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RAW LIVER by Dylan Gray

i am eating a bagel as the fucking cat jumps onto the counter and stares me with what i feel is hate. from the first day we met, the cat and i were never close. it was dereck’s cat. we bought it together, but it was more of his idea than mine. the cat and i kept our distance. when we broke up, he left the cat. it started throwing up all around the apartment. whenever i tried to go near, it would start scratching at the carpet. another morning, while i was sleeping, it sneezed in my mouth. i still haven’t forgiven it for that. but here i am stuck taking care of it now. staring at me now, i can feel it saying i hate you…i hate that you’re always here…i hate that i’m stuck here with you…i hate this depressing-ass apartment…i miss dereck…i hate you won’t leave me to die…know that if you were break your neck, i would eat your body.

but i don’t give in to intimidation. especially from a cat. i whisper back, so will i.

the cat hops down, saunters to its bowl. we finish our meals in silence.

in the morning i go grocery shopping. this is the best time to shop. afternoons are filled with too many old people looking at your skin. from there, it just gets worse. going in the morning decreases my odds of seeing anybody i would know. i hate grocery store conversations, or any conversation stricken up for that sake that we’re two people who sorta know each other. oh how are you doing? no one’s ever asked that and wished someone would tell them everything horrible in their lives. they’re just being cordial and i don’t appreciate it. next time someone asks me how i’m doing in public, i’m going to start crying. that would make them think twice before being polite.

and if i can’t go in the morning, i’ll wait until midnight, when i’m sure i’m all alone.

i place bagels, wine, butter, and seven cans of organic cat food in my backpack. this is will last me a good week.

7:56 am on saturday and i am paralyzed in anxiety. i had a dream i was writing a paper for class that was 10 days overdue and hadn’t started and woke up sweating in mid-panic attack.

at 8:03, my heart rate returns to semi-normal. when i walk into the kitchen, the cat is inside its food bowl. it looks at me and runs out. i place cat food in the bowl and a bagel in the toaster. at 8:08, my bagel is consumed.

i flop on the couch. my body wants to die but won’t because it hates me. i toss on my left side. i elongate the length of my body.  my back bends slightly inwards. the notches in my spine decompress. i flip over. i repeat and hold that pose until my heart rate slows and i am perfectly calm.

i feel slightly less corpse-like.

i turn on television. a male newscaster shouts RAW LIVER IS IN! i turn off the television. the thought of raw liver makes me ill. i scroll through my phone instead, but everyone online is talking about raw liver, raw liver! according to all the major news outlets, raw liver is on track to change the world. celebrities have come out saying they’ve been eating raw liver for years. i watch a video of a guy in a lab coating pointing to a pie graph. apparently, early humans favored the liver to all other forms of meat. he purports, animatedly, our innate fascination with raw liver, our predilection for its life-giving properties, our physiological desire for the cleansing sustenance. i chuck my phone across the room. i stare at the ceiling. i try to clear my thoughts, but all i’m thinking is raw liver. i see it floating in my mind, suspending in a black oblivion. it appears hyperrealistic and drips with blood. i imagine it floating towards me, like some dickensian phantom. i imagine myself and i’m run away, but as i imagine this, a separate but equally vivid image occurs of me not running away, of me approaching the gory wraith, grabbing either side of its flesh, bringing it to my chest, embracing the liver.

as both thoughts occur, i grip the sofa cushion. i feel crazed. i look for something to distract me. my copy of moby dick that i need to read for class lays on the coffee table. the pain increases. the recliner. purple. i feel at once uninspired/desperate/overdramatic by its banality. i feel ridiculous but have no idea how to change. with a recognized self-awareness, i let out a deep sigh. i think this as, vaguely, something someone would do in a movie if they were experiencing what i am. i feel slightly better/oriented. i am still in crisis, but i feel better in knowing i know i know.

i see the cat step out the bathroom. the sink is its favorite sleeping spot. i sense an air of smugness as it approaches. there’s something dark is in its mouth. i sit up to inspect closer. something dead. i scream. i retreat to the furthest arm on the couch. the cat rushes towards and drops the carcass on the cushion next to me. i scream again and, with an instinct surprising to even myself, hurl the bloodied corpse away. a red stain blotches the door now.

the cat perches on the purple recliner. taunting me. i fall for it. i lung forward, but it dashes the other way. it skitters towards its food bowl where, within a foot or so, it slows down, switching its pace from flight to composure, and, eats, mockingly, its chicken.

i think our walks humiliates the cat and this pleases me. with a leash around its neck, i walk it around the neighborhood like a dog. when the cat wanders off, i like to give it some leeway until, once it’s off-guard, i reel it back. the cat jumps in fright, its neck tugging mid-air. that is my favorite.

after a few laps around the block, we get home and i pour myself a glass a wine and log-on to facebook. the cat stares at the blank television. it’s mad at me. good. with the night to myself, i continue my work of flash fiction/poems i base on people’s profile pictures. this started with dereck. i feel as though it will be never be complete but i enjoy working on it. it’s my escape/invasion into reality. i can draw up people’s lives without ever having to meet them (and not that i would want to).

