It was a hot, muggy day. I was wearing a loose camisole, and the air was stale and sticky, heavy with the cramped nervousness of the city. I was nervous, I was on my way to a job interview downtown. I already knew it was a job I didn’t want. I wasn’t fit to work in an office but I’d convinced myself I could play the part, that it would be like switching from one kind of stationary to another, selecting a font and a template; the way you’d start a new story; the mermaid got legs etc. That’s the power of persuasion. I would type till I bled and soaked each sheet of paper red with my wet carnations. I’d be their champion; they would send me to national competitions like a wrestler. I’d answer the phone and squawk like a parrot till I went mute and they draped a towel over my cage and left me in the dark. I’d die like a dodo, flightless and slow. I’d go home at night, undress, exhausted, and vanish into the nightwood like a wounded creature. A kraken would come and swallow us all, each time the phone rang. I was convinced I could live like that, belying the glory of my body and the inevitable velocity of all my cravings like a willing slave. I had persuaded myself I needed to pick myself up from this slump I’d been in. I aspired to more; not to be a significant body, but to appear as one. I imagined moving to a cool apartment where the sinks were white porcelain and the tabletops beautiful, smooth slabs of stone – Danish. A life waited for me, beyond the confines of my torpor. I needed – wanted – to force myself to dress up in drab grey like a moth, and to be a body of absolute servitude wherever I went, submitting myself to their surgical gaze, to subject myself to the power they wielded over me like dungeon masters. I craved, I thought, the easy captivity of a day job and the fantasy of my body in a cage, zipped up in latex clenching a bone between my teeth, whoofing each time the wind turned and blew a breeze from the swamp of degradation. I wanted deli sandwiches for lunch, I wanted to fondle beautiful things. There had been too much sleep, too much waiting for letters, expressions of sympathy and deep condolence for my loss, for the batwings of night, jubilating, creeping, waiting like a wilting plant in a cluttered apartment with the cheap industrial fan choking on the brown air of a summer afternoon – the potsoil crisp and dry like a puffball, dust, all water drained from the spidery dirt – that was not me, I had decided, I belonged out there, like a feral dog, a hyena crossed with a dolphin. I’d die a despicable death. Ants would nibble my pelvis clean like a Georgia O’Keeffe painting. Wasps would nest in my nostrils and eyesockets and safeguard my remains for all of eternity from rats and other vermint. I could see it. The body devoured and devouring. All dogs go to heaven. I was ready. First the L train, then two blocks full of crazy inmates, and I was there. A tentacle had crawled all the way to the third floor and someone was hacking at it with a cleaver. Meanwhile, the street was black, like molasses, and it took me a long while to get to the building, which was on fire. I wasn’t nervous. It was hot and muggy but the airconditioning seemed to be working.
Jelle Cauwenberghs is a creature from the black lagoon. He loves weird fiction and poetry. His work has appeared in The Fourth River, RAUM and elsewhere. He is a regular contributor to Caught by the River and has recently published ‘Chimera’ in collaboration with photographer Agata Paulina Mlynczak. You can find him on twitter @kingfisher_noah. He currently lives in Glasgow.
Image: Sink by Nicholas Smale (Creative Commons)
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