“THE COLD PART” by Chris Drabick

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The bar was crowded, but someone had played the whole of The Moon & Antarctica on the jukebox and that made it feel lonely.

I knew the signals. I’d learned about them in the college class I took on the Psychology of Human Sexuality. Gazing, smiling, parading. I checked them off the list. Gazing, smiling, parading.

I sat next to her. I didn’t know what to say. I never know what to say. I told her—I like things.

She smiled and laughed. She asked me—What kinds of things do you like?

“And in the faces you meet you’ll see the place where you’ll die.”

I lifted my pint glass. I told her—I like beer.

She shook her head slightly. She told me—All men like beer. Try again.

I didn’t know what to say. I never know what to say. I asked her—How old do you think you’ll be when you die?

Her expression was muted. She didn’t recoil, although she had that right. She said—Which death?

I raised an eyebrow. It was my only party trick. Now I’d already used it. I told her—I don’t understand what you mean.

She sighed. It didn’t seem an exasperated sigh. Her hair was brown, a light brown, sandy, whatever the fuck you call it. Long, tight curls. She liked me. Gazing, smiling, parading. She told me—We all die three deaths.

I’m not religious. I told her—I’m not religious.

She looked at me over her glasses. She told me—I know you’re not religious. Three deaths. I’m not religious. First your heart stops beating.

I told her—That’s one. But that’s all. Then you’re dead. Your heart stops beating. You’re dead.

She shook her head. She smiled. She told me—Your brain. Your brain dies next.

I nodded. Yes. The brain. I told her—The brain. That’s two.

She gazed at me.

I waited for her to speak.

“Our hearts pump dust and our hair’s all gray.”

She breathed. Deep. She told me—Your name.

I told her—My name is _____.

She shook her head. She looked at me. She smiled. She told me—Your name is the third death. The last time a living human speaks your name aloud. That’s the third.

I raised an eyebrow. It wasn’t a trick that time. I told her—That made me a little happy and a little sad.

She told me–____ , you like beer.

I took a sip. I remembered something else from the Psychology of Human Sexuality. I told her—The French call orgasms “la petite mort.”

“I’m gonna remember to remember to forget you forgot me.”

She told me—I’m already dead.

 

Chris Drabick is a former rock music journalist whose fiction has appeared in Cease, Cows, Midwestern Gothic, After the Pause and Great Lakes Review, and non-fiction in BULL and Stoneboat, among others. His first novel, “The Way We Get By”, is due from Unsolicited Press in November 2019. He teaches English at the University of Akron in Ohio, where he lives with his wife Alison and their sons, Augie and Elliott.

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