Rejection Letters

Elegy

The thought pops into her head and she can’t shake it: she’s going to have sex here.

This keeps happening. They’ll be somewhere innocuous, if not downright inappropriate, when a heat pulses through her so suddenly, urgently, that at first she wondered if it wasn’t some bizarre sign of extremely early menopause.

“Do you remember getting lollipops at the bank as a kid?” he asked while they were waiting in line for the ATM one afternoon, and she’d so desperately wanted to kneel down and bring him into her mouth that she’d said forget it, she’d get cash next time she used her debit card, and then drove home so fast she nearly hit a dog in the road, and not even that quelled the need to shove her ass in his face while she devoured him.

She pictures herself now on all fours, a blurry sea of dates, eternal rest, together in heaven, bobbing in and out of her vision as he presses into her from behind.

Not on her father, though. She absolutely will not try to fuck him on top of her dad. She isn’t that weird. His face is still there, skin stretched tight around his thin lips. She needs to find someone less newly dead. Someone who is only bone and tattered fabric. She needs dust.

“Is this him?” His voice is a razor slicing through her daydream. “Howard Keplan?”

She should have come sooner. Months ago. Back when what little pain she felt was still fresh, its clarity now lost in a muddled stew of guilt and anger, this odd pressure creeping up between her thighs.

He pulls her against his side and she leans into him. Really lets her body sink against his, lets him believe he’s taking on the weight of her grief. He’s been so good through all of this. Available. Understanding. Mostly bemused by the unexpected shift in her sexual appetite. If it worries him, he hasn’t shown it.

Except for that one time. She doesn’t like to think about it, pushes it from her mind and focuses on her current plan. The back seat of the car in the church parking lot after his niece’s first communion had been a challenge, but this? This might really take some convincing.

He drops a soft kiss onto the top of her head in the spot where her hair parts, and she has to stop herself from turning her face upward, pulling him down onto her mouth, hot and hungry.

“You okay?” he asks.

She nods. There’s probably a word for this. Some term you didn’t dare speak. Not necrophilia. Not exhibitionism either. It has nothing to do with the thrill of being caught. But it’s something.

She steps away and kneels on the soft grass. She pretends to read her father’s headstone, tries to ignore the fact that if she turns around the crown of her head will fall just below his navel.

“What was he like?” he asks.

She doesn’t know how to answer that, how to distill her father down to his elements. A one-sentence summary of a five hundred page book she hadn’t much enjoyed reading and didn’t really understand.

“He was…disinterested. Not now, Leigh, he was always saying.” The refrain of her childhood.

“Howard Keplan,” he reads aloud. “Devoted husband and father. Always loving; always loved.” He looks at her, one eyebrow arched. She has to turn away, the center of her abdomen throbbing.

She shrugs. “I suppose in death we are free to be what we weren’t in life. Who’s on his right?”

He hesitates before stepping closer to look. “Just me, or are you also worried about stepping on people?”

She is not at all worried about that.

“Carolyn Vask, caring mother, beautiful angel.” He points at the ground further to the right. “This one was a baby. Died the same day at the age of two.”

“Oh,” she says. “That’s sad.” That wouldn’t do. Carolyn and her darling tot could have died a thousand years ago and she still wouldn’t feel right about loosening the dirt above a tiny coffin while she grinds her hips down onto his. They would need to move much further to her dad’s left, where Malcolm Sutter, age 79, has been resting for two decades.

“Do you think he played shuffleboard?” he asks when she reads Malcolm’s stone aloud.

“Doesn’t say.”

“Maybe Mahjong.”

“Isn’t that just old ladies?”

He points to a stone two down from Malcolm. “Eleanor Buschard. 87. I’ll bet she played Mahjong. Maybe she’ll ask your dad to play?”

She snorts. “Not now, Eleanor.

“What if that’s what it’s like?” He comes up from behind, wraps his arms around her, rests his chin on her shoulder. She presses into him and waits for a reaction, but none comes. “What if the only people you meet in heaven are the ones buried near you on Earth?”

“So my dad is up there with old Malcolm and Eleanor and they’re all taking turns caring for the dead baby?” she asks.

“I wouldn’t have put it exactly like that.” He straightens up and takes a small step away from her. “Maybe that’s why people pay big bucks for family plots, though. You’re paying for eternity.”

“I’d rather take my chances with Eleanor,” she says. She can almost picture it. An apology–sorry, Eleanor, for defiling your grave–followed by a husky laugh, a too-long story about the time Eleanor took the streetcar downtown to meet up with a married man. Eleanor would understand. You can make a man do anything, Eleanor would say, if you know the right way to ask. They’d get along, cackling over tales of the men they’d brought down with their feminine wiles.

She reaches behind her, searching for his hand. His palm finds hers and she leads them back toward Eleanor, away from Malcolm, her father, and all the rest.

Watch this, Eleanor, she thinks, and turns around to unbuckle his belt.

***

Claire Taylor (she/her) writes primarily about motherhood and mental health, and makes up stories for kids in her monthly newsletter, Little Thoughts. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in Capsule Stories, Kissing Dynamite, perhappened mag, and moreShe lives in Baltimore, Maryland in a two-century old stone house currently overrun by robins and pill bugs. She can be found online at clairemtaylor.com, and Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor.

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image: Kyla Houbolt

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