Chroma Magazine

Bed Bugs and Unrequited Love

Chroma Magazine
Bed Bugs and Unrequited Love

by Kara McGinley

 

When I was 21, I got Holden Caulfield’s red hunting hat tattooed on my wrist. I worry that people might find it pretentious, that’s why I got it though. 

People might find it pretentious or arrogant, said my ex-boyfriend, who is pretentious and arrogant. 

I asked him to watch me get it tattooed only to call back and say no, actually don’t. I was doing a lot of that back then, deciding then realising. 

 

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I went on to fall in love with someone else. The relationship was based on air, ocean and Tweets. That’s to say, he didn’t live here, and I imagined most of it. The first time we had sex I bled, not from loss of virginity or menstruation, sometimes girls just bleed, or not. Either way, he was fine with it. 

We used to watch the sky and play The Game of Life on his iPad. I complimented his solid red case. He said, thank you, it was a gift! He meant, my girlfriend gave me this. 

 

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My first boyfriend put six cigarettes out on his arm, leaving open wounds. His burnt skin looked almost glossy, like the magazines I’d dreamt about writing for as a kid. I don’t know why he did it. Sad teenagers have a way of finding each other. 

 

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Give me an unrequited love or nothing at all. That guy, the one with the iPad and the girlfriend and the different citizenship, thoughts of him ricochet inside my head. Bouncing. 

Or maybe it’s not him, maybe it’s just the Worries again. 

 

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It’s almost summer in New York; the bugs are coming back, but I never stopped itching.

 

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His bedroom walls were red. I found this odd, such a loud colour for such a quiet man. I saw him as greens, meaning, I didn’t truly know him. 

The last morning we spent together, he said, I like how still you are. I thought, can I die from this?

 

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Last year my bed was infested with bedbugs. I didn’t notice, for they are quick and I am quite messy and gross, depending on who you ask. They’re white-ish clear at first- until they feed on your blood. They suck you dry and morph into a dark, deep shade of mahogany. Then they hide, and you wonder if they’re gone for good. 

But in the morning you wake up with scars showing they’ve returned. 

 

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I stared at the red walls as he fucked me. I was trying not to cum, and I was trying not to cry.

 

I thought- you’re breaking me. I said, harder. 

 

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My whole life I’ve been trying to be blues but really I'm just shades of reds. 

 

The bedbugs didn’t come back that year and neither did he.