The Winner of the 2017 Spring Shock “Trigger Warning” Writing Contest
He’d been eating her food for a year, but it was almost gone. He’d been planning to have people over to join him in eating the last eggplant parm when it came to it, but he decided he wanted to eat it all himself. Plus he hadn’t talked to any of his friends in like.
It wasn’t that he was anti-social without her, or even that he had some kind of aversion to people, it was just that it was a pain in the ass, socializing. He’d be just as happy staying home and scrolling Twitter all night, and he liked that he could put down a conversation whenever he wanted to, or take his time, or only have to come up with one witty thing every couple minutes or so.
He shook some salt out over his Swedish meatballs. He had three of these left in the freezer because they were not his favorite, and one eggplant parm because it was. He figured he’d get around to eating the meatballs in their gunky creamy gray sauce at the end. Here it was, the end, and it was time. A sprinkle of pepper, and he chewed.
“@simonanta show of hands, who really likes Swedish meatballs, anyway?”
Her bitch face looked back at him from her twitter avatar. He liked to use her twitter handle. He kept all her social media feeds up. They’d agreed, before she ascended, that he would take on her weblical persona. The checks came in her name, but they had a joint account, so.
“@simonanta if you’re not binging Refugee Roulette on HBO you’re missing out.”
He answered the buzzer and the weed guy came in. He was a goofy, high-ass kid with a shallow laugh. The kid held out his arm a short distance from his side. Tommy took it. “Hey padre,” the kid said.
“Jonathan,” Tommy said.
“I’ve only got Indica this week man.” Tommy pulled out several folded twenties from his pocket.
Tommy nodded. “That’s cool,” he said.
“Oh wait, that’s right, you like the body high, you don’t like the heady stuff.”
Tommy didn’t like Sativa, and he didn’t like Jonathan. He ended up with the kid when his regular guy got promoted. Jonathan worked for that guy. Jonathan wasn’t as chill. He was too chatty, too into being the weed guy, knowing about it, the strains, the locales, the legalization efforts. He was like proud to be enlightened enough to be into getting fucked up. It was like a moral perspective or something. Yeah, Tommy didn’t like him, and didn’t have any respect for him, which made the weekly transactions more aggravating than Tommy liked things like this to be.
“You uh, you leave the house this week?” Jonathan asked.
“No, Jonathan,” Tommy replied.
“You talk to Kathy?”
“Did she say I did?”
“No. She did that thing, though. She’s back from Brazil.”
“What thing. I didn’t know she was away.”
“She got all that surgery, like she said that night, when you were all.” Jonathan opened his eyes wide for a second in wordless communication. Then laughed.
Kathy had known Tommy and Simona since before they were a couple. Kathy and Tommy were close but Kathy and Simona were closer. After Simona ascended, Kathy had held a memorial at her apartment. Photographs of Simona were all around the junior one bedroom, with a life-sized cutout for people to take selfies with. When Tommy got there that night he walked in to see two hipster Asian intern chicks from Kathy’s office painting teardrops on each other’s faces with eye pencil, then frowning into the camera with Simona’s cardboard doppelganger. Quick they looked at the pictures they’d taken and posted the best one. #RIPsimonanta
Tommy had gone on his phone real quick and liked it as @simonanta #imnotdeadyet. He winked at them but they thought he was a creeper and scowled and turned away. With puffy, red, teary eyes Kathy found him and took him into her bedroom alcove and sat with him on the bed, holding onto him while she cried. Tommy held her and he was hurting. He’d called Jonathan and together, after the mourners had left, he and Kathy and Jonathan, who had stayed, sensing a dramatic moment, had smoked an 80 bag until they passed out. Tommy remembered sex, and so did Kathy, but they didn’t quite remember sex together. Tommy had imagined sex with Simona. Kathy had remembered sex as Simona, and not herself.
She’d confessed, in the morning, to having felt inhabited by Simona’s spirit. Tommy was embarrassed, it had only been about a week since Simona ascended, and he’d been numb without her. Kathy said she’d been walking around all week like a zombie, that feeling Simona’s presence inside her was the first time she felt flesh and blood since.
Tommy looked at Jonathan, didn’t have a memory of him leaving that night, but there were lots of things he didn’t remember having happened that must have happened. Graduating high school, for instance, no memory of that. First words. First tweet. Experiences that he’d experienced that were lost to him forever.