i click on a profile where its picture is of a skull wearing an american-flag bandana and breathing fire. i think it’s cool. his most recent status is from three months ago and reads “who do u miss”. no one has replied. this makes me sad. i thumbs-up his status. i hope he’ll like this. i scribble in my notebook story: sad skeleton feels lost/alone in modern america until he meets equally sad/alone blob of flesh and they have sex and become human. i stalk through dereck’s profile next because i hate myself. i go through all his most recently tagged photos. annoyingly infrequent. his most recent picture is of him with a group of people i’ve never seen before. the caption says “elemental”. i don’t know what that means. he’s at a hookah bar. we never went to a hookah bar. i suddenly want to go to a hookah bar.

i go to bed cry for an hour and feel empowered.

i turn on the television. still at war. i turn off the television. feeling queasy. but not because the news. something else is wrong.

i open the cat food. the bagel is toasting. but beyond the smell of canned chicken and crisping bread is something bitter, ammoniac. that is when i see the huge wet blotch on the couch. i bend over and give an investigatory smell. definitely that. i look up to see the cat sprawled on the recliner. it meows villainously. anger. i grab a pillow and launch it towards the recliner. it bumps the cat on the butt. a nefarious meow bellows. i must be going crazy, because i saw a flash of gold in its teeth when it meowed. i butter my bagel and slam the front door behind me.

i go to buy cat spray. while on the bus, i search on my phone natural cat urination repellant. i find: one part water to one part apple cider vinegar, with lemongrass, lavender, and peppermint for added aromatics. i have none of those except water. the man seated across from me is holding a bloodied paper parcel. he inspects around the bus and opens it. he places tiny bits of what i assume is meat in his mouth. could it be raw liver?

i ignore that and think of the cat. that stupid cat. why does it make my life so arduous? i google do cats spray in spite? some cat forums say this can happen, and i feel vindicated in my assumption that the cat has been plotting against me. i also find that sometimes the spraying can be caused by diabetes. i hurry off the bus, remembering that it’s already 5pm and the store would be infested with people. on my way out, i grab the cat food containing fish. its high omega-3s, i read online, helps prevent diabetes.

the cat has sprayed everything. i grab the refrigerator handle and it’s slick. i do yoga and my mat is soaked. i sit to read my copy of moby dick and the pages are stuck together, and putrid.

i go on a rampage with my spray too. i spray the litter box, the bed, the sink, the television, the lamppost, the countertop, the couch cushions, the recliner (the other side). in the hallway, we have a standoff. i make a scowl like clint eastwood (i think) and think, this town ain’t big enough for the two of us or i’m the sheriff around these parts and don’t you forget it. i imagine the cat personified in a dark, wide-brimmed hat, sometimes smoking a cigar, as my arch nemesis. i imagine when it sees me it says nasty things in foreign tongues, and if i were to ask them what it’d mean, it’d translate with perfect clarity into a language i could understand, and then we’d draw our sprays, unload clip after clip at each other until we are both drained, out of bullets, as the silence of war settles around us, our differences tangibly futile as we both lie bankrupt in our own self-pride.

and then we go separate ways.

until the sequel.

and then we go again.

monday night. i have not left the apartment. i have watched netflix in bed all day. this is my day of rest. after having not eaten today, i am decidedly tipsy after just one glass of wine. after this, i return to netflix underneath my blanket. it is under here where i am most content. do not take me from my blanket. leave me here to die entertained in peace. i do not wish to be disturbed world.

after a few hours, my body is stiff from stasis. i rise to my feet and touch my toes. i rise up again and again touch my toes. i do this again. and again.

my body feels better and in turn i do too.

in the kitchen i pour myself another glass of wine and open up my moby dick. after two hours of reading, i complete about forty pages. i decide i am going to sparknotes the rest of the book. fuckit. after that i pour myself another glass and turn on the radio. the news. i switch it off. a slight pressure presses on the back of my skull. i need to stop listening to the news. i finish the rest of my drink, grab the bottle and go back into my room.

i am awake. it is still dark. netflix is still open on my laptop. an empty wine bottle is in bed next to me and also, to my surprise, is the cat. i listen to it breathing. it looks so peaceful. i pet its fur. it’s very soft. i sometimes forget that this cat is only a cat, and not, like, a person who has an agenda or vendetta or desire to inflict war crimes; it wants to eat and sleep and be left alone. i feel that. something vague warms me, like a déjà vu, but nostalgic. i don’t think of anything but the solidarity of this moment. i pet its fur and feel myself getting sleepy. but as i’m going back to sleep when a horrible thought occurs  – i forgot to feed the cat!! my laptop crashes to the ground when i fumble out of bed but i don’t care. i am suddenly aware of how drunk i still am. i can’t even figure out how the can opener works. how did i ever use this?? i’m fumbling with the thing and my drunkass slices open my finger. leaning over the sink, i press a dish rag against the cut. blood drips from the rag into the sink. the cat stumbles in. in that moment, i forget my pain and tear into the can like a true fucking savage. the cat looks at me and looks at the food. i’m waiting. something like a bow or a thanks man! from the cat. anything to show me that i matter in this relationship. but that never comes. the cat stares at me. i will never know how it feels. no matter what i think it feels or want it to feel. i’m me and the cat is a cat. we’re two different creatures. the cat nibbles at the food some. I’m back at the sink. it turns around and walks towards the bedroom. with my towel-wrapped hand, i follow. it hops onto the bed and curls back into a ball. i return to my covers, clenching the towel and petting the cat until i fall asleep.

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