Theme I: Habits, “6 AM”

By Olivia Roos

Awake

The iphone alarm, sterile like a hospital, brings morning into sudden light and his eyelids lift open. Where? What? Who? The alarm is too fast for his mind, like thunder trailing lightning. Then it comes. Go to the gym, fix a shower, read the paper, feed the dog, text the wife who never calls, feed the child, go to work, work, work, work, take a taxi home, greet the child, pay the nanny, go on the date, walk home alone, brush your teeth, lie back down. Get ready, it’s time to hop back onto the carousel.

Awake

The baby and bruised mother are crying next door. She waves her hand, looking for the snooze button that will never come. A familiar odor scuttles into her nose, that of beer and sweat. He is fatter than most, but that is better, the insecure men always pay more. She flops away from him and off the bed, into a dress men whistle at. She leaves him now to slumber, her fee paid in advance, as is her standard. He will be gone when she gets back, back to his home and the realm of respect that she knows nothing of. And she will walk through the alleys of Chinese restaurants and bars imagining the trash into grass, the urine into waterfalls, and the homeless into Lords.

Awake

Falling, falling, falling faster. Someone pushed her. Was it the man over there in the clown suit or the ogre there with the yellowing fangs. Faster and faster until her eyes open and the sun blinds her. Sweat on her brow, heart beating hard, she has landed under her sheets. Streaks of light stream through the blinds as the amber rays reassure her of the day. But in the corner of the window sits a reminder of her dreams: a dark shadow getting smaller and smaller as she falls. She walks over, each step bringing it into focus. Through her blinds she peers to see a monstrous beast of stone baring its fangs and leering at the desolate park below. How quickly he leapt from her dream.

Awake

Long before the sun rose, he has been lying there, his eyes dilating to the filtered light coming through his shades. How many years did he wake before the sun without a complaint to go to his work, his wife whispering goodbye from behind a dream while his children slept soundly on. Out before the rumble of feet smacking pavement, out before the scream of taxis, out before the wails of the homeless helpless, out before it all. He never asked for relief, but he has been blessed nonetheless. Lying in bed and listening as the symphony begins without him.

Awake

She sits in front of the vent of a Bodega with peeling print and falsely labeled food. It is warm in her invisible house by the vent and she can’t feel the cold that is coming day by day. In the increasing light, she is a peculiar site to see for those who practice normalcy: her eyes dashing around the corners of her sockets and her fingers scratching at invisible demons festering beneath her skin. The mascots of normalcy pity her and never consider the merits of chasing the demons that might be hiding beneath their own skin.

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