he was. When we met in 2010, Brian was four years into hormone therapy. I fell in love with him during our first conversation. He was extremely open about his transition, but I worried he felt he needed to explain himself to me, which wasn’t the case. I got the impression he’d been hurt in the past. Continue reading “Elective Surgery”