Re: Frankie

“Red Rocks (Lauryn)” by Lauren Withrow

Subject: CONSUMPTION WARNING

Dear Valued Customer,

We recently received a bill showing unusually frequent usage of your home ReJuve Total Self Regeneration™ Unit. In order for your ReJuve to continue producing the highest quality of care, it is crucial to limit your use to THREE CYCLES per seven-day period.

Here are some tips for preventing overuse:

  • Consume a balanced diet and engage in regular exercise
  • Avoid stimuli that may provoke a hysteric episode, such as excessively sentimental books, movies, music, and people
  • Utilize less invasive Revitalization Technology, such as the DeepBreathe™ Oxygen Mask or DeepDive™ Bubble Bath
  • After the onset of hysteria, wait one day before using your ReJuve, as hysteria may subside on its own
  • Confirm that a hysteric episode is genuine by consulting the Quick Hysteria Questionnaire on the side of your ReJuve Unit

We at ReJuve are committed to women’s health and wellbeing. Should you notice any repair or maintenance issues, please contact myself or another Biowaste Professional with details.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: YOUR WASTE CYCLE IS CHANGING

Hi Julie,

Okay, so this isn’t actually about your waste cycle, but I think the emails from my personal email are going to your junk folder or something, and I keep getting sent to voicemail every time I call. Anyway, your hairbrush is still at my place. It’s the fancy one your sister bought you in Paris, the one with the boar’s hair bristles and wooden handle. It’s a really nice brush.

Don’t go back to that plastic brush I bought from Walgreens when you stayed over the first time. Remember how it pulled the knots down to the middle of your back, so you looked like the girl from The Ring with a bird’s nest at the end of your hair? You joked that a family of owls was living in there and they were overdue on rent. You had to comb your hair with your fingers, and your hands smelled like coconut shampoo all night. Your hair was so long back then.

The brush is safe at my place. Let me know when you want to come get it.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: YOUR WASTE CYCLE IS CHANGING

Julie,

Listen, I’m sorry for tricking you with the whole fake-subject thing. But it looks like this is a The Secret situation (I finally finished the copy you gave me), because it’s becoming true now. Your waste cycle is changing, so maybe it wasn’t really a lie in the first place. My boss told me that Randy and I are switching our afternoon routes, so he’ll be in charge of your waste from now on. He’ll probably be late more often than not, because he likes to “take his time with the waste.” Calls it respectful, the sentimental old man. He still uses individual body bags, if you can believe it.

My boss also told me the reason we’re switching is because you specifically requested that you be put on another biowaste guy’s route. I don’t really know what to say, except that it would have been nice of you just to talk to me and not go to my boss behind my back. You’re the one who said we should stay friends, but I guess you changed your mind, and you didn’t even have the decency to tell me to my face. Or respond to a single email, for that matter.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

P.S. I still have that hairbrush.

 

Subject: Re: Re: YOUR WASTE CYCLE IS CHANGING

Hello Julie,

I just wanted to let you know that I’m heading over to your place because Randy asked me to. It’s an issue with your rejuvenator unit. I swear I’m not stalking you, just helping out a friend.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: THERE’S AN ISSUE WITH YOUR WASTE

Dear Valued Customer,

This message is to notify you that myself and a fellow waste professional (Randolph Olson) have discovered an issue with your ReJuve Unit’s ability to properly destabilize waste products. We strongly advise you to SUSPEND USE OF YOUR UNIT until the issue can be resolved.

If you experience a hysteric episode in the meantime, DO NOT GO DIRECTLY TO A HOSPITAL. Instead call our complimentary DeepDelphi™ Hotline at the number listed on the side of your ReJuve Unit. A certified counselor will be available to discuss your symptoms. If your counselor deems your hysteria valid, he will fill out documentation certifying your state and forward it to your local emergency medical provider.

A repair team will be dispatched to your home in the next two days during normal business hours. You do not need to be home during this time, as our professionals will be working solely with the ReJuve Asphodel Meadows™ Waste Disposal Tank on the outside of your home.

