Carmen and I by Melissa Boberg

Carmen and I used to do this thing where we’d wish for body dysmorphia. We thought we looked like monsters. We wished for it all the time. Being alive survived on the same pulse as wishing our eyes were rogue maniacs, shapeshifting our torsos and thighs. That’s how cellular it was. Sometimes I felt like she was my sister. We mapped our family lineage in the DSM-5. Chronic thoughts about one’s own body, especially a hyper-fixated attention to specific areas. It felt nice to be known. We said thank God. Our heads, not waistlines, were the problem. We reveled like cherubs in that peace. I said to her once that she was thin enough. She asked me what the hell did I know? We rolled blunts on the spine of the DSM-5. We peeled off the library sticker. Her bedroom filled with smoke. She went up in a hazy cloud of grays and blues. So I didn’t lose sight of her, I waved my hands through it. We were wistful, cinematic sighs. We were all flesh: perfumey, porous, chafed. We lay against the carpet. I try to picture us in my head like that all the time, but all I can get is the room. It’s hard to imagine two girls without knowing what their stomachs look like.

We used to drink so much we missed entire days. The radio hosts always pissed us off. We started easy. We paced a few glasses until they were bottles until they were shattered and we were cursing out the hotline callers, bottlenecking with annoyance, finally erupting into directionless arrows of rage like:

I don’t know how I’ll make rent! I’m glad my middle school principal died!

How am I still single? I hope all the Rockettes go to hell!

For years Carmen swore that one night I had yelled: Fuck the 9/11 firefighters! She would be all how could you say that? That was so bad when you said that. I never believed her. I knew I never said that. My theory is that she said it and tried to trick me to save herself. She was always telling me my memory was shot. We agreed we’d find out once and for all after we died, since the culprit would obviously rot in hell.

Usually we’d talk about God when we were coming to, because while my head was in the toilet I’d simultaneously introduce myself to him and beg for mercy and Carmen would talk about how if she were God, she’d get rid of hangovers, because if God really loved us then what was up with all the punishment? I’d be like, when people say God loves us, I don’t think they’re talking about, like, me and you, but Carmen never bought into all that. Her thing was: any big ‘us’ is just thousands of little ‘us’es. It was relative nonsense to me but what was I going to say? I was a snake around a porcelain bowl. My hair was long and dead-ended and stuck to my lip. From the kitchen, the radio hosts flirted with each other and told their callers that even infidelity could be mended by floral arrangements and Carmen poured microwave-hot milk into mugs.

Carmen was always talking about ways things would be different if she were God. For one thing, we’d be thinner, and for another, there just wouldn’t be all of these rules. Buildings could just rip themselves from the ground, whenever they felt like it, she’d say. They could always stay planted if they wanted to, but, it wouldn’t have to be all, like, physically impossible for them to move themselves. My stance was that buildings weren’t all that sentimental, but to Carmen that was just another rule to get rid of, and plus everything had feelings.

You’re going to tell me when you go into the bathroom after Sammy uses it, the toilet isn’t pissed off? she would say. I would laugh. I always laughed and we didn’t even have to be drunk, I swear, I would’ve enjoyed her even if we were sober.

One by one by everything, pieces of my furniture started disappearing. Carmen had just moved away and I called to accuse her of playing a prank. She picked up to accuse me of being a lost cause. I hung up to accuse God of making mistakes on me.

Carmen told Sammy everything. Sammy told Carmen it was a good thing she belonged to him. My couch was missing. I thought my brain might leak out from my ears. I still wore lipstick. Carmen still made the trip to see me. She cleaned the bathtub and washed my bedsheets. She made it easy enough to ignore that everything was lost.

In the empty house, she accused me of living like a ghost. I accused her of every crime I could think of. Betrayal, boy-craziness, kissing up to God, he can see right through that, you know. We called a truce. I tried to show her I was living like a person. All she had to do was come around and I was bulging out of my chest, scraping dust off of my tongue, revived like a La-Z boy recliner auctioned out of a dead man’s storage unit. Ha ha ha yeah whatever my sentience is in all likelihood fake, I’m here so you can sit on me, please.

It’s hard to blame Carmen: my house sweltered and was devoid of furniture and plus Sammy was in love with her. A woman and a loved woman are like two different species. Loved women always forget what it was like before. She stopped coming around. I forgave her for forgetting. I was forgetting things, too. My vision petered into distant, vaguely colored little triangles. All artifacts splashed out into the abstract. The walls caved like hot clay. I remembered the outline of Carmen’s legs. I sculpted them in the air with my palms. I had no place to go. It’s getting close, I would think. Thank God it’s happening here, I would think. My windows became contortionists. Glass spiraled into puddles. Not over at Carmen’s. I would wonder: Where does she even live?

I would wonder why God picked me. I would wonder if Carmen had coaxed God against picking her. She was always just so fucking good at talking. I would wonder if she thought Sammy was like her savior. I would wonder what kissing him was like.

My fingers were my best sense left. They combed the grounds of my stomach: it was round, soft, rippled. I could imagine I was batter. I was dough. So much for intelligent design, I told God. He and I had the fraught kind of relationship where I always hoped he’d prove me wrong. I mean, you at least sort of knew what you were doing, right? Evidently he didn’t think he had anything to prove.

I actually got Carmen on the phone and I actually thought we were laughing in gradients of greens and oranges, twisting and tangling like strands of DNA. I said Fuck that stupid guy you’re with!

I may as well have swung a golf club at her teeth. I’m just doing the blame thing, I said, like, the fun thing.

You always take that game way too far, she told me. I mean, like, Jesus Christ.

All I did was drink and call. My blood cracked through my skin. She was hardly picking up anymore but she did sometimes and that made it impossible to stop calling, even though she asked me, like, several times, whether or not I was ever going to learn my lesson. I was like I mean, at this point, probably not but by the time I would take a pause and wait for her response I wouldn’t even be at the phone anymore.

Carmen acts like God: all unresponsive and modest. With everything gone I just wish that God would act like Carmen, too, maybe just relax the rules a bit, maybe just let buildings fly away when they feel like it. Nobody deserves to be stuck inside the faulty architecture somebody else built for them, and here I am, cells gone kamikaze, thumping like a chorus in my stupid empty house.

When my head is in the toilet I’m like God, if I can’t escape my body, at least just let me keep it. When he doesn’t listen I’m like for real, what is up with all the punishment? When it’s all I can do to lie down and wait for it, I take up a new hobby in screaming at the ceiling. You little….you just wait…one day I’ll get my shaky melted aging sick drunk little hands on you.


Melissa Boberg is a writer who recently graduated from Boston University’s College of Arts and Sciences. Her other publications are indexed at