the rate of decay
i had a lover, once, from halfway beneath the earth. After they found the tumor, he came to me the first night in the hospital and said, someday you will die, and then i will have you. he said his name was something but that he’d been dead for too long to remember what something had been. like any other one-night stand, he took me to his place the
first time around; there was a neighborhood, blue-tinged and rotting, just like him. girls with ink-hair and bloody eyes crawled on the ground and tried to sew themselves into the dirt with thick, dark thread. men with open flesh and sagging jaws tried to nail themselves into dusty gray rock which cradled their homes, or into the flesh of some poor crumbling girl. something said, everybody wants to be tied to a place, then took me to his grave because he didn’t want me to have to see all that while fucking. having sex with something was strange — just because he could walk and talk and smile didn’t mean he was any less dead. veins stuck out, violent and empty and cold, from beneath his flesh; the angles of his body were white and clear-cut, and they hurt against me.
in the morning i woke up in my hospital bed. my mother, who always said your clock is ticking hon, as if i were a bomb, was there. the doctors essentially told me the same thing — your time is limited — except they meant it about my life and not my womb. either way, i was in the shape of an hourglass, half-emptied before i was even twenty-five.
something said he liked me because i was in motion — half cancer, half health; half alive, half dead; all decaying. i wasn't everything and i wasn’t nothing, so i was still something, too, which made us alike. all of us are the same when we die, he said. neither death nor god is racist: human skeletons are the same color. we all rot ugly. he told me we all sink; that, eventually, gravity or god or something pulls you down, down, deep into the earth. the place where he lived was one of many cavities in earth’s crust where people tried to stay in place. only, sooner or later, the cities sink as well — fold in on themselves, soft shale on skin, pushing the dead downward once more.
years ago, i’d decided to be empty, weightless, shapeless. college was a montage of paper memories, yellowed at the edges but well-loved. by the end of it everyone i knew had gotten boyfriends or engaged or married; of course, i was happy for them, but to me diamonds seemed cold, heavy. to put one on my finger forever felt like the modern-day equivalent of a ball & chain. at graduation i pictured my life spent behind the driver’s wheel, wrinkled receipts between my legs and travel pamphlets shoved in the glovebox.
before something, i was no-one but not nobody, which didn’t really mean anything aside from whatever i wanted it to mean; after something, i was julie, which is my name but not me when it was in his mouth, all stained with love. oftentimes it was off-putting, how much something wanted me, crooning someday, someday, someday i’ll have you like it was a compliment. more than once i’d considered buying a ticket to spain, or seoul, so i could be buried nameless, homeless, in a place far away from him. except the cancer only got worse and i only got sicker and something only got closer. if i was tired enough i’d tell something that he was the tumor in me, that diseased thing, to which he’d only laugh.
eventually you’ll get over it, he’d sigh, smile rusty and full of old desire. something was ready to settle down but i was not, god, i was not. being dead was such a big commitment, and i didn’t really want to make it.
after i was over, they buried me in a dress that displayed my spine, because once you are dead i guess it doesn’t matter how much skin you’re showing. the casket cradled my bare-boned back like i was a baby; i cried and screamed and fussed but the coffin sh-sh-ed me with it’s heavy lid, it’s white-cushioned walls, it’s thick dark.
something came up from behind me — the way the best hunters do — except his arms were kind and his mouth was kissing the shell of my ear. i love you, he said, holding me close from beneath; i wondered if love was not looking one another in the eye. like anything else with a throat, the dark swallowed us whole, and something pressed metal into me while i sewed his flesh against my own.
Amanda Lara is a writer with credits in both fiction and journalism. Her work has appeared in Goldman Review, Ember: A Journal of Luminous Things, and Inaccurate Realities, among others. Prior to her creative endeavors, she wrote a bimonthly column entitled “Teen World” – which was geared towards young adult readers – for the Fullerton Observer. She can be found on her website, amhlara.com, and her Twitter @amhlara.