We Buried Our Gays

You are not a ghost, I know, because I can touch you. I pull leaves and branches out of your curly hair as you pull my hips closer to you, just like you used to.

“I knew you’d come back,” I say. You smile. As we kiss, I taste the metallic bitterness of blood. Something moves in my mouth. Your tongue, obviously. But when did your tongue get so sharp?

I start a bonfire in the backyard. “My parents aren’t home,” I say. “They went to Europe for their anniversary.” Still, you’re hesitant about entering the house. 

Under the grinning crescent moon, we reminisce about how we met: working as summer camp counselors, sneaking away into the woods to share secret joints and kisses.

“Why did you never call or text me?” I ask.

“Where I went,” you say as the flames reflect in your eyes, “there were no phones.”

In my bed, our sweaty bodies stick together. The overhead fan rotates aggressively, shaking on its hinges, but it’s not enough to combat the heat that blankets us. Even so, I snuggle closer. I missed these nights. Where I couldn’t fall asleep because I wouldn’t miss any moments lying next to you.

Drifting in and out of sleep, I see the lower-half of a black centipede squirming its way into your ear; its hundreds of legs flutter, writhing back and forth, as it makes the final plunge into your canal.

My screams do not stop, even as you jolt awake, hug me, show me your empty ear, and kiss me, because I keep envisioning the centipede crawling through your body and into mine.

After summer camp ended, we saw each other on the weekends. We went to different schools, but you reserved Saturday nights after ten just for me. I’d drive my Ford 500 down barren gravel roads onto farmland, my tires picking up rocks that banged against my car. To prove how loud we could be, I’d scream into the night, my voice carrying all the way up to the stars.

“Can we go out to dinner sometime?” I asked as our arms entangled in my backseat.

“I don’t want people starting rumors,” you said, then kissed me before I could argue.

“Your parents probably think you’re dead,” I say as I make tea. “I thought you were dead.” You have a sore throat, I assume, since your voice has sounded scratchy since you’ve returned.

“I may as well be dead to them,” you say. They never reported you missing; things are only missing when someone wants them found.

I hand you the cup of tea. The smoke curls around your sweaty face and bloodshot eyes. A cold, I think. But I’m not sure. That won’t stop me from kissing you, though.

We play Super Smash Bros. You’re so much worse at the game than before. I can tell you’re distracted, always looking out the sliding glass door, which leads into my backyard that’s surrounded by the woods you emerged from two days prior.

You never take a sip of the tea, letting it go cold.

Neither of us have said I love you since you returned.

“I love you,” you said. “But I can’t meet your parents.” The lights of the Dairy Queen parking lot pierce through my windshield. You took such tiny bites of your Blizzard; the ice cream was now half-melted.

“They’ll be accepting. I’m ninety-five percent sure,” I said.

“But what if they tell my parents?”

“They won’t,” I insisted, but I wasn’t sure. “I promise they’ll never see each other.”

“How can you promise that?” You placed your Blizzard back in the cup holder, and never took a bite of it for the rest of the night; it sat there for days after. “Because my parents live in a trailer park and yours live in a cul-de-sac?”

“You know that’s not what I meant. I just want us to be happy. And comfortable. That’s all I want.”

“You’re never going to get that,” you said, then stared out the window.

Bugs appear throughout the house: flies, moths, gnats, earthworms, stink bugs, and even a few spiders. No centipedes, thankfully.

I can’t have it look like this when my parents return from their trip. I resort to spraying Raid in the air even though it says not to. 

“Are you leaving the back door open?” I ask. “How are all these bugs getting in here?”

You lie, saying no, but I’ve seen the mud tracks on the floors, the leaves and dirt stains on your clothes that you throw everywhere around the house.

As we play video games, I turn to see a beetle crawl out of your eye, near the tear duct. I’m sure of it. But my mind immediately makes up an excuse: it just landed on your cheek right next to your eye. Still, your complete stoicism as a beetle crawls across your cheek unnerves me so much that I run to the bathroom and wash my face over and over and over and over again, until it becomes bright red, the skin scrubbed raw.

We were in your house when it happened. Your parents were supposed to have driven up north for your sister’s “medical emergency,” as you put it, and never elaborated on. The plan: smoke a few joints and listen to your vinyls and, obviously, have sex.

I triple-check the bedsheets for bugs before we lay on them. As we kiss, I taste dirt. I pry your mouth open as you mutter what the fuck but I see something squirm down your throat. “What’s happening to you?”

“I’m fine,” you say, too quickly. You put back on your clothes, then head towards the door.

Before you leave, I almost ask, “What are you?” but bite back the words.

Your family’s record player stood in the corner of your living room. We made out on your couch, which smelled faintly like a dog, even though you didn’t own one. We tore off our clothes, always the most hungry for each other’s bodies when we had the privacy of our own space. Your favorite rock bands created our rhythm, and we devoured each other.

“I love you,” you say. I forgive you, because I’ve been waiting for those words. We brush our teeth side by side, your arms wrapping around my waist, squeezing tight. I feel much better when you spit out the toothpaste into the sink, and nothing moves within the blue foam.

Our clothes lay scattered across the couch, smashed chunks of weed on the metal lunch tray, the new lighting—the harsh yellow fluorescents—made your body look brand new.

You stir in your sleep, then get up to use the bathroom. “This is the last night I can stay here,” you said earlier. I cannot comprehend how you know my parents return tomorrow without me telling you. Is it marked on a calendar somewhere? But my family never keeps calendars.