In case of any gate codes or dangerous animals on the property that are not currently on file, please respond promptly to this email or contact our local office.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: THERE’S AN ISSUE WITH YOUR WASTE

Julie,

This isn’t an automated email. This is Sean. You need to call me ASAP. It’s about your waste. Seriously, it’s important.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: THERE’S AN ISSUE WITH YOUR WASTE

Julie,

I don’t give a shit if you block my phone number, my personal email, my goddamn good vibes, I’m gonna keep emailing you from Biowaste until you respond. This isn’t about us.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: THERE’S AN ISSUE WITH YOUR WASTE

Julie,

Your waste is alive.

There, did that get your attention? Are you happy this is on my professional record? Randy called me to your place because your waste was breathing. Her eyes were open and everything.

Here’s what happened. I had two units left when I got a call, and I didn’t answer, because I’m working on Working Hard On The Task At Hand (you always told me I was easily distracted), but then he called me again and again, and so I finally answered. I said what do you want, I’m working hard on the task at hand, and he was all choked up, like he was crying. I figured it must be an old lady’s unit or a little girl’s unit, the kind of waste Randy gets emotional about sometimes, and I was ahead of schedule, so I went over to yours, and there it was, curled up in fetal position on top of two other pieces of waste that were dead, stacked up all neatly in the order they were disposed, just like they should be. Except for this one, the most recent one was looking around, all calm and a little confused. Like it’d fallen asleep on a city bus and missed its stop.

Randy said that we needed to bring it into the office and take care of it. Then he started bawling like a baby because he hates the old way of dealing with waste, he calls it inhumane (it’s a damn good thing he started after we got Asphodel attachments). He said he couldn’t put it in the trailer with the rest of the waste. I told him to buck up and put it in the cab with him, but he blushed, said he couldn’t ride around with what looked like a bare naked woman sitting next to him, and besides, he’d already been written up before for being late to drop off too many times, so he told me to take it.

So here I am, arguing with a grown-ass man who’s got tears freezing on his cheeks, stomping my feet to keep warm. The hatch to the Asphodel is wide open and your waste is looking around like an idiot, and Randy’s looking around like an idiot, and I say why are you whipping your head back and forth like that, and he says he can’t bear to look right at it, that it’s not right, and I say it’s not like you haven’t seen a naked woman before, and he says I’ve never had waste look me in the eye and ask me what time it is before.

I look at your waste because I’m not a coward, and it’s shivering. It’s covered in goose bumps and it’s got its knees pulled up to its chin and its arms wrapped around its legs, and it’s got its face buried in the hair of the waste below it, like it’s trying to keep warm. Randy yells at me not to touch it, but I do, and I jump a little when I make contact, but it feels just like normal skin, like your skin, maybe a little cooler because it was freezing out.

I’m not telling you this to freak you out. I’m telling you this because it’s sitting in my living room wearing your old clothes and playing with your hairbrush, and it doesn’t understand what’s going on, and I didn’t know who to tell about this, but I figured you’d want to know.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: THERE’S AN ISSUE WITH YOUR WASTE

Julie,

I hope my last few emails didn’t scare you. I promise that wasn’t my intention. I figured, if my work is going to send you an automated message about me showing up to your place, I should tell you why, and if I’m going to do that, I should tell you what’s really going on, and it turns out waste being lucid isn’t as impossible as they made it seem in training. So, I thought it was common courtesy to let you know what’s going on. I’d do the same for any other customer.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Your Waste

Julie,

Once again, you were right—I’m just a grunt, a cog in a corporate machine, a serial number that clocks in and out, leeching off the company health insurance when my back acts up. What I’m saying is, it turns out that my superiors don’t give a shit about my email, so long as I’m not forwarding spam or sending out nude pictures of myself. Looks like it’s safe for me to keep emailing you about your waste, at least for now.

I told Randy I would go ahead and take her in to waste processing, if he was going to be such a big baby about it, and that got him all mad, but he wasn’t about to take her in himself, so he said he’d finish my route for me if I’d go ahead and do it. He took his coat off, and then his sweatshirt off, and I said I don’t know who you’re putting on a show for, but I’m not interested. But he just took off his flannel and gave it to me and said to give it to her so she wouldn’t be cold at the end, she shouldn’t be so cold. I said we’re supposed to use impersonal pronouns, and he said she’s too much of a she to be an it. I draped it around her shoulders, and she moved for the first time, lifting her arms to pop the collar up around her neck. I turned to ask Randy if he saw that. But he was halfway to his truck, he had started walking away before he even put his layers back on. I swear he was steaming in the cold.

