by Maggie Armstrong


Happiness was never the intent of our lives. We had only wanted to smoke cigarettes, one after another after another, and not cringe at our self-mutilation. When I’d open our fresh pack of whatever was on special I always imagined my face cracked and puss filled, like I had already been burning in hell for a lifetime or three. Then when I’d put the fresh cigarette in between my rouged lips my face would go back to normal. No burns, just pink. I always felt like Freddy Krueger sitting next to you.


Arachnophobia was on the television set with a Jack-O-Lantern on top. Flickering in unison with each scream. I looked down at my puke green nail polish against the grape couch. The middle nail still black from the hammer incident two days before. I started having nightmares about you. We’d wander around an abandoned mall like in Dawn of the Dead only nobody was after us. We’d just hold hands and walk, excited about which store to loot first. Nordstrom? We could raid the Marc Jacobs collection. Cinnabon? No calories in the post-apocalyptic world. The high ceilings of the mall were draped in darkness. No electricity. We could barely see the signs outside the stores. And when we’d get there, there were no cinnamon buns fresh from the oven. Only boxes of weird ingredients with labels in Swedish or Aramaic. No Marc Jacobs sweaters, only poly-blend tube tops with bedazzled diamonds on the seams. I finally squeezed your hand in horror only to receive a fist full of bleeding spiders. You were never there.


Lollipops, Tootsie pops, Almond Joys, and Dots. Your favorites. We’d only ever buy your favorites, and in bulk. At this time of year, when I close my eyes to smell the nutmeg and burning leaves, I always picture that day at the Nut tree. Our first pumpkin patch fair. I only see hay, big blocks of hay in the back and foreground and then someone hands me a pumpkin ice cream cone. I look down and see the tiny brown flecks in the flesh colored mound. I imagine the flecks are your freckles and the ice cream is your face. I bite down hard and let the cream drip down from both corners of my mouth. I look to mom, hoping to see her scream at my sister’s blood dripping from my mouth. She doesn’t see me when I stand next to you. You and your beautiful freckles as you suck on a bright red tootsie pop.


Lost you again. You crawled under the bathroom stall and locked it from the inside. You slid the hammer under the stall and told me to swing. If I got a thumb we’d try and find the toy store. You said you saw flashlights back in the abandoned Starbucks. You said the wick wasn’t strong enough. You said I should never let the candle go out, not even when we got the flashlight back. If we got separated we should meet at the Spirit Store. It was the easiest to find in the dark, the only store with electricity. You could hear Michael Myers' groans from anywhere in the mall.


Opera is my favorite horror movie because it is your favorite horror movie. My favorite part is when the killer tapes those knives to her victim’s eyelids so they can never shut them. You told me Dario Argento wrote it that way in order to suggest that we all crave an audience. Even psychopathic killers need validation. You handed me a knife once, out of boredom I suppose, and you told me to cut you. Just for fun. When I took it from you the blade was cold, but the handle was still warm. You told me everybody ought to have a few lacerations and scars, so we can tell the boys in bars something other than what retail outlets and strip malls we worked in. When you asked me to cut you, your gaze skewed slightly above my head. I turned around to see, and there was no one there. Only the oven door with your reflection in the window.


Werewolves of London by Warren Zevon blast out of the speakers behind me. Again. Whoever was throwing this party took the time to freeze little severed heads in ice and put one in each cocktail. I snuck off to the bathroom to add more of my own vodka from my pink flask to the blood red cocktail. I didn’t feel like sharing. I sipped the new mixture and turned the lights off. I’ve started chewing on my cheeks again. Slowly biting off bits of my own flesh and swallowing. The cranberry vodka stings the wounds, but I take a big gulp and swish it around to amplify it. The glow from my digital watch illuminates my face a tender green, scattering shadows across my face and hollows out my cheekbones. I take another sip and spit it all over the mirror. The amorphous blobs migrate down and over my eyes. I think to call on Bloody Mary. Bloody you, Mary. Would you recognize me now? Would you recognize me through my metamorphosis, into the Halloween version of me? The full moon version of me? The worst version of me?


Eleven thirty five AM is when they found you. You were completely naked except for your angel wings. The police never could figure out why they only took you. Both of us were standing on that street corner, admiring the scratching and howls of the fall foliage blowing across the blacktop, but they only wanted you. With your beautiful pumpkin freckles.


Eleven hours after you were taken is when they found you. I slept in my Frankenstein costume, weary of taking off the last thing you saw me in. You died remembering me as a green monster with bolts sticking out of my neck. I would always be a green monster in your eyes. You always made me feel green. Eleven Halloweens are all we ever had.


Nausea is all I feel now. Festering in me. I want to eat eleven times a day, to fill the void you left, only to vomit up and on my shoes so I can eat again. You left me with a scar I can talk about to strangers and strange men, but with no wound to heal. When I think of you in the oven’s reflection I am at ease. As much as I miss the smell of your skin and the way your hand felt in mine, I am grateful for your absence. I miss you more than words can share, but I love you better dead.