Being the Murdered Coed

Cathy Ulrich

The thing about being the murdered coed is you set the plot in motion. You won’t be found for days after, leaves dropping onto your body from shedding autumn trees. You will be nearly buried under them. Left on a part of campus no one ever goes, you’ll be found by a woman walking a very small dog. The woman will be wearing purple leggings, shoes with matching laces. The very small dog will pick up your scent. The very small dog will bark, will bark, will bark.

Your parents will be called. Your parents will make arrangements for a closed casket funeral. The university will release a statement filled with platitudes and obfuscations. They’ll hire an additional security guard walk the campus at night, flashlight in hand. He’ll lean up against the brick of the library building, smoke e-cigarettes flavored like mangoes. He’ll look up at the sky from time to time, admire the fat of the moon when it’s full.

The police will interview everyone from the party where you were last seen. The police won’t blame you for your own murder, not really, but they’ll think if you had maybe been carefuller.

You had a beer. You had a beer. You had another. You had hair in need of trimming and a laugh that turned into a duck quack if it went on too long. You had sex. You had shoes left from high school tucked under your bed, black lace panties in your dresser, purple lace panties, champagne lace panties.

The police will make note of this, note of the signs of trauma to your body, note of your unblemished fingernails, that you didn’t fight back, that you didn’t even try.

When did she leave the party?

But nobody noticed you leave, nobody noticed anybody paying an excessive amount of attention to you. They’ll remember you had beer, they’ll remember you were slurring your speech. They’ll remember one of the foreign students on the basketball team said he had you the weekend before, had you the way you had a beer and another and another. You sat behind the basketball player in World Lit. He had a wart beside his left ear, pale skin, bad haircut. He stuttered his left foot against the desk in front of him, wore a scarf even when it was warm.

The police will interview him for hours, his English faltering with his nerves: Just once, that’s all. The just once time.

But he was still at the party after you were gone, they’ll say, so it couldn’t have been him.

Your mother will think he followed you later, murdered you later. Your mother will have an immense distrust of foreigners since her childhood, your mother will vote for politicians who want to build walls, your mother will mourn loudly, clacking up and down the hallway of your childhood home in her heels. She’ll think I want to go somewhere, she’ll think where could I go, she’ll reach the end of the hallway, turn around, ankles throbbing. She’ll go back and forth, back and forth, tap, tap, tap.

Your mother will be shamed to know you had sex. Your mother will be shamed to know you kissed a girl at the party, Wendy Chin, thin lips soft under yours, mouth tasting of beer, the both of you breathing faster, faster, touching soft shoulders with soft fingertips, until one of the guys said god, that’s hot, and you broke apart and you didn’t speak to Wendy Chin again, didn’t look at Wendy Chin again.

Wendy Chin will say she doesn’t remember kissing you before you died.

Wendy Chin will say I was drunk, we were drunk, she was drunk, everyone was drunk.

Wendy Chin will marry a boy with a Subaru Outback. Wendy Chin will have three children and join a book club. She’ll start drinking wine instead of beer. She’ll have no taste for it, drink it like she’s taking a shot.

Wendy Chin will, from time to time, think of you. The basketball player never will. He’ll forget your name before he even returns to his home country, call you the girl that was murdered when he calls you anything, will forget he had you, will forget you.

The new security guard will stay on campus for seven months, till the funding dries up, till the curl of your dead hand, half-covered by leaves, is forgotten.

The woman and the very small dog will take a different route on their walks. The woman will think of you sometimes, like Wendy Chin, think of you, sigh what a waste, and lean back in her recliner, her very small dog resting quiet at her feet, dreaming of dead things.

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Cathy Ulrich’s very small dog rarely barks, but often dreams of dead things. Cathy’s work has been published in various journals, including Cleaver, Cotton Xenomorph, and Bad Pony