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.
Kris looked around at white tiles, working hard to control her breathing. I’m fine, she repeated to herself. I’m fine. But she wasn’t fine. She could feel vomit pushing its way up her throat. Pressure built mercilessly behind her eyes before exploding in a spray of coke-colored chunks. Her body heaved as it violently rejected rum, hot wings, and curdled looking ranch. A kaleidoscope of regurgitated, half-digested regret swirled before her eyes as she leaned over cold porcelain and gasped for air. She heard knocking at the door and ignored it. Ocupado, bitch.
On the next fateful breath she inhaled the tiniest fleck of something. It made its way straight to the back of her throat with tickling fingers triggering another round of heaving, coughing, gasping, but Kris couldn’t catch her breath. She knew her eyes were probably going to pop out of her head and splash into the bowl at any minute, bloodshot and covered in tears. As her ribs seemed to crack with the effort of separating air from soupy liquid, one thought sprang to her mind: you can drown in a teaspoon of water. She felt bad for the poor bastard that would find her dead body, forever kneeling at a white throne.
They stood by the pool table and Meg ran her finger over the green felt. She wondered how long it had been there; how many beers had been spilt across its surface despite the laminated signs taped to each side: NO DRINKS ON POOL TABLE!!!
Alan hadn’t listened. His glass sat a few inches from her hand, and Meg thought about reaching over, hooking her finger over the rim, and soaking the table in Johnnie Walker. He would be so mad. Alan’s drink of choice, watch, shoes, and cellphone might’ve said he could afford it, but Meg knew that was all keeping up with the Jones’ bullshit.
Meg. She liked the way her nail polish looked while she traced lines into the stained fabric.
Meg. The green made her red fingertips look bright and tacky, like Christmas lights up in July. She thought of home.
“Meg! Damn it. Are you even listening?”