I was going to bring her in. If paper jumped out of your shredder at work, you wouldn’t feel sorry for it. At least, that’s what I told myself. I thought, I guess Julie might feel sorry for her waste. You could say it’d be easy for her to sympathize. But she’d also say it was gross, it was biomedical waste, shit that didn’t flush.

I was going to bring her in until we were on the highway, and we were driving over the river. I kept looking over, to see what she was doing, hoping I’d look and she’d be dead, and I could just pull over and throw her in the back. But as we got on the bridge, the trees dropped below us and the winter sun was shining in the cab, and she looked at me, and her face was red and her lips were puckered, because she was holding her breath, desperately trying to make it to the other side. She failed, like you always do.

I swear I’m bringing her in on Monday. The incinerator is off all weekend anyway, and I think it’d be a little suspicious if they opened it up and saw a fleshy piece of waste blinking at them, sitting cross-legged on a pile of ashes. If you want to see her before then, let me know.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Your Waste

Dear Julie,

I think I figured out why you’re not responding. It would be too embarrassing for you to admit, which is why I’m not going to spell it out here. But rest assured—you’re still the only Julie, the most beautiful Julie, in my eyes.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Your Waste

Julie,

Back in pre-Asphodel tank days, the ReJuve was programmed to knock out wastes’ brain waves, leaving them just there enough to walk and follow orders. They did this so we wouldn’t have to chuck them one by one into the incinerator. They’d march right in, so long as we used a friendly tone.

During training, a doctor showed us two brain scans—the one on the left was all lit up, and the one on the right was almost totally dark, except for a few spots of color on each side. See how the right scan is all-dark, the doctor said. That’s what makes them waste. There’s almost nothing there.

Another trainee raised his hand. But they still move and everything, he said. They still listen and talk. He cleared his throat and asked if they can’t feel.

The doctor was ready for this question. Not in the same way you and I do, he said. When you’re falling in a dream, you think there’s momentum, you think the ground is getting closer and closer until finally you wake up with a start. Notice how you never landed. That’s how they feel—like they’re in a dream.

The trainee didn’t like that answer much. He said, but they’re still hysterical, aren’t they, they’re still the ladies they were before. Before is the operative word said the doctor, annoyed. They’re the ladies whose pain, because it was not visible to clinicians, wasn’t taken seriously. The ReJuve system takes women’s pain away, takes their pain seriously. Do you want it to be like the old days with hysterical women walking around in society, no one willing to listen or able to help? The doctor practically recited the answer. He probably got the question in every meeting with suits.

Until some suits got sentimental like Randy and demanded the Asphodel knock waste out cold. Before that, we talked about waste being dream-dark. This one’s so dream-dark, I’d say. It’ll barely move its feet. It’s cutting into my lunch hour.

Your waste was dream-dark from the moment Randy and I saw her, to when she was riding in the truck, to when she was sitting like a statue in my living room, blinking and confused but still, holding your brush in her lap. She fell asleep around eleven, so I carried her to bed and tucked her in, and I was passed out on the couch when the lights flicked on. She was standing there in front of the TV, which was still on and playing infomercials for miracle shampoo, and her face was different, not calm and wide-eyed like a dream-dark waste’s face should be. She stood straight, with that practiced posture you have, still except for her hands over her belly, grabbing at the air, like she had a bad stomachache. She was worried and lucid, and she asked me, in a scratchy voice, what time it was, and whether or not I was going to end it all.

Anyway, if you could come over and convince her that I didn’t kidnap her and I’m not going to hurt her, that would be great. If she’s as stubborn as you, you might be the only person in the whole world she’ll listen to.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Your Waste

Julie,

I really was going to take her in today. I had it written down, “bring in waste,” in the personal planner you bought me for Christmas. I’ll admit it’s the first time I’ve used it, but that was the only thing written on the page, so I knew I wouldn’t have an excuse for forgetting.

