by Aliza Haskal



the walls are the color of egg yolks and there is a blue call button with a hanging chain. two windows overlook the street. they don't open.
i live in a flesh-colored bed frame with buttons, railings, and wheels.
welcome to meyer 4.
the smell of the air is the smell of time passing or not passing, a gentle fragmenting of the psyche, the exquisite bitterness left on your tongue from a melted pill
the small, rolling night table is covered with trays–last night's dinner, this morning's breakfast, an apple, some chapstick.
roommates are ephemeral shadows in my periphery, chattering or silent
time flows around me, a creek around a stone, sessile in a sweaty cocoon. the only time i emerge is when i grow convinced i have bedbugs.
my family gathers around me but i am more alone than not.
my toes are cold, i say. it doesn't matter how many pairs of socks i put on.  
my sister says, today, it's january; it's dark outside, and there's snow on the ground, and i now know what freezes the muscles in our toes.

they ask me to rate my mood 1 through 10. 5? i say, not knowing how to calculate the answer. they nod and make identical notes on their clipboards. 
i ask my mother if i look different. she says no, but i do not recognize myself in the mirror. i have become a wide-eyed wraith with feral hair and broken talons, and i orbit like clockwork in a loose blue gown. ghostly swaths of skin, freckled or scarred, are exposed as the other shadows shuffle ahead. i am stuck in an eternal parade that is not moving.

my mother calls me a card shark, if only because i finally learned how to shuffle. we play gin, rummy, speed... my father tries to teach me how to cut the deck singlehandedly but my fingers are too clumsy and i drop the cards. my sister and i play bananagrams the next day, and she tells me i am not following the rules. we have been playing this game for years, yet i cannot comprehend what has changed. later, she douses me in red lipstick just to see me smile. i tell her i want to cut my hair, and can she smuggle in some scissors? i mean, there's barely any security. mommy tells her not to. all i want is to cut my hair, i say. weeks later, a neighbor overhears and tells me she is a hairdresser. i have haircutting scissors hidden in my room, she says. clandestinely, she sneaks into my room. my hair, red at the time, falls to the ground in small, opaque clouds.


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