A place to file your complaints. Submissions welcome.
By Petra Cornfork
I know that you no longer exist…
But I needed to send this to you, Doug.
When you died, the sadness shocked me to my core. I felt electrified. I still cannot believe that the last time I spoke with you I was sitting on the banks of Lake Michigan, drunk, and having been locked out of my house by my now ex-husband.
I called you. You answered. You were happy. You listened to my pathetic story, detailing how I ran out of my house after an especially heated argument with the dude that culminated in me being called a cunt. You told me about your girlfriend, how you met in college, how you finally found her again, how you wanted to marry her. You told me about her kids. You told me she had been on crack. Or was it crystal meth? You told me that she reminded you of me. She was enthusiastic.
You told me that if you had any money, you would send it to me, but you were unemployed. You spent all your time painting and making video games now. You were happy.
I was happy for you.
And then we both hung up, back to our own worlds. On my end, I was looking at sleeping on the porch. For you, you were planning to go to visit your girlfriend in another state. But instead, within days of our conversation, you died. You woke before dawn, gasping and struggling, and ended up dying of a heart attack in the ER. You were 32. It was unthinkable.
You always joked about death. “You better spend time with me, what if I get hit with the cancer bus?” You would say, “I was born premature. I’m going to die that way.” Prophetic.
I did not know you died until I found out from a mutual acquaintance. “Petra? Is Doug really dead?” There was a rumor, a grapevine vibration. I paused. I knew I could not simply say, “of course not!” And then, the realization.
Why didn’t your stupid dick friends call me?
Why didn’t everyone in your fucking phone get a call?
My God, I was on speed dial, cockholes. Facebook, really? I cannot believe that I resisted your repeated coercion to join that socialist site and then it was the medium for this announcement.
Why did you pass, like a phantom, right into the ether? And by the time I knew, you were gone gone gone. Cremated. In an urn. Headed for West Virginia to be scattered on a baseball field.
And you were gone. Simply gone.
I miss you terribly, Doug. After your death, I discovered your secret. You made every friend you have feel like the only person on earth. Everyone was special. Each one, appreciated. The experience that I had with you was mirrored in the stories of those around you. Everyone was your intimate confidant. I was the only woman on the planet when I sat next to you at the Palmer House. You had skill. You were precise and generous with compliments and observations, quick witted, mean, and you were also a fucking brilliant brain.
I told Nina of how you died. She seemed to feel that I took it harder than she did, even though you dated each other. “Crazy bitch,” you would say. It was an insane and sordid affair. You were both fucking nuts. How perfect. And then crazy blew up and you went your way. But not before hitting on Nina’s mom Dolly while you were completely inebriated on whiskey. “Lookin’ pretty good there, Dolly….” suggestively slurred while she drove you to her house in her crayon blue Aztec. You stayed with Dolly because Nina had kicked you out of her house during your visit, so that she could fuck another guy.
Yet she always though of you in the best terms. Never a more generous man existed. Case in point: cunnilingus. I never took you up on the offer, but apparently I missed out. “He had me doing back bends in the living room!” Nina said. And I more than once heard you praise her. Even after the craziness. Still, no way could you two ever cross paths again. In your salad days, when you would fuck so hard the plaster would fall out of the ceiling in the apartment below, you both sent me a photo of the two of you, and a note saying, “thank you, Petra!”
You wanted to paint me. You talked about it often. A format portrait, standing perhaps next to a leather chair, maybe a polar bear rug. Bunnies. Perfect. I put off sending a photograph for reference. You said, “you have one of the only faces I can remember. When I close my eyes, I see you clearly. The only other person I can do that with is a bartender from Kalamazoo.” But it never happened. You died before we made it, before you painted me. I was beyond flattered to be your subject, in part because of your perverse skill as an oil painter.
You were wasted where you were. But you began to get happy.
And then it was over, like the worst cliché I have ever seen in some 80s cop film.
And all I’m left with is some fucking bullshit emails that are barely worthy of a second read. And I miss you, Doug. Like a rock misses the sun. You may not need it to shine on you all the time, but it does a world of good to feel warm.