Jonathan had trouble standing still under Tommy’s gaze. “It was chill of you to let me chill with you that night. It was weird, like. I never knew no one who did that before, and like. It’s like, because I’m Catholic and we say you don’t like give up life, y’know? You don’t like. Life is a gift. It’s a gift and I. I never knew no one who gave it away on purpose before, on purpose bc they thought they found something better.”
Simona had been so happy about it. She told Tommy it was like the freeway to reincarnation, a pathway to enlightenment. To become pure energy, what greater state was there, what earthly delights could compare with attaining one’s place in heaven? Simona thought it was like returning to the origins of human kind, star stuff to star stuff. Like the magic mythical last puff of a tight joint that turns instantly to ash and falls away gone, no waste, no remains.
Tommy felt that his grief would have been easier to swallow had she died in a more traditional way, but the fact that she had intended this, had wanted it, and had followed through with it, despite his hope, that at some point, her love of him would overcome her need to realize the ultimate transformation, was. At the end she’d be pulsing, like a hum, and she would giggle and hiccup. It was like she was hiccuping bw physical life and a state of unbound energy.
Early on they’d talked about what it means to be a human being, if a person could be a person without a body, if a human could be human without a place to store their consciousness. Her consciousness would be post-human, all of the in-depth intellectual circumspection without the burden of the body. For his part, Tommy liked the body, he liked it a lot.
“It would be so freeing,” she’d said, “to discard this flawed form, these flawed forms of communication, to exist without boundaries, without need, without want.”
“What would we be without want?” He’d replied. “To want is to be alive.” He reached for her. “Your flaws make you perfect.”
She let him caress her. She closed her eyes. He joked that her body was a menu of delights. She liked to orgasm because she felt like it dissolved the edges of her body.
No one knew if the return to pure energy hurt, because no one had come back from it. It didn’t look like it hurt, from where he stood on the ground, watching, it looked more like. Glorious. It was beautiful, and there were pulsing strings of light emanating out from the ends of her hair. She lifted into a back flip, and kept flipping as she got brighter, and brighter. Her body outlined against the clouds destabilized at the ends, pointillist dots dotting out and dissipating. Tommy thought he could see the elements comprising her molecules disengage, her electrons spin on their vast strings, shooting off into the universe at near light speeds. He wondered if she felt lighter; she’d always wanted to feel lighter.
He waved to her, but he didn’t exist for her anymore. They weren’t even in the same form of reality.
Simona had done everything she could for Tommy to make life without her bearable, except stay. His only want had been to be with her forever, and now instead he spoke in her voice, on her feeds, and lived in the apartment she had made into their home, and ate her food. She’d bought a big ice chest freezer, the kind exurban moms and dads kept in their basements for those high rollin’ trips to Costco, and loaded it up with dozens of freezable dishes. Parms and cacciatori’s, meatballs, both Swedish and regular, pans of wellingtons and veggie lasagnas.
He wondered how Kathy had been holding up without all the meals, lovingly prepared. Before the ascension she came over for dinner a fair bit. They’d smoke mad weed, drink dry reds, listen to smooth jazz and take pictures of their food #adulting #nomnomnom. They made extra. They went for seconds. Kathy always brought dessert. Confections Tommy had never heard of, things with lemon curd, pistachio icing, gooey meringues. She was curvy, like Simona, her hips, he remembered from the one night of Simona’s memorial, had been a force.
“She looks totally different,” Jonathan said, “she looks like…” He trailed off instead of saying Simona’s name.
Tommy nodded. “Yeah.” But he couldn’t imagine it. They traded money for weed.
“Later man.” Jonathan looked out the door both ways down the hallway, slipped out.
“@simonanta another night in, you wish you were here, suckers”
Tommy had occasionally, during this past year, ordered in. A stack of round, plastic, pad thai containers reached half way up the wall in two columns. He grabbed one and emptied the rest of the Swedish meatballs into it before popping it in the fridge. He smoked, blowing the smoke through a paper towel roll stuffed with coffee grounds, a college trick. His neighbors were assholes, and he wasn’t up for a knock on the door complaining about the smell. He lay back in his couch spot.
He imagined having sex with Simona. She’d wrap her arms around his neck and press close to him. She’d joke with him while she took off her clothes, chide him to take off his 1990s cartoon franchise t-shirt, Duck Tales, Animaniacs. They’d climb into bed or wherever, impulsive, unable to hold back, then remind themselves that they could take it slow, they could take their time. Enjoy it, they would enjoy it.
He slipped a hand under the band of his sweat pants and stroked himself. He wanted to get off but he was so tired of masturbating. It left him wanting too much. He smoked weed and watched anime until he passed out. He dreamed of bubbly, purple-haired vixens with pulsing graphics where their pussies should be. Even his dreams left him wanting so hard.
