6 comments

Contemporary

I stare out the window at the overcast sky and the air looks like a prolonged orgasm. I haven’t left my apartment in thirty-seven hours, during which thoughts of me forgetting how to conversate with another human being fill me with a nameless dread. I need to break free from these walls. 

I reach for the car keys I sometimes leave on my writing desk, but my fingertips shuffle around medical bills, and I listen to some of the pages flip flop to the floor. My keys aren’t under my sombrero, either. I think about where else I would leave them when it occurs to me that I need to shower before going anywhere.

My arms drag the soap bar across my body awkwardly, like a monkey trying to perform human tasks but lacks basic Homo sapien coordination. I wonder what someone would think of me if they were to see me shower like this? I decide that tomorrow I’ll start practicing how to shower like normal in case I ever bathe with another. At that moment I notice my fingers start to prune and that I’ve allowed the warm water to spray my motionless carcass for too long. 

Over the water basin, I wipe the steam that fogs the mirror. A handsome bastard stares back at me. He tries to squeeze his head out the center of the mirror. I am immediately drawn to his cheese grater abs and chiseled jawline and glossy hair and think, wow, he’s got it all, doesn’t he? He’s grinding his teeth together as if trying to turn them into paste; he looks absolutely deranged.

With each step I slosh about like a zombie. My body bends and contorts in spite of me. I am usually more graceful than this. Must me a side effect of the medication I’m taking. I pass an ornate silver framed mirror I do not recognize (I think Aunt Marie brought it for me). Trapped inside it stands a gluttonous gentleman who might fall over at any point. No doubt he just enjoyed a wonderous feast. He probably stuffed his face with drumsticks and corn and mashed potatoes and an ocean of gravy. Probably the best gravy he’s ever tasted. I can’t remember the last time I’ve eaten. 

There’s an eclectic collection of treasures scattered on the coffee table: sunglasses, quarters, candy wrappers, game console controllers, my cellphone. Ten notifications. No car keys, though. Where did I leave them? I look up at the 65-inch Roku TV screen. A tall, toned, elegantly dressed man stares back at me. I scratch my wrist; he impatiently taps his glistening Rolex. As the dashing character bends down to grab something, I mimic him to grab the remote, but when I press the power button the TV clicks on to the menu screen. I own a pair of slacks, right? I think for a moment what I could wear tonight, where I could go for a good margarita. Maybe I’ll meet a girl while I’m there. 

Sometimes I drop my keys in the microwave. Not intentionally. But I often forget to let go of my keys when I enter my apartment, and as I hold on to them I warm myself a Hot Pocket or leftover spam and eggs. I tend to grab my plate with my right hand, which is the hand I forget to let go of my keys with, and as I’m retrieving my plate my fingers would let my keys fall inside the microwave so they can firmly grip the plate I microwaved lunch on. In those instances, I don’t realize I’ve left my keys in the microwave until the next time I get hungry and decide to use the microwave, at which point images of my microwave exploding and my complex catching fire because I accidentally microwave my car keys flood my mind, only to be forgotten twenty minutes or so after I have successfully swapped out my keys for my next meal.

As I approach the microwave, I notice the half empty glass of tap water resting on the countertop. I peer into it and notice, reflected on the water’s surface, the face of a unibrow having, long-nosed doofus. He smiles gayly and for no reason. I imagine it’s easier to go through life as an idiot. One can find simple joys and live by simple truths that way, instead of wrestling with the ambiguity of right and wrong, or the endless possibilities of what could have been.

I open the microwave door. The keys are not inside.

The closet is the last place I could check. There is no reason the keys or anything else I regularly use would be in the closet—I don’t like to go in there. I’m grasping at straws at this point. The face of a child stretches along the surface of the brass doorknob, looking up at me, eyes shining of curiosity, excitement, optimism, like a twinkling star. I grasp the knob, the child’s little head popping like a pimple when I squeeze, I imagine.

The closet is cramped with spires of spiral notebooks, littered with loose papers fallen like leaves from a tree. I’ve written so much filth in high school yet haven’t the resolution to discard any of it. I pick up the page closest to my big toe and read:

“Commander Morgan, thank goodness you’re here. I lost track of Toitra the Vanity, but it seems he has…” Rensay noticed the blood. “Commander…” He didn’t know what to say, nor what to think.

“Rensay,” began Morgan with a faraway stare at his loyal soldier. “I am a Plaman.”

I shudder, then toss the page aside, then close the closet door.

The keys are not in there. 

I am coughing and it is intense. It sounds dry and it claws at my throat. It is as if I’ve suddenly become allergic to breathing, for every inhale induces another fit. My body folds on itself, some kind of self-sabotage, an act of violent betrayal against myself. 

It stops. I take a breath. My medication is also on the coffee table. I take it. It has a bitter aftertaste. 

After a few minutes the medication kicks in. I can tell because my head sways a little and my mind drifts into a euphoric haze. I sit back on the couch and realize that the sun is lighting the world in spite of the clouds, and that divinity is not something to pursue. It is the gift already under the Christmas tree, waiting to be open.

Ah, there they are. My keys, chilling on the couch this whole time, poke the side of my right butt cheek as I sit. It’s funny how I missed them earlier.

I pick up my phone and briefly see a reflection of myself. My face is doing something awkward and unfit for sharing, yet it’s enough to grant me access to the digital world. Ten notifications, nine are only emails. One is a text from Sarah from 8:07 A.M. that reads: Still sick

I type: Yeah

I backspace, then type: Unfortunately

Backspace. Sick of not seeing you, pretty girl

Backspace. I’m dying! Help!

Backspace. Yep :[

Send.

I’ll get better at this eventually.

November 23, 2023 15:45

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6 comments

Michelle Konde
03:55 Nov 27, 2023

I enjoyed the spin on "a house of mirrors"!

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Jarrel Jefferson
21:52 Nov 27, 2023

Thanks, Michelle!

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AnneMarie Miles
14:10 Nov 26, 2023

Sorry to hear this is inspired by you being sick - yikes! Hope you feel better soon.. I love how you managed to capture how laborious the mundane tasks of life can be. Everything is more challenging and awkward when you are unwell. Definitely relate to the ape-like body washing experience when you're sick! I loved all the imagery in this, as always.

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Jarrel Jefferson
21:43 Nov 27, 2023

Appreesh, AnneMarie! Throwing words on a page was the easiest thing I did last week.

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Mary Bendickson
01:06 Nov 24, 2023

Realistic depiction of how out of sync can be when sick.

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Jarrel Jefferson
05:27 Nov 24, 2023

Thanks, Mary. I drew inspiration from a very real and very current cold I’m suffering through.

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