“Look at your watch now…”

I can’t.

“You’re still a super hot female!”

Not currently.

The thought makes me smile wryly, then I refocus as my arms start to shake. I try to focus on the rhythm rather than the words of the song I put on, one of the go-to tracks when I need a boost. I judge (pray) two minutes of it have surely passed by now.

I close my eyes, but the image of the floorboards I was staring at remains lodged in my brain. I consider the years’ worth of detritus caught in the cracks. I think back to the time I dropped my coin jar after grabbing it off the bookshelf with freshly moisturised hands after a shower. A glistening puddle of glass shards from which copper and silver circles spun into various corners of the room, some making a break for the gap under the door, others lost forever in that mysterious abyss separating my bedroom from the kitchen below. I should have asked for a reduction in that month’s rent. When complaining about the incident later to friends, I liked to quip that I had a lot invested in the property.

“What you waiting for?”

I merely grunt at Gwen in reply. I need to conserve my energy for the task at hand. I flex my fingernails into the wood, then lay my palms flat again.

There was the time I ruined a perfectly serviceable pair of tweezers trying to fish out what I thought was a lump of weed rotting away in one of the gaps. I’d been clean for a year by that point, but that didn’t mean I didn’t still get the odd craving. I wielded my pincers until I eventually wrestled the mossy lump free, only to have it crumble to dust between my fingertips. It was only the gentlest of squeezes, expecting to meet springy resistance. I figured it was either a crisp or a dry leaf that I’d gone to the trouble of rescuing.

“Damn you’ve got some wicked style…”

“HAH. Yearrrright,” I manage to splutter. Then wince at the pain this noise caused. Now there are flecks of spittle on the backs of my hands, yet I still cannot move.

I start chuckling at myself. What a spectacle I must be. The chuckling causes my shoulders to shake and I will myself to stiffen again, fighting the temptation to collapse in helpless laughter. Laughter is a great substitute for soft drugs; a tried and tested placebo.

Another memory flashes into my mind. That time Maya came round and we had a tab of acid each. Neither of us liked what we saw in each other’s faces, so we stared at my floorboards while my playlist popped and zinged around us. We floated above and watched while caramel rivulets streamed beneath us, curling around the landmines of cigarette papers, navigating strands of fallen hair that had become as dense as jungles. I remembered the fate of Augustus Gloop. I reached beneath me to check the cushion I was sitting on wasn’t about to sprout legs and leave me floundering in chocolatey splinters.

I started telling Maya the weed/crisp anecdote and she reminded me I’d told it to her twice already. That killed the buzz of my trip a little, if I’m honest. I thought back to it for days after, wondering how many friends politely sat through stories I’d told before. That’s weed for you – destroys your memory. Drugs are bad, mmmkay?

But back to the acid trip. Maya and I stared in awe at the knotholes and swirling patterns of wood for, well, I don’t know how long. Seconds, chemically stretched out across great plains of consciousness. The grains we’d taken great care to position ourselves on first became laughter lines of renaissance painting faces, then a racetrack that I observed, fascinated, as woodlice mounted tiny motorcycles and zoomed along. I could hear their high-pitched sounds of pleasure. Then saw the fluffy smoke clouds puffing away from me and I realised I was making those sounds. They resisted my attempts to harness them. So then I just sat and caressed my neck for a while, marvelling at my voice box. Plucking at my vocal cords. I knew then I could create the most touching symphony in the universe, a sound that would unite nations and erase all prejudice and injustice if only my sausage fingers weren’t so floppy.

Maya had become lost to her compact mirror by that point. Even though I’d warned her about mirrors.

A joint popping in my big toe brings me back to reality.

Teeth clenched against the pain, I realise how much stronger my body is now compared to back then; the Maya days. My mind still has a way to go, though.

Gwen wrapped it up and an advert started playing. For about the tenth time that month I vow as soon as I could get up again I would look into getting a paid account. I know this one ad, for a train company, word for word. Telling us they were waiting for us, would still be there when all this is over,

(“When all this is over,” I mimicked in a baby voice over the booming ad)

about how they couldn’t wait for us to be reunited. Then came the infuriating jingle, autotuned optimism. I found a remaining pool of energy secreted in my abdomen and snarled the alternative lyrics I’d invented.

“You just want my money, honey!”

Rage is a good thing to feel when I’m down like this. It’s better than beating myself up for repeating myself.

The timer I set on my phone finally goes off. 

“Thank god,” I exhale into the nearest knothole, a black eye that’s been judging me throughout. Shakily, I reach for the phone, which slips away from my sweating fingertips. With a little scream of frustration I grabbed for it again, only I don’t have the stamina for screaming, so what emerges is a plaintive bleat.

From the plank I fold myself gratefully into child pose, where I intend to rest for a few moments before deciding what yoga position I’ll punish myself with next.

July 10, 2020 16:03

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12:15 Jul 16, 2020

Your way of expression is very beautiful. I have like the style very much.


Karen McDermott
15:41 Jul 16, 2020

Thank you :)


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Vinci Lam
14:42 Jul 14, 2020

This is great! Haha, I feel like I should've but I totally did not see that coming.


Karen McDermott
14:46 Jul 14, 2020

Hehe, thanks Vinci!


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Batool Hussain
11:26 Jul 12, 2020

Wonderful! Mind checking out my new story and sharing your view on it? Thanks.


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