by Monty Rozema
When I came home from the grocery store, my boyfriend was dead on the floor.
If he had been dead on the kitchen floor, I would've been less upset by it. But he was dead on the carpet. His eyeball (the size and consistency of an underdone jello shot) had liquified, and was now congealing into the gray shag rug.
His phone chirped in his pocket and he went to check the notification.
"Oh, hey, Care Bear," he said when he noticed me.
"Hi Jack," I said. "Are you alright?"
"No," he said calmly. I suggested we have a talk. I helped him up from the floor, located the stain remover, and shoved the thawing Lean Cuisines into the freezer.
He held a rag and looked at the mess, where the remains of his eyeball were spreading out like a poached egg yolk.
"Going to have to get a new one," he said ambiguously.
After our talk, Jack and I came to the mutual conclusion that the most convenient thing to do in this scenario was to carry on as if he was still alive.
"When my grandma died, we couldn't even afford to go out for tapas anymore," I said to him.
"I like tapas," Jack said with a frown.
I explained to him that funerals are expensive. So are rugs and eyeballs and tapas. Out of the four of those things, we came to the mutual conclusion that rugs and tapas spark joy, while funerals and liquified eyeballs do not.
We reorganized the living room so that the couch covered the stain. I had to move it almost entirely on my own since Jack started to turn a sort of lavender purple color and had to sit down for a while. Once we got the blood off of his face, I tied a silk scarf around the empty socket and we lay in bed together shopping online for eyepatches.
Jack was pretty quiet. I can only imagine he was stressed out thinking about having to wear an eyepatch to his brother's wedding. I know how he hates to stand out.
He kept trying to touch the empty socket. "Does it hurt?" I asked.
He said he wasn't sure and we turned out the lights and went to bed. Except I didn't sleep, and he didn't sleep. Neither of us slept.
When the sun rose, my boyfriend was dead on the floor again.
He had moved the couch and was laying with his face pressed against the stain on the rug. Honestly, it pissed me off a little. I started making coffee.
"Care Bear?" he said from the floor.
I didn't respond. I listened as he got up, creaking, and came to the kitchen. I poured him a cup of coffee in his favorite mug that I'd bought him during our trip to Yosemite, and I tried to hand it to him without looking at his face.
But the mug fell onto the floor and the handle cracked off and the hot coffee went all over my bare feet, and I screamed, and I started crying, and I ran and hid in the nice bathroom until Jack slid an ice pack under the door and apologized.
When I finally came out, he had Swiffered the floor and was standing, holding the mug and its broken-off handle, trying, it seemed, to deduce how they had ever been parts of the same object.
Jack's eyepatches arrived.
I ordered him a set: Black, dark brown, navy blue, white, light brown, rose pink, sky blue, sea foam green, and lavender. A color for every occasion. He stood in front of the full-length mirror on the closet door while I handed him eyepatches to try on and we practiced matching them to his shirts.
"That one will be good for Easter," I said, as he tried on the rose pink. "It matches your Armani bow tie." He nodded. He smiled, and one of his front teeth got caught on his lip and was ripped out of his receding gums. He caught it before it hit the floor, but a piece of bloody drool ran down the front of his shirt.
"Toof cup," he begged.
I sighed and fetched the tooth cup, where we were keeping all his teeth for the time being.
We powered through the rest of the eyepatches and decided on lavender for the wedding. It matched my dress and his new skin tone, which notably did not improve after several days of brightening clay masks.
He just seemed to get greyer.
Jack fought me on the new carpet.
I explained to him that not only was shag "out," but if he were to have another accident, cut-loop would be much easier to clean. He said I was missing the point. He said he needed that carpet. He needed to sleep with his face up against the stain, and when I pressed him on the matter, he said that without it he could feel his soul - or something similar - actively being sucked away into the stratosphere piece by piece as he went about his day.
I reminded him that my friend Chelsea works for Rejuvi-Nation. Meaning that we could get him in for cryotherapy at half the price.
