The woman sits alone in her dirty apartment, wedged between two of her heavy corrugated moving boxes. She sits equidistant between her bed and stove. Tired. Her eyes are locked to a divot in her drywall, the spot where her fist had been just before.
In her bedroom, she’s locked in place, bound with sweat and other filth to her sheets. When she tries to roll over, her second skin drags her back down into the wet mattress. Her eyes don’t open, but if she tries really hard she can roll her severed head to point at her night table. She’s worried she’ll drown if she doesn’t, but she likes the way her vomit feels against her hot white skin, how it cools and hardens into thin layers on top of her. When she finally sits up, she patiently lets the three strata of her flesh crack in sequence, sprinkling her chest with dry blood.
Her mother is calling on the phone.
In the kitchen, she crouches under the sink to dig for something she hid behind the chemicals. Her body is pale, slick, difficult. When she touches the red plastic container, she can feel its color tracing up from her hands to gather at her throat. Dizzy, clumsy. Thinner.
Do you feel real very often?
She was walking home when she noticed the stench of the dumpster. She thought it smelled like her mother’s cooking. When she opened the lid, the bags were crawling open. Black meat, sugar, flies, honey. She pressed her ribs hard against the metal so she could reach in and touch it. She liked how warm and alive everything felt. She spent a long time running her hands from the bottom of the dumpster up to her face, outlining her lips with the sticky gray mess.
Her mother wants to know how her new job is going, what her boss is like, if she’s met anybody. She wants to know how well she’s remembered to eat and to take her tablets. If she learned anything. If you’ve gotten any better. They talk to their walls for a while before giving up.
She’s falling to pieces. Her body can’t hold itself together anymore. She’s a system of inequalities, too much swollen and black. Sick. Not enough sense. Infection. One snuffs out the next. Each lie disproves another.
How old were you when you first thought of suicide?
She turns the stove on, not wanting to cook anything.
In the bathroom, she stares at the naked body in the mirror. The door is open. She hates herself. Her body is useless, shapeless, ugly. The face is the worst part because it tells the most lies. She lifts her hand to touch her mouth, dragging her fingertips across her gums. The reflection whispers something and she pushes her fingers back into her throat.
In high school, she fantasized about being found on the side of the road, like a dead animal. She spent a lot of time imagining her corpse being picked apart by insects, ants colonizing her tongue, weeds blooming from her ribcage. She wrote a lot of letters and made a couple bad drawings in the back of her notebook. A few hours in an office someplace not-listening. Fat, yellow. Bugs dowsing for sugar in her veins. Maggots were especially interesting because they could use her. She liked to be used, was desperate to be useful. Aren’t you?
Her body has no privacy. Her insides are all public games, laugh and spit. Every word an accusation. She’s sure. She took the trash home with her so she could enjoy it again later, when it was ripe. Sometimes, when she had a bad day at work, she would sit on the cold plastic floor with all the lights off, opening and closing the lid of the container.
You disgust me.
Yesterday, she had the idea to give birth. She lays down on her carpet imagining stirrups for her legs. Her hands are buried in the slick warm trash. She draws circles around her belly button with the black grease, letting it pool between her bones. When she notices herself in the mirror, she doesn’t cover her face. She forces the dirty fingers between her lips, letting her children inside. For the first time she can see life in her reflection.
Her mother is calling on the phone.
The hole grows deeper.
The boxes are too heavy to move. When she thinks of something she needs, she picks at the open ones until she finds it or gives up. The first things she took out were the razors, too pink and dull to be useful for anything, and her frying pan. The only thing she enjoys about eating is the taste of non-stick coating on the back of her tongue. She can imagine it rolling down her esophagus to outline her organs before eventually leaking into her blood. She thinks a lot about being smothered like this, being betrayed by her body. She’d like to sacrifice one self to the other, to be subsumed. The rotten steak is cooking in front of her, bubbling in another heat. Most of the bugs have been carefully picked out and are now beside her on the plastic floor. She left the maggots inside so they could eat their meals together. She’s patient. She burns one side and doesn’t cook the other. She eats the steak out of the pan, standing up.
Her nose is broken. She thought it might look better that way. Tomorrow she might try pounding her head against the drywall in time with some piece of music, but for now she’s content to be swollen and speckled with white flakes and black eyes. When somebody asks she tells them she fell down because she forgot something important. When somebody says she’s doing a good job she smiles, imagining the blood still hanging from her teeth.
A fly circles her head before landing on her eye. She imagines catching it with her lashes but she isn’t able to hold her head straight. Her feet are cold. Her mother wants to know if there’s anything she needs, if there’s anything she could do. The phone buzzes. The stain under her knees is bown, still, cold. There’s too much blood in it, it’s making her sick. She wants to roll over, but she doesn’t want to hurt any of her children. Her head hurts. She imagines reading a book.
In her bedroom, she’s locked in place, sticky, half-breathing. Vomit keeps her eyes shut. She hopes she’s dead but doesn’t have the strength to check. No one cares, anyway.