Or, maybe, you’re obeying a different deadline.

When you do not return, I search the house. The bathroom is empty. My spare toothbrush and razor you use still lie on the sink. I grab an aspirin for my headache in the medicine cabinet behind the mirror. Probably from spraying the Raid, but I’m not sure. In the mirror’s reflection, I see tiny red bug bites covering my face and arms. 

The hallway lights are off. I do not flick the light switch on, for some reason. Shadows stretch across the blank walls. The floor creaks as I venture towards the stairwell.

The sound of keys. The door unlocking. This wasn’t like the movies where we tried to lunge for our clothes. We both knew it was useless.

I find you unlocking the back door, stepping outside.

“Where are you going?” If you’re surprised to see me or upset you’ve been caught, you don’t show it. “You’re not leaving now, are you?”

“Just getting some fresh air,” you say, unconvincingly. The sliding glass door remains open, and a bug flies inside. A moth, I think; a collection of them swirl around the back porch light. You wipe your sweaty forehead with the back of your hand. You force out an unnatural grin.

“Would you like to come with me?” you ask.

Your parents stood in the doorway, backpacks, purses, and plastic bags in their hands. Your dad looked us both up and down, his eyes a scalpel, peeling away my skin.

I expected screams. Cries. Punches. Damage. Pain.

Instead, he said, his voice barely above a whisper: “Grab your things and go. And never come back.”

We knew he wasn’t talking about just me.

We step outside and start walking towards the woods. A pit forms in my stomach, first, then spreads throughout my body. By the time we’re halfway to the forest, I’m completely hollow; one gust of wind might blow me away.

A full moon looms overhead. Dry leaves crunch beneath my feet. The symphony of insects—mostly cicadas, I believe—increases as we draw closer to the forest. Their pitches are dissonant, somehow. I imagine each of them uttering an individual scream.

“I don’t want to go all the way to the forest,” I say. I stop walking so you know I’m serious.

“Why not?” You turn around, slowly, your face doused with darkness. Something moves across your forehead, and I know it’s not a bulging vein.

“Let’s go back to bed.”

“You can,” you say, then keep walking. You’re near the forest’s edge. I run to catch up, grabbing your wrist. “You’ll never be able to let this go.” Something moves under your skin, touching my fingers, and I leap back.

“What the fuck is going on? Why did you show up here after falling off the face of the earth to just leave me again? We’ll keep in contact, right? Do you love me? Tell me you love me. You’re my first and only love. I promise. I know we had rough patches here and there, but it was perfect, right? How can you just leave again?”

“You can come with me. I hoped you would; that’s why I’m here. But I can see you’re not ready.”

“I’m ready!”

“Then follow me.” You cross into the forest. My stomach twists. The darkness becomes even more complete without the moon’s lighting. I want to grab onto you for support, but every time I’m about to, I remember that moving bulge beneath your sweaty skin. You keep wiping your forehead with the back of your hand. I trip over a tree root, falling face first into the dirt. You run back to help me up. I spit out the chunks of dirt between my teeth. You wipe the rest of the dirt from my face, reminding me how intimate and handsome and caring and protective you are.

I lean forward for a kiss. You push back, saying, “Not yet. We’re almost there.”

As you lead me deeper into the woods, I feel an energy around us. A physical presence. Something pulsates, as if the roots are veins pumping blood.

We emerge into a clearing. There’s a pile of rocks in a strange shape, almost like a shrine.

Or a marker.

And then I see it: the pile of dirt. The empty grave. The worms writhing.

The cicadas have gone completely silent. Nothing moves. I only hear your heavy panting.

You lean forward and press your lips to mine, and I feel it: something crawls out of your mouth and into mine, and before I can spit it out, it’s already leaping down my throat, scratching it on the way down, I’m choking, I fall onto my hands and knees, gagging, spitting, and dry-heaving, trying to get this thing you just infected me with outside of me.

A pressure slams against my chest. I rip off my shirt, and see the bulge crawling underneath my skin; it crawls left, towards my heart.

“What’s happening? Make it stop. Make it stop! Please.” I choke the words out. Tears pour down my cheeks. I scratch at my throat and chest, leaving red marks.

“Do you remember what happened after my parents caught us?” you ask. You crouch down next to me, hugging me. Your hands are so warm. For a second, I forget about the creature crawling inside me. “You insisted we go on a bike ride. You said you had to. But we didn’t have a bike, so we stole one much too small for us; it was probably a little kid’s. We pedaled down broken-down roads, dodging potholes left and right. I remember thinking as you pressed against me and couldn’t stop making jokes to try to cheer me up, that it’ll all be okay. That everything will be fine. We were out in the open, showing as much affection as we wanted. We were free.”

You remove your shirt, and I see there’s so many bulges across your skin, like tumors. They move sporadically. One pops, and a lime-colored liquid oozes out, along with some maggots. “But that didn’t work out, did it? So let’s just rest together. I came back for you. I don’t know why you keep trying to cling to all this,” you say, gesturing to the forest. “So let’s just be together here, because no other place will ever fully accept us.”

You turn and walk towards the grave. The creature must be feeding on my insides. I hear crunching sounds. I feel lighter. I practically hover over to where you stand, looking down at the hole in the ground. In one final hug, your arms wrap around me, pulling my hips closer to you, and take me forward with your weight as we fall into the grave.

image: “File:R.E. Grave, Railway Wood 8.JPG” by Wernervc, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0.

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