• Vol. 06
  • Chapter 03
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Shades of Cement

Mama said there would be days like this. Days when you wake up with sawdust clogging your throat and last night’s nachos gouging your gums, when you try to recall what day it is and can only vouch for the season of the year, when you aren’t sure why you’re wearing one sock and not the other.

No one forced you to live in the city or forged your signature on the lease to the apartment overlooking a pigeon-filled downtown street. The job that pays your rent and buys the groceries was one that you celebrated when you got it. You’re good at the repetitive tasks that graph the eight-hour shift. You’re so good that you can do them in your sleep. The problem is that you’ve begun to snore with your eyes open. The woman in the next cubicle has complained. You’re freaking her out with that dried-eye stare of yours.

The first sign that you were screwed was when you woke up every morning two minutes before the alarm went off. You tried messing with the clock, but no matter the wake-up time, you opened your eyes and watched the second hand revolve twice around the fake analog dial before the radio turned on to enlighten you about the world’s latest woes.

Then the news began to sound familiar. A sense of rhythmic return orchestrated the reports. Soon you knew that someone who used to be someone would have died the previous day or night, another shooting had stripped a school, a mall, a concert hall, a movie theater, a college campus of the veneer of normalcy it once had. Gridlock bounced bills back and forth between the house and the senate in a game of amateur ping-pong where no one remembered who was keeping score. A despot always and forever had jailed a foreign correspondent or ordered tanks to roll through a crowd of protesters. Another coral reef had perished. Your team lost the game.


Shades of Cement

Now, after several days waking to the same day, you find that there are no more colors, just pale versions of gray or washed-out lavender. The sky has the sheen of aged newsprint. Buildings are darker or lighter shades of cement. Pigeons disappear against the curbstones as they peck and coo under park benches.

Your next-door neighbor carries the same trash bag as you do down to the basement. You can’t remember his name. He passes you without a glance. On the way to work, you blend into the mass of pedestrians, shoulders hunched, arms loose, heads bent.

You avoid your reflection in the store windows, one ghost among the many.