Putting on a mask. We all did it.
It wasn’t some strange occurrence that only happened to X, Y, and Z. We all hid things from the world; it was just how we were. I mean, it wasn’t like we meant to do it. It was more of a natural phenomenon, like saying “bless you” after someone sneezed, or stopping at a red light. A reflex if you will.
Here were some examples:
The man a couple cubicles over could have just lost his daughter in a custody battle, yet still brought cookies to work on a weekly basis. The old lady from next door could secretly be in a toxic relationship with her spouse of fifty years, name calling and such. Yet she smiled widely in greeting with the flick of a delicate wrist whenever you saw her each and every morning in the elevator on your way out. Your boyfriend could be hiding dark demons of his own behind kisses that made you moan, whispered promises in your ear, and that oh-so-amazing grin of his that made you say yes to anything he wanted.
Or if you were me, you were waist deep in school debt, credit card debt, you name it, I had it, debt.
I think I did it better than everyone else; I hid behind a mask that declared calmly to the world that everything was okay.
Everything was fine.
Enter my current situation. I thought taking this job would be my ticket out of this dump of an apartment, this dump of a life, really. Living pay check to pay check would be nothing but a distant memory.
Instead I was covered in blood.
I bet you didn’t expect that … the blood part. But it was as real as giving birth to a nine pound baby boy or, the strangeness that was my name. Instead of diving into a story, telling a tale of madness and mayhem, I was living it for real.
In the words of Jade Reamer, fuck my life.
I stood motionless in a tank top and shorts, gripping the handle of a butcher knife in my hand. Blood pooled on the floor as it rolled down the blade and landed plumply on the floor next to my bare feet.
I couldn’t tear my eyes off the body laying right in front of me. It took up my entire field of vision and in that moment, nothing and no one else existed.
It was the first time I’d seen a dead body this up close and personal. You know, besides watching it while streaming a TV show online. Looking back, I realized that I probably wasn’t particularly good at dealing with death. As a child, I mourned for an entire month when my pet rabbit was run over by a car. I wore nothing but black and felt guilty each and every time I was happy over something else. Whenever I found a spider in the house, my first instinct was to catch it and try to release it outside. When my paternal grandparents passed, I often liked to pretend that they were off exploring the world, maybe Venice or Cape Town. Even when my own parents died I refused to walk to their caskets, not wanting that visualization of death early on in life engrained in my memory like a tattoo I couldn’t laser off no matter how hard I tried.
I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.
Even now, I didn’t know what to do. I could hear the sound of cars through the open window, the wind brushing my already chilled skin, goose bumps quickly erupting like they were racing against each other on which one could get me to flinch first. But none of that mattered, it was all white noise to me. My mind wandered for a moment and I thought of my landlord.
Did I pay him this month?
The sound of the front door opening didn’t even get me to react. I just stood there, staring at matted dark hair. Dead. I didn’t react to footsteps approaching me calmly, cautiously. Instead I noticed the tattoo on the left biceps that wasn’t moving, the majority hidden by a t-shirt, from a body that didn’t breath. Dead. I saw that his neck seemed slightly out of place, his head hanging at an odd angle. Dead. I wondered if death felt cold. As his life slowly seeped out of his body, did he welcome coldness instead?
I couldn’t take my eyes away from every inch of him, this motionless body sprawled on my living room floor. But then my vision was obscured and a man—a living, breathing man—stood in front of me, and blocked my view.
He grasped my arms slowly, fingers digging into my flesh. I knew it should hurt but I didn’t feel anything. I actually didn’t think I was there.
Or was it here?
Alarmed eyes looked straight into my own glassy ones. “Kimber,” he started hesitantly. “What did you do?”
It wasn’t until then that I finally dropped the knife, the clattering echoing in my ear.
What did I do?
I blinked a couple times before I said anything. It was the only thing I could think of to say.
“What do we do with the body?”
Prologue from Love, Lies, X’s and O’s, unpublished work.