We sort of had a fight last night. That sounds worse than it is. What I mean is, your waste wanted to leave, and I obviously couldn’t let that happen, and so when she went for the door I grabbed her around the waist, and she punched me, but it was like being hit with little pillows, it was like nothing. I barricaded her in my bedroom, and she banged on the door all night, and when she stopped I wasn’t sure if she’d just tired out or finally deactivated. But I opened the door and her hands were scraped raw, but there wasn’t any blood, and I wondered if she had any blood, and then I realized that was a silly thing to wonder. She was crying and sitting on the ground. When I walked in, she lunged forward, and I tried to step out of the way, but she grabbed my leg, and I started to shake her off, but she just held tighter, and I noticed she wasn’t trying to claw me with her nails (your biotin-strong nails), but she was hugging me, and trying to speak, but she couldn’t make any words that made sense.

Remember last year when we sat in the E.R. for six hours? When you were reeling and they told you to rate the pain out of ten, and you said it was an eleven? I told the doctor you don’t act like that, not unless it’s serious, but he just shrugged, asked if you were regularly hysterical, asked if it was cramps, it took them until the next morning to figure out you had an ovarian cyst. You’d been anti-ReJuve before that, asked me to quit my job and find something honest, but on the car ride home you asked me how much those ReJuve things cost anyway. I reminded you what you’d always said about those “Barbie machines,” and you didn’t say anything, but you gave me a look that made me feel like I’d been shot out of your solar system and I’d do anything to crawl back into it. When I opened the door, the look on her face was just like that.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Waste

I think she’s fading on her own.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Waste

Julie,

I keep thinking about how Randy said she shouldn’t be cold in the end, and how we made each other promise that we wouldn’t let the other die in a home or a hospital, and I think it’d be wrong to let her die in an incinerator. So right now she’s bundled up in every blanket I own, and she has tea (your fancy loose leaf tea), but she hasn’t drank any yet.

Let me know if you want to see her. I have no idea how much longer she’ll be around.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Waste

Dear Julie,

She’s making words! I really thought the Asphodel unit had knocked her out, that she’d just have dream-feeling and that’s why she’d only ever babble and ask what time it is. I’d gotten used to telling her the time every few minutes, just so she wouldn’t get all nervous and worried and riled up, and when I told her it was almost 2:30, she rolled her eyes and said I can read, and I thought I’ve never been so happy to hear your cruel voice.

I keep asking her if she wants food or water or anything, but she turns me down. She asks for tea, but she doesn’t drink it, just holds it in her hands, in the middle of her blanket nest like an egg. She leans over to put her face in the steam. Once, I asked her if she wanted to take a shower, and she turned around so fast she spilled her tea, and she glared at me and told me I could shower by myself before turning back around to watch Green Acres, and I was so surprised I couldn’t even correct her.

Before you ask—I haven’t even tried to touch her.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Waste

Dear Julie,

Okay, I did try to hold her hand while we were watching TV on Sunday. She had both hands cupping her big mug of tea, as usual. Her right hand held the handle, but her left hand was a little looser on the side of the mug. I slipped two fingers between her left palm and the edge of the mug, which was crazy hot because the tea was fresh. Her hands had to have been burning. She didn’t react. I waited for her to squeeze back, to push me away, to do anything, but all I got was nothing. The mug was too damn hot, so I had to pull away. I told her that’s too hot, and she said I want it hot, I want to feel it. Her hands were pink, her palms red. Her face was white as a sheet, getting whiter as the day went on.

When I picked her up out of the Asphodel tank, I knew she was waste. I also felt that your soul was somehow still in her, that the ReJuve hadn’t worked the way it was meant to. I even thought, what if this is the real Julie and the ReJuvenated one, the one that’s not in pain anymore, hasn’t got a soul at all. It’s silly, but it was real, it was in my bones, the feeling that she was real somehow, that at the very least this pain was making her real. That she wasn’t you, but in some ways she was more you than whatever the ReJuve spit out when you used it.

