April 20, 2020
Writings In Isolation
I know I am in trouble but I am not sure why. I had come inside, sure, but that was normal. I had to use the bathroom, so I did what any reasonable person would do: took a shit somewhere discreet. This is all typical, no surprises yet, nothing out of the ordinary. But! When my good friends came back into the room, they started yelling at me in their strange language! Absolutely baffling. In a panic, I screamed back saying “I am just trying my best here!” As always, they did not understand.
In preparation for the coming global lockdown consumers around the world have begun to stockpile bags and other must-have items. Store shelves have been cleared out over the last 12 hours, and consumers are in a panic to ensure they have the necessities of life. There have been reports of small fights breaking out in aisles of stores across the city as high tensions flared up and broke out into physical violence. The few lucky households who have managed to buy anything are storing their supplies in neat rows in freezers so as to better preserve them through the coming months. Markets took a steep dive as global supply chains shuddered to a halt, and the effects of this sudden slowdown reverberated through the world.
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Once the shutdown came, we knew we had to leave. We took one look at our 200 square foot apartment, and asked ourselves how long we would last before losing our minds in there. So we stole two horses from the petting zoo, and fled. We rode for twelve hours a day that first week.
We come up on an abandoned house; it is boarded over, foreclosed on. A sad little note flaps in the wind. Seems like the owners left overnight. Clothing is strewn along the cheap carpet, and half-packed bags sit on an unmade bed. In the closet there are two pairs of the same shoes. Little black pumps. Embroidered calfskin. They remind me of snake molting. Brown dotted lines run loop-de-loops along the toes.
It’s dinner time. Last night someone stole our copper pot while we slept. We make do. We fill the shoes with our beans, and rest them over the gas burners. Our last meal for the next few days. The soles melt, and the tiny home fills with acrid smoke. Tomorrow, we will leave here, and never think of it again. In a month, it will be our last memory of what the world was like.
I crash into my chair with a heavy sigh. I leaf through the photos handed to me by a worried photographer. Bright flash illuminating a tiny kitchen. I see this image when I close my eyes: a mess, liquid everywhere, and feet blurred out for privacy, scattered cheerios, dirty tiles. I am haunted by the bodies of the roommates which I know are in the next room, just out of the frame. This kind of thing has only gotten more common over the last month. The more time people spend together, pent up in their tiny condos, their little shoeboxes, the more they lash out. We weren’t made for this kind of isolation.
I take five heavy breaths. Amidst it all, I am trying to understand the senselessness of the violence, of such cruelty. As I stare at the spilled cheerios, at the sad milk stain, I notice that something is a bit off. There is a shimmer to some of the O’s. They sit with too much lustre. I run to grab my loupe, and look closer at the image. My hand shakes, my breath runs ragged.
I was nine when my father first sat me down and warned me about her. He said she would know we had talked. She had been here for as long as he knew. She had long hair, in rats nests, and delicately manicured fingernails. She wore two crystalline rings: one, tinted pink with a clear band, and one the colour of blushing skin. He said “if she finds you, those two rings will be the last thing you will remember.”
Now, as I sit alone, hugging the porcelain of my toilet and retching (hangover? flu?). This conversation plays itself on a loop in my head. My quiet apartment seems to taunt me, and I think for a moment that I hear a soft voice.
Thanks for giving me a call today. Unfortunately, I’ve got some rough news. As I’m sure you know, we’ve really started bleeding money over the last few weeks, and it’s looking like we have to make some tough choices. While you’re a great team player, and the whole office likes you, we just won’t be able to keep you on staff moving forward. I know it’s tough. If there’s anything you need, please reach out. HR will be in touch with the paperwork shortly.
Best of luck!
She is Midas; everything she touches (my face, my pale chest, my frail arms) congeals into gold. These condom wrappers, strewn on the bed were grey once; they now crinkle and flake.
I run my hand up her leg, trying to find the line between skin and leather. She slaps it away, pushes me further under the covers, tells me to not to come up until she is finished. Her hands are in my hair, and I feel it changing, becoming heavy as it too turns to gold. I take off the fifth condom we have used, throwing it onto the gingham covers where it sits like a dirty cloud on a clear sky.
She takes her knee-high boots off, and I admire their corset-lace; she throws them at me and they fall onto the bed; she walks into a shower; I take one last breath as I watch the red marks from her fingertips fade.
Photography: Kyle Berger
Words: Greyson James