XV – The Devil
“You did one good deed today”, she heard Franny’s words from their coffee a few days ago, placing some rice for the doves on the window sill. “While you feed them, look at your hands, then look at the doves, then look at the rice. See how you are all one. You basically gave them life today”.
Powerful words, she thought while pouring some water into an empty jar lid. Fran is a really gifted speaker. Meanwhile, what is my talent exactly, whining over the futility of my existence while answering the phone.
“Take a see-through jar, write each day on a piece of paper a little thing like that, that seems meaningless, and put it inside the jar. When you look at that jar and you see it full, you’ll see that you have a reason to live.”
The drought already mutilated every tree in the county.
A glass of cold elderberry syrup, leaning on the screen door that she never properly fixed, so it was always ajar at the top, allowing flies in. Now she has to iron the blouse and skirt for tomorrow’s shift in this heat, she sighed, she is only lucky in having lost some weight to the heat so she looks somewhat elegant in those rags, unlike sweet Pam that sweats perennially in her cubicle, with her little USB fan that she plugs in her computer so her fragrance disperses through the office, but who could hold anything against her when you hear her laughing so sincerely, despite her working overtime along with a graveyard shift cleaning that horrible pub, but as she says herself, “work provided me with an apartment and a car, how else do you think I got by?”, even though her car self-ignited last week so Ann is driving all of them to work in her cute little car that still has that new car smell while she always gets the seats dirty with who knows what kind of crap.
I can hear someone breathing in the room.
I swear I can hear someone breathing.
Wednesday was even more sweltering. Pam’s voice drowning out her rackety little fan.
My colleagues’ clamor and my travel mug that makes coffee always taste a little stale.
The pen keeps falling on the floor, and while I balance the call of a habitually irritated client and the art of finding and picking up a pen from the floor, in between the cubicle dividers and the prescribed black shoes (Taysha got a pedicure, and – oh my God – are those fake toenails?), I recognize those snakeskin Western shoes I already know so well, and what I wouldn’t give to add some spurs on them, possibly rhinestone-clad. I hope I’m not too red in the face, I think to myself staring at his slim, muscular outlines while he’s giving out instructions with that incredibly sensual voice, but what’s the matter with me? The man can’t even dress properly, he always wears some kind of belt and what’s with his hair, he obviously always cuts it to the same length, I can tell because I’ve been here for six months and his hair has been shoulder-length ever since.
He turned around and looked straight into my eyes.
His black, burning eyes.
But what’s the matter with me, the man surely doesn’t have any deeper interests or ambition, he probably just watches sports TV and drinks beer in the evening, as far as I know he’s been working here for years now.
Ann drove us home again, chattering cheerfully about her new tattoo. On our way home we saw yet another dead tree.
I dreamed of the crossroads. I dreamed of flames.
– Hey, girls – I interrupted our morning conversation (Taysha really did get fake toenails) – Did you ever dream that you were having sex, but like… it was for real?
Pam’s thunderous laughter drowned out everyone else’s.
– We’re going out for a beer this weekend – Ann announced, still grinning behind her big glasses. – We’ll find someone nice for you, so you don’t have to dream anymore.
I waved at her from the porch until I saw the little red car disappearing down the slope. The screen door closed behind me, that’s weird, I thought, it must’ve repaired itself on its own from all the slamming.
I pondered a while over a piece of paper saying “bought Pam coffee” before placing it in the jar and fed the doves. It seemed like they were nesting.
I dreamed of flames.
The morning shower burned my back; the mirror didn’t show any changes on my skin, but under my fingertips I could remember the feeling of claws. Claws and fire.
– Heey girls – Dory sat in the car seat. – Guess what’s new? I’m going to be on television!
Taysha KNEW her Instagram account would pay off, Pam asphyxiated her with hugs, Ann turned up the music and rolled down the windows, and I noticed another tree in the county dried out.
I spent the shift thinking of how to ask subtly if Federico will join us for beer after work.
He didn’t have to look at me ever again; I wouldn’t be surprised if Pam won the lottery and I found a previously undiscovered artifact in Old Persian just sitting in the back garden and gained eternal glory.
I knew that at midnight sharp he would be standing at the crossroads outside the only pub in town, with a red claw instead of his right hand.