She was fading, that much was clear. Even with all the blankets in the house, she was shivering. All she wanted to do was watch TV and sleep, but even when she was glued to the screen I could flip between channels and she wouldn’t react, didn’t seem to notice if we were watching a gory horror movie or the evening news. Normally, you would make a joke about not being able to tell the difference between the two. She would blink.

I didn’t have much time, so I asked her the question that had been burning in my chest all weekend—why you hadn’t responded to my emails about the hairbrush.

She was more lucid in that moment than she had been in a while. She wasn’t as real as you, but she was somehow more real than you’d ever been to me. She spoke like every word was important.

She told me her heart was acting up on Thursday night, that she had been cleaning the bathroom for the third time that week to try to make the nerves go away, but they wouldn’t leave, and I knew she had bad nerves, and she had already gone for a four mile run, which usually helped to tire her out, and her heart rate had risen at the peak of her run but had yet to fall, and so she came home and drank a gallon of milk and started cleaning the bathroom and nothing was helping, and she realized the milk she’d drank was my old whole milk, the stuff I’d used to bulk up and that it would make her fat, that she couldn’t run it off because she’d already gone for a run that day, and all she wanted to do was take a shower in her clean bathroom but she couldn’t find her nice brush she used when her hair was wet, and then she saw my emails about it being at my house, and she knew in that moment that she’d either have to use her ReJuve for the third day in a row or slit her wrists on the kitchen floor, because nothing would make it stop except getting out of her body. I knew she had a bad heart.

We watched a whole episode of Hogan’s Heroes before I said anything. Then I told her she could have just come over to my place and gotten the hairbrush and taken the shower. She laughed, the sound like chimes, and I felt like a fool for thinking this had anything to do with me, and I felt like your soul was gone.

I’m taking her in tomorrow. I’ll drop the hairbrush in your mailbox on my way home from work.

Sean Rasmussen

Biowaste Management

 

Subject: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Your Waste

Julie,

Don’t worry, we haven’t found another piece of live waste kicking around in your Asphodel unit. And your waste, well, she’s gone. But now that Randy is your biowaste guy, I thought you should be aware of an incident I had with him last week.

I was getting ready to bring your waste in early, but it was below zero, so I went to start the car and let it warm up. I was scraping my windshield, way in the middle where you always made me scrape for you because stretching your arms out straight like that made your coat slide up past your belly and your stomach touch the snow on the hood of the car. And it was biting cold, cold enough that I was too occupied to see Randy until he was right in front of me, standing with a baseball bat in his hand. I said what’s that for, and he said it’s to take care of the Frankenstein you’ve been harboring. Keep in mind, I hadn’t told him squat about your waste. So I played it cool, said what are you talking about, and he said he still hadn’t gotten his flannel back, that I hadn’t even mentioned it, and he knew something was wrong, and he came by last night to ask for it back and saw me playing house with a monster.

I remembered the way she was at the end, how she woke up that morning and said I have to go now, and I said that’s right, and she just said all right, let’s get it over with.

I thought, boy that was strange, but to Randy I just said don’t call her that. I told Randy she’ll be dead in a few hours, and this broke him just a little, just enough to make him drop the act, and he said she’s hysterical, she’s just been in pain this whole time and I’m damn selfish for prolonging that. I said it’s not like you to come over swinging a bat, what were you planning to do with it, and he sort of hunched over and said you ever see a hysterical woman, and I said I dated one for a year and her corpse for a weekend, and he said no I mean really hurting, doctor says its true and everything. I said just once, when Julie had a cyst, and he said it’s the hardest thing in the world, seeing your woman hurt and not being able to do anything about it, and I said the only thing harder has got to be living like that.

Then he got angry again and said you’re crazy, you could lose your job over this, I ought to report you, and I said I know, and he said she’s not really Julie, the real Julie is long gone, and I said I know, she won’t answer any of my emails. He didn’t have much to say after that.

I offered him a ride and he said okay, and we piled into my car, which was warm by then with Frankie in it. Frankie is what Randy called her right after she walked into the incinerator. He said Frankie had bad nerves, just like you do. She shook like a leaf right up until the end.