In the morning he texted Kathy. “Hey.”
He wondered if even her hands were the same, and imagined her hand on him instead of his own. He posted a picture, years old, of him and Simona on her insta.
“@simonanta me and my best guy, living large, #latergram”
Quick reply “Hey.” Like no time had passed. Like Simona hadn’t ascended. Like she had a surprise confection in store and a bottle of bubbles on ice.
Bouncing bubble dots.
“Pick up donuts from that place and come over.”
“Hibiscus cream?”
“You know me so well.” He imagined Kathy’s big smile, all teeth and mischief. “Prosecco and bacon?”
Tommy hesitated. “How do you feel?”
“Yeah, it’s been interesting.”
“C u soon.”
He pulled himself together. He went to the donut place and stood in line. He scrolled through a year’s worth of @simonanta assorted feeds, posts he had posted in her voice. Only her closest friends knew of her ascension, but for the majority of her followers nothing had changed, she’d been right there with them this whole year.
Kathy answered the door and stepped back so he could see the full affect. He stared at her. She reached out mechanically and took the donut box. She put them on her small dining table, in a corner of the small living room, and poured out glasses of prosecco. Tommy watched from the door. It was. She’d really done it and she looked. Everything about her on the outside was Simona. Simona’s plump ass, her strong legs under tight leggings. Her broad shoulders, slender arms.
Kathy brought him a glass of prosecco in an old fashioned coup. He imagined Marie Antoinette’s breasts being used as the model for the cup and sipped and imagined Simona’s breasts which now belonged to Kathy, he wondered. They sipped and still he couldn’t move from the doorway. She sipped and crossed her arms and looked at him and leaned against the wall.
“I saw Angel falls,” she said.
“I thought you were in Brazil.”
“Yeah, but I traveled around a bit, between surgeries. Something like this,” she motioned to her body, “can’t be done all at once, it takes time.”
“You look… The weed guy said you look just like her, and you do.”
“That’s a win, that’s what I was going for. I wanted to… I wanted.”
“Are you happy?”
“Are you going to come in?”
Tommy realized he was still just standing there and stepped in over the threshold. He slipped off his shoes, then realized she was wearing hers. “Simona always…”
“I’m not Simona,” Kathy said.
“But you look just like her.”
“That’s the beauty part. I look just like her but I’m not her. I’m still me, I just… I always liked how she looked better than how I looked.”
Tommy started to launch into some kind of self-affirming talk about how she is beautiful just the way she is, but then realized that she’d felt that way about herself, and done something about it. There was no point saying that Kathy was beautiful just the way she was because she wasn’t that way anymore, she was Simona, she looked just like her.
She took a big breath and screwed up her courage. It came out in a rush. “I didn’t do this for you. I didn’t do this bc I wanted you. I didn’t do this bc I wanted you to want me. I did this bc Simona went through life the way I wanted to go through life, and I always thought, if I had what she had I would do x with it, it was like she had this look, and she didn’t know how to wield it and I do, I know how to get what I want with this.”
“Okay,” said Tommy, grinning. It was Kathy, God he had missed her. He had missed Simona, he had missed Kathy, and he had a twinkle of a thought, it was a bad thought, he thought, he thought it was a thought he shouldn’t have, he thought it was a thought he should squash. At the very least, if he were going to entertain this thought, if he were going to let this thought entertain him, he couldn’t let anyone know he had entertained it: he could have them both.
He felt like he was morphing between a world of lies and a world of truth. It was like he could see everything that was true and everything that was lies at the same time. The feel of bodies against his body, Simona for years, and then Kathy once. His skin prickled. His cock twitched. The smell of bacon sizzling in the oven. He downed the contents of his cup. The soft, jiggly part of a breast held aloft, soft, near a revealing neckline. He bit his lower lip.
“I missed you Kathy.”
“Me or Simona?”
“Everything, I’ve missed everything.” As he said it he knew it was true. Every single goddamned thing that made life worth living he had missed.
“I’m not her,” Kathy cautioned.
“I don’t want you to be.”
She drank the rest of her prosecco in one gulp and filled their glasses. He wrapped his arms around her waist from behind and she spilled the bubbles all over the donuts. She moved to get away, to clean it up. He took off his shirt and mopped it up himself, then left it and without a thought, guided by body, by want, by her attraction, he kissed her. She returned the kiss with power, with lips that felt familiar, with an energy that felt brand new, that felt earthbound, for good and for true.
The End