He opened his mouth to reply, and a glob of teeth and saliva fell out onto the floor. It was disgusting. I started to cry. He looked panicked, unsure of whether to prioritize comforting me or picking up his rotten teeth. He prioritized the teeth. He cleaned them off in the bathroom sink, put them in the tooth cup, and got down on his hands and knees to scrub the floor. I sat on the bed and cried.
After he'd thoroughly washed his hands, he came over and sat next to me on the bed. He kissed my head with his mouth closed. He put his hand on top of mine, and I saw that his nail beds were sinking back, shriveling away.
When I was done crying, he said that I was right, that cut-loop would
be easier to clean.
To celebrate getting a new rug, we went out for tapas.
Jack ordered half the dishes (as usual), but he patiently held back on eating them while we were out in public. He rolled a ball of fried cheese around with his fork. I relayed what Chelsea had told me about essential oils, and reminded him that it never hurts to try something new.
He cut a croqueta in half and watched a puff of steam escape it.
"What do you think of glass eyes?" he asked.
"They're ominous," I admitted.
"Yeah," he said.
I told him what Chelsea told me about photosynthesis, how it wasn't entirely just for plants anymore. How Breatharians were nuts, sure, but maybe not super
nuts. He looked sad.
"Do you think I'll never be able to have tapas again?" he asked.
"We're having it right now," I said, perplexed.
"I mean eat
I set my hand on his lavender forearm. Someday he'd understand that having
tapas wasn't contingent on eating
tapas. And life, consequently, wasn't contingent on living
As we walked home from the restaurant, past pubs and arcades and Anthropologie, I took Jack's arm. I pulled down gently in what was supposed to be a subtle, non-verbal display of affection.
I was not prepared for his arm to come off.
My gentle pull dislodged the rotting mess of his shoulder tendons, and I felt the whole limb go limp inside his coat sleeve. I pulled him to the bench, expertly staging a lovey-dovey stargazing interlude while we figured out what to do next.
When I turned to him to explain the importance of keeping a cool head under duress, I saw that he was crying, and the tears were gooey, coming out from under his eye patch (the white one, so it was very noticeable).
"Baby," I said.
"Care Bear..." he echoed.
"Your eye is leaking," I said, in case he hadn't noticed.
He nodded to let me know that he had noticed.
Jack turned to me (I winced, in spite of myself, at the sight of him). He said that he had been thinking, and that he was going to go ahead with the funeral, even though it was expensive. He said that he wouldn't be able to make it to his brother's wedding, or the reception, or anything after that, actually.
He said that he loved me, and that he was sorry, and that he had too much to carry, and it was ripping him apart. He apologized for the tears, which were mostly blood with some other weird fluids mixed in.
He asked if I still had the Fashion Disaster!™ Mini Emergency Kit that he'd gotten for me last year in the secret compartment in my purse. I nodded, stunned and heartbroken. He carefully located the seam ripper, separated his defunct arm, sleeve and all, and left it in my lap like an orphan on a doorstep in a movie. He put the kit away. Like a gentleman and a romantic, lips cold, he kissed the top of my head, bowed as low as his decaying body could manage, and walked away. He seemed distraught, but it was hard to tell, because I don't think I've ever seen Jack distraught in his life.
"You left this!" I shouted, cradling his arm in mine.
"Keep it," he said, raising the bag of tiny styrofoam takeout containers like a shimmering white flag. "Not enough hands."
I wondered, with a proper manicure and some clever posing and editing, if Jack and I might have a chance at making it through the holidays. Reconstructive surgery was more advanced than ever. Surely with physical therapy, photosynthesis, cryotherapy, friends-and-family discounts, subtle begging, dentures, IKEA's loyalty program, and a new trip to Yosemite to get a new mug, anything was possible. Surely for enough money they could bring anything back.
I laced our fingers together.
Monty Rozema (they/them) is a queer trans writer and performing artist from Seattle, Washington. They enjoy reading novels and comics, working with youth, and creating beautiful chaos with Washington Ensemble Theatre. Their writing has been published by great weather for MEDIA, F3LL Magazine, Hash Journal, Mag 20/20, Jeopardy Magazine, and more.