Sarah Rose Etter
We’re always asking for too much in this office. First it was raspberries. Now it is kiwis. The kiwis roll around on the table in our office kitchen then rot.
At work, I sit on the second floor of a skyscraper. At work, I walk from my computer screen to the fax machine and back again.
After work, I beg my body to fall asleep because I have not done much of anything during the day, save the movement of the body from the screen and back to the screen again. The screen is a glowing blue god.
Outside, we have sexy nude men washing our windows, which we also asked for.
“The demands keep growing,” says Mary. She manages the office and our desires. She rips out her hair one piece at a time. I don’t know how hair growth works, but she takes one follicle per day.
I want to ask Mary for more. I want to say to Mary: “Mary, bring me an entire human heart and slide it into my chest.”
Outside of the office is a rich meadow. At the center of the rich green meadow is the oracle. The oracle is a white oval slab hovering above the grass. Each morning, I look out the window to consult the oracle.
“Oracle,” I murmur to the clear glass pane. “What will today bring?”
When the day bodes well, the oracle glows a gentle pink, the color of infant toothless gums. When the day will be sour, the oracle throbs with the greenish black hue of a rotted fruit or plague.
Today, the oracle takes on the color of a bad peach. Against the hopeful morning sky, it is a bruise.
A deep sense of foreboding muscles in. A calculation of the things that could go wrong today:
- Hit by car, loss of legs
- Hit by another human, loss of teeth
- Hit by financial woes, loss of job
- Hit by a bad thought, loss of man
I want to choose my own tragedy.
I stare more deeply at the oracle and think of the man I went to Iceland with. We never went to Iceland but we spoke about Iceland as if some day we would arrive there. He was a Texan who kept women scattered across the globe and I was one of them. I like to imagine it as one big woman, dismembered. To think of him is to make a large incision in my own skin, and oh, doesn’t it feel so nice?
The ache roars through me. I feel gutted, thirty-five pounds lighter. I want to shove my fingers down my throat and raise him up out of me. I want to write a letter to him that says: “The last time was a wet mistake.”
Outside, the nude men wash the windows and eventually I can only see their skin. Inside, more deliveries and exotic fruits arrive. I hold a jackfruit in my palm.
I don’t ask for much at home. It is silent there. I light many candles, then I stare at the walls while the hours pass. Sometimes, I make a chicken. Sometimes, I run my fingers over the cooked seasoned flesh and murmur “chicken” with pride.
On the walls, I keep a calendar. Here, I monitor emotional weather. Today, for instance, I write down EVACUATED because I don’t feel myself in my body. Instead, I feel like a glistening container waiting to be filled with an event or a love.
Sometimes, I play a record. Sometimes, I read a book. Within the pages of the book are photographs of craters in the earth taken from space. Often, the craters look like scars on the human skin of land. It is important to learn one fact each day to keep the mind sharp.
Always, I am standing outside of myself while I watch my other self complete these tasks. I report back with updates: We are working out regularly. We are eating chicken. We are sharpening our minds. We are expanding our skill sets. One day, someone will happen upon us and love us deeply for these motions.
The sky above us takes on many hues throughout the day. When the sky reaches a certain violet, I slide the two white pills onto my tongue to bring sleep forward and then begin another day.
Today the oracle gleams the soft pink. I had a feeling things would turn around. A new shipment also arrives.
“The golden coins are here,” Mary says. We celebrate. We throw the coins into the air, bite the metal, the coins are a hard and dangerous confetti.
After, we are exhausted. We do our special designs in the office in silence.
“Too much emotion can erode us,” I say to the screen, which only flickers bluer.
Out in the meadow, the oracle blushes. It has been three months since a man has touched my body.
“Is this what will change?” I murmur.
The oracle hangs still. I am used to this kind of affirmation. When the next shipment comes, I hide under my desk. I am already full of beauty from today.
Some nights, a certain man arrives if I ask him to. Tonight, I ask him to. Tonight, we do wildest fantasies, such as Maneuver #4 and Maneuver #98. He is either highly skilled or highly trained.
After, when he is gone, I eat four small sausages. The kitchen smells like breakfast but it is dark outside. I am a master of juxtapositions.
That night, I have dreams of myself in a deep river full of holographic fish. I take photos of the fish as they shimmer, how breathtaking it is. Why do I need to prove I was there?
Today the oracle is the color of a shitty banana, the inside of a bad tooth.
I feel dejected.
“Mary,” I say. “Make the oracle pink.”
“That’s out of our policy,” she explains. She slides a steak toward me. The others all around us are masticating. My skin begins to crawl. Their chewing noises escalate and the tremors rise to my head.
“The oracle was right,” I whisper. “Everything today is terrible.”
All around me is a symphony of saliva sounds, building to a crescendo.
Some nights, I eat small sausages or try new maneuvers. Tonight, I try something different.
I put on my best black clothes like a robber or an inkblot. I wind through the oldest part of the city, decaying brick above. Then, I am close to the office. Then, I am in the rich green meadow, which radiates lushness against the dim streetlights. Then, I am face to face with it.
The oracle radiates pure white with a pink tint. I walk slowly toward it. As I get closer, the pink gets deep as a post-storm sky. Isn’t she beautiful? She is. She is.
Closer, and I can feel the orb glowing light onto my skin.
“Aren’t you beautiful?” I whisper to the orb. Beneath the white weight of the slab is only air. The grass beneath my feet lushens further. The oracle increases its energy and I slide a hand against its surface.
“Softer than I thought,” I whisper to the oracle. “Plush shell…”
Against the velvet night sky, the oracle turns a new hue. I wrap my arms around the buzzing slab and climb until I am in the center of the orb, my limbs around it like a lover.
I hover in the air with the orb, the soft electric against my skin. I haven’t felt this calm in years, the soothing light burying itself in my cells. All night, it dazzles out hues, deep violets and explosive pinks, kind yellows and electric greens. I keep my body pressed close.
I stay with my orb like that, cocooning, until the morning, until the co-workers arrive.
“Just let us be,” I murmur as they gather around us.
Nobody listens. My co-workers get closer than they should be. My body cleaves against the orb, limbs like the jaws of a bear trap.
“No,” I sob.
“Don’t make a scene,” Mary says, then they pry me off, limb by limb, my wet face dazzling now in the light of the sunrise.