When your body wasted away and became nothing more than a carcass filled with cancer, we began the bureaucratic business of dealing with death. I never saw your body. I waited on the other side of an indifferent doorway while those stronger than me went to see what the disease had left behind. My sister walked back out and into my arms. She shook her head and set her jaw and looked like she would burn down the whole world if only she had enough gasoline to soak it in. Her eyes were filled, but her face was dry as our mother cried behind her. “That’s not your dad,” my mom choked out. I said nothing, and silently wished that I could get away with saying nothing for the rest of my life.
I’m morbidly fascinated with edges. The edges of blades, glinting and indifferent. The edges of rooftops, sudden and unforgiving. The edges that separate me from another, the invisible lines and definitions of our relationships, the tangible ridges of our clothes.
One, inspect all of your fingernails—ALL of them. Slide the dirt out from beneath white keratin and flick it away to disappear somewhere on the ugly carpet under your desk. Once done push down all your cuticles and try to ignore the uneven, snagging skin this creates. Fail. Begin pulling at hangnails and risk the skinny slivers of flesh running like nylon stockings, making small bleeding slits that burn for the next week every time you wash your hands. Give up on one that runs particularly deep, one that you know if you pinch and jerk again will probably run all the way to your knuckle and possibly kill you. Take a piece of scotch tape from the dispenser the company lent you and make a transparent bandage. Try not to peel it off.
There is a man in my kitchen. Or something like a man, or perhaps something like the shadow of a man. I can’t ever see him clearly, but he’s there, tucked neatly between the humming refrigerator and crumb-covered counter. He is always catching my eye; when I walk down the hallway, when I cross the uneven living room floor, when I brush my teeth in the morning. I see him as I close cupboard doors. I see him before I turn out the lights.
These are not productive days. These are the days that I sit in my cubicle, mindlessly typing shitty, witty one-liners for cheap plastic products. Occasionally, between my descriptive bullet points, I wonder what going crazy feels like. I switch to my “Desk Jams” playlist, go to track 16, and imagine my brains being blown out from behind to the sound of Bob Dylan’s “Hurricane.” Pow. Nothing but pink cortex, red spray paint, and bits of bone splattered across my twin monitors. Pow. I slump over in my chair, slack-jawed and mindless, one of my eyes hanging by an optic nerve, but my zombie hands trudge on; click-click-click. This copy won’t write itself.
There’s no denying she’s pretty. The type of pretty that takes hours of consideration, lotions, and a calculator to add up those calories. She moves through the world like it’s all just scenery; backgrounds for popped hips and glossed lips and if the lighting’s not perfect, her filter is.