This Saturday it was the eggs- the runny yolk staining the plates, the fragments of shell crunching on the floor, and the wibbly wobbly white bits under the heating lamp- I had a wave of dizziness and bolted for the back door, not meeting any of the kitchen people's eyes. The fresh air was like waking up from a bad dream- beautiful, refreshing, safe, but still tainted by the terror dimly remembered. I sat on a yellow upturned milk crate behind the trailer stacked 15 feet high with flattened cardboard boxes, facing the sun, and stared at the ground. Strange for E-town, but it was above zero, and the sky was a hard blue, and the sun had a tangible warmth that reminded me of spring. Breathe in, breathe out. Count the pieces of gravel by my worn out black shoes. Feel the heat of the sun, the crisp breeze.
What was wrong with me? I wasn't feeling ill, just off. Not hearing voices, but definitely wouldn't blink an eye if I did. My limbs were all working, for now, but for some reason I had no faith in them and if I was overcome with a paralyzing sense of apathy I truly believed that they would collapse under me or even fall off.
Breathe in, breathe out.
Dear God in High Heaven, thank you for the warm sun on my winter skin.
I couldn't move. I had tables waiting for me, food getting cold, people wanting my help, my service, people whose day I could ruin if I was rude or mixed up their order or simply didn't show up to help them eat. Did they ever think about how many people could ruin my day, if I let them? You certainly grow a thick skin soon enough, or drown in the despair and slights and comments heaped upon you. Like learning to swim, or how I taught my sister to snowboard- just pushed her down a little hill, said you can do it, meet you at the bottom.
I can be such an asshole.
Jessie came slamming out the back door, and stared at me in surprise.
What's up? she said, pulling a cigarette out of her purse and putting it in her mouth, You feeling alright?
Yeah... I said... Well, no. The eggs are making me feel sick.
She stared at me with her small blue eyes, almost lost in her freckled face. You don't like eggs?
Nah. Sort of. Not really. The yolk is gross. And the white part- ugh.
She readjusted her ball cap on her head, and I remembered that she was the head chef, and maybe she was taking offence.
Like, the ones we serve are good, I mean... I trailed off, then added: But the smell. It makes me feel sick.
She nodded. Jess was a good person, a young single mom of 26, not much older than me, and over the summer we had partied together a few times, and even gone streaking through the city one night. But she was tough as nails, and definitely took no bullshit.
I was sick last week, she said. Just for a day. I was taking Darius home and it just hit me, like no warning, nothing. I was out flat for 24 hours, thought I would die in the bathroom with a bowl under my head.
But the next morning I was fine. Just slept for like 18 hours, though.
I winced in sympathy. