5 Reasons Your Ex-Girlfriend is Turning into a Monster | AGAIN

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AGAIN

William Zong

5 Reasons Your Ex-Girlfriend is Turning into a Monster

Tess O’Brien

After a year together (and two days apart) it looks like your ex-girlfriend is finally taking the steps to turn into a monster.

  1. She doesn’t fit

Your mysterious and often elusive ex-girlfriend is best known for her platform boots (worn even in Summer) and the confidence with which she curses out the mayor, Michael Stewart, when he drives past her house. After you hear the news, you see her doing just that. She still has her hands—bony, long fingered, skin the color of shelled macadamia nuts. But there is fur growing on her neck, and her arms shimmer in the sun.

  1. She has a lot to say

Your ex-girlfriend finds you walking home. Her evolution continues: her hands are gone, replaced by feline paws and scaly wrists. She says, “Remember when we graduated high school, Em? Twenty-three of us stood in front of town hall in whatever we had on. I told you, after the ceremony, that you’d looked lovely in your dress. I kissed your knuckles. Do you remember?”

Two days later, you find her in her bathtub, sitting in a puddle of water that smells like chlorine.

She pants in the yellow light. You offer her ice from the kitchen, but she does not know what to do with it. She sticks her long tongue in the cup, which only succeeds in sending ice cubes hissing across the bathroom tile. Your knuckles tighten around the lip of the tub as your ex-girlfriend begins to cry.

“Do you remember,” she asks. “when Mrs. MacLean found me holding hands with Anna Stewart, and I was called peculiar? Do you remember when her father cornered me in the middle of town square, and I was called a menace? Do you remember when we kissed in front of the general store, when you’d brush my hair behind my ears at my locker, when you called me beautiful within earshot of everyone we knew, and I was called a monster?”

“It’s ok,” You tell her, taking one of her clawed paws in your hand. “It’s ok.” But your ex-girlfriend will not be sedated. She screeches and screams, the sound reminding you of cicadas during the summer time; inescapable, so loud she drowns out all other sound.

  1. She lives alone

There are two letters on your ex-girlfriend’s desk. You investigate them after leaving her in the bathroom. You are tired and sweaty—something about the heat of the water, the heat of her tears, the heat of the day just beyond the walls, leaking through. The first is from her mother. It describes San Francisco. The second is an unsent response. It says thank you for writing, it says are you enjoying yourself?, it says have you relieved yourself, finally, of the guilt you feel around me? For aiding in what I have become?

  1. She keeps to herself

Her absence is noted. The news digested and spread. You show up to work, where you unloaded boxes of ketchup and potato chips and first told your ex-girlfriend you loved her.

Your manager finds you. Says, “I’m not giving her time off.”

Mrs. MacLean, who happens to be in the store at the same time, and has known both you and your ex-girlfriend since before you could speak, looks confused. “‘Turning into’ a monster?” she asks. “Isn’t it a bit too late for that?”

Mayor Michael Stewart makes an announcement from his pulpit. “My daughter Anna has always been a pillar of this community. Any familiarity between her and the monster is completely incidental.” He says it with spit in his mouth. He says it like he’s been watching his daughter for signs she’ll turn into a monster too.

In response, your ex-girlfriend drops an emaciated hare on the Stewarts’ doorstep.

  1. She knows

Your ex-girlfriend sits, poised, at the edge of the woods. She is completely monstrous now. It is only you here,  but she scans in front of her anyway, as if she is waiting for someone else.

Your mother used to tell you a story of a girl who disappeared with the wolves. The girl always warned her family that she would leave with them eventually, though for a long time those were empty threats. That is until one day, when the wolves blew through town and the girl blew through with them. The only sign she had ever been there at all were her crumpled bed sheets.

“Remember when we had the basketball tournament at school?” your ex-girlfriend asks abruptly. “There was a boy, a man really, he must have been seventeen when we were eleven. He wore a thick leather bracelet on his wrist. I asked where we got it, and he smiled at me, he smiled. He told me his boyfriend got it for him. And he kept on smiling as I stared at it, and wondered if I’d ever have anyone like that. Someone I loved, getting me something small because they loved me too.”

You open your mouth to say something, but cannot bring yourself to speak. Your ex-girlfriend watches you. Sighs. “There’s only so much you can do,” she says. “If you are unwilling to come with me.”

The moral of the girl and her wolves, according to your mother, is that sometimes, there’s no escaping what you are. This is true, but you’re not sure it’s what the story meant. Not as your ex-girlfriend hesitates, her sharp, beady eyes taking in your face for the last time. Not as she vanishes into the brush.

No. Sometimes, you know exactly what you are, and everyone else does too.