Female Role | Julia Kooi Talen
It is a college literature seminar on Hamlet. There are ten of us at the table. PhD at the head. Grey and nimble in a polo shirt.
Rachel and I sit next to each other in the oval of bruting boys who like to say DFW and Kafkaesque.
We read the play aloud. PhD calls on the boys to dig into the language. Dissect the metaphors. Consider the line. We listen and listen like dolls on a shelf.
Sometimes PhD calls on Rachel then interrupts her. But PhD never calls on me. Even if I’m the only one raising my hand. Pretends he never saw. Stares down at his text piles. Puts something in the marginalia.
Eventually I stop raising my hand and just speak. But PhD cuts me off. He cuts me up into shards of shrieking glass. Scraps of paper. Shreds of skin that can never be sewn back together. Thousands of ignored footnotes hung below.
PhD makes me Ophelia. He conjures Freud and his patients. The mad women. The melancholic. He digs my grave in the middle of the socratic circle and buries me with them. We are alive but choke on the dirt that mutes our thoughts. Then beetles and pill bugs eat me. Dust fills in the eyes and mouth. PhD digests what grows out of my decomposition. Licks his fingers clean. Chews me down to the skull. The gravediggers toss me back and forth while my ghost seeks a revenge she’ll never get because she only eats daisies.
After class, I ask PhD a question about my final paper. My thesis sounds cute. He offers that I remind him of his wife. He licks his finger and thumb before turning a page in the book.
Julia Kooi Talen is an MFA candidate in creative writing at Northern Michigan University where she teaches college composition. Her prose has appeared or is forthcoming in Grimoire Magazine, LandLocked Magazine, Burning House Press, and elsewhere.