Extra Metamorphosis

Asher told his first boyfriend he'd discovered a writer named Franz Kafka who'd written a book where a guy wakes up to discover he has been transformed into a large and mostly immobile bug.

Extra Metamorphosis
Photo by Rocío Perera / Unsplash

by Nicholas Grider

Asher told his first boyfriend he'd discovered a writer named Franz Kafka who'd written a book where a guy wakes up to discover he has been transformed into a large and mostly immobile bug. The boyfriend declared the premise weird, and Asher agreed, wondering aloud who would think of that and how you would know what it felt like and what it actually would feel like, and his boyfriend responded by saying it didn't sound like a book with a happy ending and his parents had taught him "never do the work unless you know it'll succeed," so he only read books with happy endings and wasn't interested in reading or thinking about the big bug one.

Asher also told his second boyfriend about the book because by this point he'd read it but his boyfriend, a self-proclaimed "bits and pixels guy," was not interested except to ask Asher why he'd read a book like that and what it was really about. When asked for clarification, the boyfriend said he wondered whether it was a metaphor for something, and if so what, and was it still as urgent and cogent now as when it was written? The boyfriend explained he'd gone to a corporate tech seminar where he'd learned that the past is never universal but the future always is, which might not apply to metaphors but was worth pondering. Asher replied he hadn't considered metaphors or their universality and couldn't say, which the boyfriend said was fine, but also that it was 3am and could they maybe shelve the discussion until the next day, and Asher agreed but was slightly disappointed knowing that by breakfast the boyfriend would've chosen to forget the subject entirely.

Asher didn't tell his third boyfriend about the book because the third boyfriend was the kind who, while perfectly sweet, considered himself the most worldly and well-read person in the vicinity, and Asher knew if he brought up the book and bug and metaphor his boyfriend would just seize the opportunity to explain Kafka and the complex landscapes of symbolism in pre-war Central and Eastern European literature to Asher at great length and in exhausting detail, then feign offense if he caught Asher not paying attention and tell him yet again how the boyfriend had been taught––rightly––that all knowledge is ultimately good knowledge, even when it isn't.

Asher didn't mention the book at all to his fourth boyfriend, but when tipsy one night he did talk about how he always wondered what it would be like to be a bug, explaining he was curious what it would be like if you woke up in the morning and were a big bug and couldn't move, and the boyfriend told Asher he could help answer that question but only if Asher agreed to get way more drunk and take a beige pill the boyfriend offered him from an unmarked bottle. Citing something the boyfriend's father always used to say––never do a strange and pointless thing unless you make a profit––the boyfriend also requested permission to take pictures of Asher immobilized as the boyfriend's idea of a bug and sell the good pics in discreet online markets, but even after he promised to share a cut of the profits, Asher declined.

Asher didn't tell his fifth boyfriend about anything because this boyfriend was the kind who did all of the telling and because he seemed most in love with Asher when he'd let the boyfriend tell him stuff with no response other than nodding and listening attentively. When the boyfriend told Asher they were going to marry and settle down because romance and wedlock were a matter of "shit or get off the pot," Asher responded by telling his boyfriend he was still growing and changing as person and, as such, would prefer to go the "off the pot" route.

Asher also didn't tell his sixth boyfriend about the book, the bug, or his curiosity, but by this point he had the kind of money from his white-collar job to have his whims custom built and to take long leaves of absence, and one night he arrived at his boyfriend's condo with a display case big enough to fit a person inside it and had air holes and a wooden base with wheels. When the boyfriend, more intrigued than unsettled, asked Asher what he wanted to do, Asher avoided the book and backstory and simply said he wanted, for the next five or six weeks, to be a bug. An important and usual bug. To know what it was like. When his boyfriend asked Asher to be more specific, Asher told his boyfriend to put and keep him in the display case, keep him alive, study him, and eventually get bored with studying and ignore him. "It's like the saying: never pass up a rare opportunity," Asher said to his boyfriend, "and be creative, but also be thorough and objective, and most importantly, don't tell me why you're doing it or what you want."

Nicholas Grider's story collections include Misadventure (A Strange Object/Deep Vellum) and Forest of Borders (Malarkey) and their work has appeared in Atlas and Alice, Conjunctions, Guernica, Maudlin House, and other publications.