My Friend, Marianne

by Gabrielle McAree

My adolescence happens to me while I eat Marianne’s brain. It tastes like walnuts and sour gummy worms, severed Barbie heads and centipedes. I shove pieces of her into my mouth as if it will make me a complete person. Skinny and sober, somebody’s girlfriend. In hopes that something tragic and exciting will happen to me, like my dad will hit me or cheat on my mom. My stomach expands five centimeters. Six. I unbutton my pants for Marianne. I make room.

Marianne says she tastes good because she reads the newspaper and knows about foreign policy. But really, her mind is full of ideas birthed by other people. She knows which wars are bullshit, who the governor of Idaho is, how the stock market is doing in Japan, why penguins mate for life. Shit like that. Her mom says she tastes good because they vacation in Cancun and do face masks before bed, but I don’t know if she’s serious or not. I don’t actually believe in spas, but when Marianne peels her scalp back, I eat, even the bony parts, and serotonin courses through my veins like wildfire. I exhale and think, Ok. This is what happiness must feel like.

I read online that real doctors are doing full-body transplants overseas. If I were overseas, I would investigate this, but I’m not overseas, and I don’t know how Marianne’s mom would feel about it. There’s morality to consider. I’m not a Neanderthal. Sometimes eating Marianne is difficult, especially swallowing her arms, so I sprinkle some salt on her and that helps a little. Lettuce makes a similar crunch, I guess.

All the serial killers I know about christened themselves with animals and then moved onto humans. Some ate their victims. Some kept their hearts in jars. Some performed rituals in the shed behind their family home. I don’t doubt that I would be a good serial killer, like if I wanted to be one. But I don’t want to, at least not right now.

When I get home, I’m bloated, so I force my fingers down my throat to puke up my friend, Marianne. She looks pretty, glaring back at me in the toilet, all discombobulated and deformed. Her body jagged like a jigsaw puzzle. I wipe my mouth with my sleeve and admire my work as if it’s real art, something people would pay money for. I imagine this is what Ted Bundy felt like. And Jeffrey Dahmer. And all the other reputable serial killers listed on Wikipedia.

At dusk, I collect the pieces of Marianne and stuff her into a plastic shopping bag with Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! written across the front in red block letters. Marianne’s mom opens the door before I knock. Her body is heavy in my hands, immense. Some of her drips onto the concrete, like rain, but I do what I can to conserve her. Marianne’s mom falls to her knees and says, “Thank you for returning my daughter to me. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!”

This confuses me because Marianne’s not a library book. She’s a girl. You can’t return a person who is unrentable. Though, I suppose that’s exactly what I do. I rent her. Maybe people are just library books with genitals and feelings. Like, in our simplest form we’re just apes who stand upright and wear clothes. It’s natural that animals eat one another. Science proves this.

At school, Marianne is whole again. Brain, hair, eyes, teeth, arms. It’s all there. Only I can spot the differences. My stomach growls as I watch the clock crawl towards 4 o’clock. I take a laxative and wait for my insides to empty themselves out. I am always making room for Marianne, which is actually quite exhausting.

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