Sunlight, shadow, sunlight again, washing over her, pouring through her windshield, darkness creeping behind it, but she maintained the important distinctions, road and not-road, until her diligence led her to an office building in a corporate park. She walked toward big glass doors reflecting an almost pastoral world behind her. She realized that she didn’t remember ever getting out of the car.
A security guard asked her how she was, asked if she was all right and told her to take it easy. She wasn’t able to formulate a response to any of these things. She wished that she could walk through walls to take the shortest route to her cubicle, instead of winding around and around like a laboratory mouse, avoiding some faces, hit by others, and their questions.
She didn’t have an answer in the world, not for any question. Her job had something to do with numbers, and she hoped she could do that. She hoped numbers would continue to do what numbers did. One plus one is . . . well, shouldn’t it still be one? She felt a pang of fear that she wouldn’t be able to do her job. What else was there to do today?
Columns of numbers like . . . well, like tombstones. What a joke that was. Some little evil joke that she told herself. Did she want to hurt herself? Did she want to wake herself up? Every column had a sum, sitting there at the end of itself, and the sums had a sum, and then the sums of the sums had a sum, something to look at for an executive. She thought of their cold, white, refrigerator-box offices and shivered. She couldn’t even see outside from here. She felt a need to track the day, keep track of the sunlight.
Maybe she could dream the sunlight if she closed her eyes. She couldn’t sleep at night and then all day long it’s all that she wanted to do, like a tribute to that other sleep, or just that little thing she could do, instead of not being able to do anything, like how she couldn’t do her job, couldn’t tell a 2 from a 3. What’s the difference? One? There’s that one again. Everything was one. Wasn’t one the difference of everything? It was true, then. Even math had escaped her.
One life. Math told her she had one life. But she couldn’t find it. It had fallen into the keyboard like soda. It had never gotten out of the car. And yet . . . she wasn’t free of it, either. It still pressed on her, still framed her. A coworker stopped by. She knew her name, but not today. Today, she had no name. Neither one of them had a name. And the words that came out of her mouth were curdled gibberish.
“I have to work now. These numbers have to be crunched for the meeting.”
Of course, there was no meeting. There were no numbers, just the one. But the coworker left. The woman left. The humanoid left. The entity left. She just kind of clicked out like a switch, like a circuit. Maybe that’s it, maybe she was seeing energy instead of matter, nothing but electromagnetic flow, pooling, fluxing, shifting, redistributing. She wanted to be back on that road, sifting through sunlight. No, she didn’t. What is want? She didn’t know what want was.
Some man appeared, once again asking how she was, if she was sure she wanted to be back at work. She just nodded. He looked like fireflies at dusk, and she just stared at him. He asked about the Meason account.
“Have you ever seen a Meason account?” she asked him.
“What do you mean? I have the papers right here.”
“That’s a Meason account?”
“It’s the Meason account.”
“The Meason account is just a pile of papers?”
“Our client . . . the Meason account.”
“It’s our client? We own it?”
“No, we work for it.”
“So they own us?”
“What about the other accounts?”
“I just can’t make sense out of this. It doesn’t add up.”
“You’ve only had a week, Doris. You should take more time.”
Doris. What a ridiculous name. It means bountiful. What a ridiculous word.
“You should be with your family now.”
“Didn’t you hear about my son?” she asked.
“Yes, of course. That’s what I’m talking about.”
“You’re saying I should be with him, in the ground with him?”
“Your family . . . your husband . . . ”
“My husband didn’t die.”
“Yes, you should be with him. He should be with you.”
“How can I be with him? He didn’t die.”
This man just didn’t understand. A husband is a story you tell yourself about your own life. A family is a story about yourself. She had been removed from the story. She was nothing, not even words.
“Please, take the day off. Take the week off.”
Take the day off of what? Where did she have a day, sitting somewhere, that she could just take off? There’s just the one day, isn’t there, that we just live over and over again? This day was already taken off.
She was in her car again. She didn’t know how she got there. The sun was harder now, sharper. There was something horrible about the sun, but she couldn’t figure out what it was. It was the sun’s fault, somehow, the miserable, vicious, pummeling, fumbling sun. What could she do but just turn where she always turned, stop where she always stopped, look where she always looked, on her way to something that used to be her home? Why do it, and why do anything else?
Maybe that stupid, blank sun held an answer. Maybe if she just kept driving, like a ceaseless, tireless hammer, into the sun.
Photograph © Ryoji Ikea – Sound Installation
About Don Zirilli
Don Zirilli was born under a bad sign in the bayou. He wrote spells to ward off the evil “I” and later called them poems. He can now be found in the upper reaches of New Jersey, looking for empty barns to fill. He has been published in Iota, Anti-, Specs, Lilt, etc., and is the editor of Now Culture, http://nowculture.com, a duty he shares with Gene Myers.