It’s Tuesday, October twenty-fifth, and there is a hand on the box in the corner. I stare at the box as I sit on those rickety chairs they have in schools. You know, the ones made of plastic with the metal legs that screech across the floor no matter how lightly you move. They make your hands smell and they have holes in the back and you wonder; what are the holes for, doesn’t that just make the design more complicated? This is not the sort of thing I’m supposed to think about in this room, but I do it anyway?
There’s got to be some sort of factory in the middle of nowhere that smells like sludge and hard plastic making this sort of stuff. Maybe it’s a bunch of factories making all the different parts. The hand on the box in the corner is attached to a woman named Sheila, she looks like you would expect a Sheila to look. She’s got big glasses that are rimmed in clear plastic, and her hair is a silvery colour.
She has that kind of skin that looks like it would feel thick to the touch, with little moles all over the sides of her cheeks and down to her neck. She’s not a bad lady, but the sight of her hand on that damn box makes my teeth hurt. She always wears a hundred layers when she comes in here, taking them off as the hour goes on and we start to make her nervous. She has long red nails that always have some sort of design on them, and they flicker in the light. The hand on the box that’s attached to red-nails-coffee breathe-Sheila is going to pick out a name; they started doing it this way when nobody wanted to talk.
We’ve been sitting here for an hour listening to her yap and watching the slackened fat on her neck jiggle with each consonant. I can hear the clock ticking at the front of the room in time with the raindrops out the window.
“Good work so far today everyone.” Sheila smiles with her teeth closed before asking if anyone want to volunteer this week. She knows, she knows nobody’s going to answer, but she takes her time anyway. I think she likes to look at us, her mandatory audience, as we shift in our seats and look at the ground or clutch hot cups of burnt coffee that tastes like a mix of ashes and regret. She sticks her claw into the box and pulls out a name, “Hugo Mortenson.”
I exhale, let my hands come off of the sides of the chair, and cup them so I can inhale that disgusting metal smell. It mingles with the aftermath of vodka and orange juice that still sits on my breathe. You gotta make it through these things somehow you know?
Hugo lets out a huff on my right and crosses his arms. He’s a meek-looking little guy, brown hair and brown skin covered in pockmarks. He smells like old rubber and I think it’s because he’s refused to bathe out of protest. He picks at his skin, you can tell from the way the scabs form. It’s not acne or anything like that, his face looks like he slid down a stretch of pavement. His hands look like they’ve been chewed by a dog and his knuckles are rubbed raw. He’s grotesque, but at least he’s honest about it, you gotta give him that. He gets up on the podium and just starts to cry, sob, like it’s his job or something. Poor guy can’t even muster up a word.
Hugo’s the kind of guy who thinks too hard about what used to be if you were to ask me.
That’s like everyone in here. The girl in the front with eyes that look like their about to abdicate her head. The two guys in the corner who have somehow decided that this is some exclusive club, comparing stories and chuckling to themselves and making fun of Sheila’s impressive Oh Henry habit. There are a couple older men who come in business suits and look surprised to be here like they just woke up in this room and have no idea how they got there.