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EYE BITES by Jenny Fried

What You Need to Know

I cut off a rat’s head with a guillotine, and it told me I looked like someone who ate cereal for every meal, which was one I hadn’t heard before. I do not in fact eat cereal for every meal, but there’s no use fighting with a rat head. I learned not to argue when I tried to kiss someone and was so nervous I missed her mouth. At first she told me it was cute, but later she said she didn’t know why she bothered with me. I got lost in the forest once. I remembered reading about mazes, so I took only left turns for as long as I could. I found a hill made all out of sand and a man with long straight hair. I knew I knew him from somewhere but I couldn’t figure out where the information I wanted was, trapped inside my head. It was like a seal I saw on the beach once. All its flippers were fine, and its tail was touching the water, but it couldn’t figure out how to get back in.

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Things I Know

The animals commonly known as seals are referred to as pinnipeds in the scientific community. Kingdom: Animalia. Phylum: Chordata. Class: Mammalia. Order: Carnivora. Suborder: Caniformia. Raskovnik is the Bulgarian name for Marslilea quadrifolia, a small plant that looks like a four leaf clover. It is not particularly rare, nor does it grow in remote areas, but is completely unidentifiable to the untrained eye. A legendary herb of the same name was said to be able to open any lock. The distance from the earth to the sun is 4.85 million parsecs, 149.60 million kilometers, 92.96 million miles, 327.22 billion cubits. Thousands of people have childhood memories of a series of kid’s books called the Berenstein Bears, pronounced like steen. They never existed. It’s the Berenstain Bears, pronounced like stain. The erroneous memory is embedded so strongly in some people’s heads that it has been cited as proof that we are now living in a parallel universe, that it was -stein when we were kids, but that timeline was erased somewhere along the way.

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What I Say to You

I think if I were an animal I would be a seal.

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That Night

I make out with a chair and then it rips off its face, but it isn’t you its someone else I know. We go to a protest at my old high school and I am so so late for Spanish but this is important. A short kid with a beard sneaks away with my backpack while I’m chanting. I run after him I think but my legs are still at the protest and he gives my bag back because I ask him nicely. I go to an Italian restaurant with my parents and my mom kisses our waitress on the cheek. When she turns into a frog I wonder how I’m going to pay my college tuition. My frog mom swims around the glass of water the waitress keeps refilling and I keep drinking it because I don’t know how to tell her to stop. I don’t know how to tell you to stop looking at me because its not that I don’t like your eyes I do I just know that your pupils will start taking little bites of me when they dilate because that’s just how these things go.

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Out Your Car Window

Even when it isn’t that hot yet if you look closely you can always see asphalt shake and shimmer a little. I think it’s jealous. Everything always moves over it and it has to stay still. Its just like how when you see deer next to the highway they’re always looking at you and their eyes are always full of that look you give bridges when you’re wading through the water. But there aren’t any deer this time because I asked you to go the slow way, only boys on bicycles and a dirty Laundromat every couple of blocks. Somewhere inside there’s probably a chute where they throw all the lost socks and a place where their ashes stay and the sock ghosts crawl out and go haunt feet and doorknobs. It’s kind of weird to look at someone who can’t look back but what else are you supposed to do if you aren’t the one who’s driving?

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What I Say to You

Do you know what paper tastes like?

Sort of. I ate straw wrappers when I was a kid.

I ate old newspapers. I didn’t realize they didn’t taste good until I was done eating.

Like aftertaste?

Kind of.

Not quite?

It’s more like you forget what it tastes like while it’s happening.

Like you have to think about it later?

Yeah.

What are we talking about?

Eating paper.

We’re talking about eating paper?

Sure.

That’s it?

I guess.

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Last Year

The bites started small, with just the eyes. Little love bites. Then there were words I could see on my skin. Then the big ones. Bite one pushed the air out of my belly. Bite two left a mark on my face. Bite three put a chip in my tooth. Sometimes I still cut myself on it when I’m trying to speak.

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Things I Know About You

You walk with your heels turned in.

You always have cough drops in your pockets.

You don’t turn the radio on in your car, even when we aren’t talking.

You know more kinds of bears than I do.

You do your laundry in the sink.

You always forget to staple your papers together.

You wear shoelaces that are too long, and they drag on the ground even when you     remember to double knot them.

You don’t have any pets

You answer my questions, even stupid ones.

You go the slow way if I ask you to.

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Your Place

I know that walking through doors makes you forget things because I read it somewhere. When I walk into rooms sometimes I forget what I am doing there and then I lie down on the floor and look up at the ceiling and wonder how many doors I have to walk through before I forget everything.

I know that you are looking at me because your eyes take three bites.

I like your eyes. I like your eyes. I know I like your eyes, I do, and my tail is in the water. You put your hand on my arm, you put your hand on my face, and look, look it’s you. But what if it isn’t, what if you rip off your face and it isn’t you it’s someone else I know, and your hand is on my face. Again. Her hand is on my face again.

Shut up don’t argue with a girl who wants to eat you.

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Under the Table

You find me under the table and you put my head in your lap. We stay right there, and you don’t say anything, and I think you are good for me, I want to say you are good to me, I want to say stop looking at me, I’m under the table for a reason, and your eyes are just little bites now but what if they get bigger. I want to say what if I want to say stop but instead I just think it, but instead I just think it.

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