Let It Die

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
It's difficult to grieve for the living dead.

Submitted: May 05, 2008

A A A | A A A

Submitted: May 05, 2008



Something was not right. I left my name with the hostess at the Flying Biscuit Cafand sat down on the concrete bench there. It was winter in Atlanta, where winters are mild and the sunshine can be deceiving. The sidewalk was butter yellow from the sun overhead but the shade of the cafs awning left me sitting in the cold. I stretched out my legs and watched my bare toes make a pilgrimage into the light. Matthew was wearing penny loafers which he had painted over many times with various shades of spray paint. His ankles looked pale and bony, un-socked in the mistreated leather.

We were seated at a small table close to the kitchen. I watched as plates were adorned with fluffy biscuits and bussed to neighboring diners. It wasn’t so much that I enjoyed watching the kitchen, but more that I was afraid to direct my eyes to the hollow figure sitting across from me. When I wasn’t watching the kitchen, I directed my attention to the silverware, or the tiny silver dish full of sugar cubes.

He looked like death. His face was grey, his eyes were bloodshot. His hair was stripped and patchy. Matt had been known to impulsively purchase boxed hair-dye or haphazardly attack his head with bleach. A flimsy V-neck shirt hung low on his sunken chest. The high collar of his Peacoat was flipped up behind his neck, giving him the appearance of a teenaged vampire. His smile made my stomach turn. Matthew always had a smile like the Cheshire Cat. His mouth, being large and disproportionate to his face, tended to turn up into a strange smile that was too sweet to be honest. Saccharine and persuasive, it could have belonged to a deranged toothpaste spokesperson or a TV host on a nineteen-fifties game show. But this time when his lips began to curl, I recoiled. I couldn’t contain myself:

“Oh my god.”

“What?” He looked defensive.

“Your teeth. They look awful. You’re obviously smoking again. And grinding your teeth at night? You look like you’ve taken an electric sander to your face…”

He closed his lips and rolled them under his teeth.

“You should see a dentist. You could come into the office where I work…”

This is where it started. I embarked on another one of my verbal assaults against his series of unfortunate decisions in life: dropping out of school, pissing off his parents, running away from rehab. I couldn’t help myself. I was angry. I was disappointed and angry at him, angry at myself for ever making the mistake of trusting him. Technically, Matt was a genius. When I met him, he was a successful but rebellious student who loved music and could have secured a scholarship to a conservatory. In the five years since I met him, he had deteriorated into a glorified hobo with no band, no family, no phone number, no car, no bank account, and the inability to hold any job for more than a few weeks. He paid a meager rent to sleep on a mattress wedged into the breakfast nook of an apartment on Ponce. I ravenously ate my Love Cakes as I reminded Matthew, and myself, that everything was his fault. I had just begun to dip into my side of grits when I proposed my signature question:

“Now, is there anything you want to tell me? Anything that you lied about or kept secret from me that you’d like to own up to?”

I gave him the look. The I-have-been-talking-to-your-mother-and-you’re-a-lying-bastard look. He gazed down at the laminated tablecloth and began his involuntary confessions.

“I have been smoking pot.”

I know. Continue.

“And drinking.”

Um-hmm. Continue.

He shrugged. I stone-faced him.

“What about last summer when you had to go to the ER?”

“Oh yeah.”

“You told me that you’d had an allergic reaction to your pills and that your Mae Mae was making you take them with Benadryl’s and I believed you. What happened?”

“I overdosed.”

“Were you trying to kill yourself?” My face was tingling. I swear that the tears were backing up and puddling in my sinuses.

“No. I wasn’t trying to kill myself.” He snarled at me. “I just didn’t want to feel anything anymore. I wanted to be numb!”

“Anything else?”

“Yeah. I let Liz Morrison suck my dick.”

I was blind-sided. Didn’t see that coming.

“Seriously, man? COME ON.”

He shrugged it off.

“You sick bastard. She’s the dirtiest slut we know. I hope you’ve been tested, you sick fuck.”

Matt had always been a liar. And he had always been a bit of a head case. But until this particular moment, I had lived under fanciful assumption that he had been loyal to me. My sympathy for him rested in the romance of his loyalty. Sure, I was his ex-girlfriend, but part of me had gotten used to his pathetic professions of love and theatrical supplications for sexual favors. In this moment, any endearing feelings for him disintegrated. It was like someone took the filter off of the film. I couldn’t look at him. He was disgusting. I controlled myself and spoke politely.

“I don’t think we can be friends anymore.”

“WHAT?” He was genuinely shouting and we were beginning to make a scene.

“I don’t want to see you anymore.”

“So many times you’ve told me that you would never leave me. So many times you told me that you would always be here for me. Be my friend. The band left me, Alan left me, my friends left me, my girlfriend’s in fucking jail for a fucking DUI, and now you’re leaving me too?”

He was acting now. He was absolutely terrifying. Manipulation had once been one of his greatest talents. I had seen him employ it before, with great finesse, against school principals and police officers and his parents. Today he was clumsy. He labored for an expression of disbelief but found himself somewhere between amused and defeated.

I was genuinely crying. Grieving. Mourning my own naet Again.

“I can’t do this. You can’t do this to me. Its not fair. I shouldn’t have to worry about you anymore. I have another life and school and responsibilities and other friends and people who care about me and I can’t handle you anymore. I just can’t do it.”

As I wiped the dripping eyeliner away from the outer corners of my eyes, I watched him change. He was possessed. His eyes were solid black in their deep silver sockets, directed like a double-barreled gun towards my face. He sat back in his chair and clenched his teeth. As I waved for the check, he seemed to be talking to himself in his head, plotting my death with the counterparts of his violent imagination. For the first time, I felt afraid of him. The city had gnawed deep into his flesh and unleashed the predatory evil lurking in his body where his soul used to be.

I have been waiting for the phone call ever since. Fearing the relief that it will bring. April 6th came and went. I had wondered if the weight of his 21st birthday would do him in. Alas, his shredded entrails still wander the earth in their skeleton cage.

All that is remains is for the living dead to run out of corpses to consume.

© Copyright 2020 Gretchen Ross. All rights reserved.

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