Games You Can Play With the Dead

By Marion de Booy Wentzien

After he left, she started chopping him up. At first she contented herself with cutting off his head. There were fifty-five pictures in the photo album. Two large engagement photos in the bedroom. Those she left. It was too hard to destroy the dream of them. She began with a date photo where they were by the Pacific, arms linked. Soon she was holding hands with a headless body. Behind them the ocean shined blue and slightly dangerous. They'd been standing on rocks near a faded sign that warned of rogue waves. A rogue bitch had grabbed him six years later.

Tears were threatening. She got a Xanax. Took it with a quick sip of cola. Waiting for calm, she sobbed loudly and cut larger sections from his body—off went a tan arm holding her. Snip, two powerful legs in front of a backdrop of yellow disappeared; the lower part of his shorts went too. Yosemite. She'd been so happy. Even now she could remember the feel of their love, the solidness of it competing with the rock behind him, a scraggly pine growing from its center.

Next was an old photo of him and his mother and dad in a Tijuana restaurant. He looked about twelve. She studied it through a wobbling scrim of tears. Already his brown eyes look sneaky, his smile less sure. This time she carefully cut out just his eyes. Then she cut out his mother's eyes and placed his eyes where hers had been. It was exciting and creepy at the same time. She felt a little shame; she'd liked his mom. She was so intent on what she was doing that two hours passed. By then she had a tiny hill of eyes.

She searched through magazines, looking for faces in ads or pictures that roughly matched the size that would fit the eyes. Carefully she cut out pictures, removed eyes with the skill of a scissor surgeon. She took some blank computer paper, hunted throughout the condo for glue, and found a bottle so old she had to run the top under hot water to unseal it. She stuck a picture on the paper and carefully inserted his eyes.

When she placed his eyes, squinting against the sun in Barbados, into the tiny face of a bull terrier, she laughed, dimly aware that she was going to live and get past this time.

The two pictures in the bedroom she burned in the fireplace, wood frames and all. Before bed, she put out her red blouse and black skirt for work. For the first time that night, she slept without clutching the body pillow that had his blue sweatshirt wrapped around it.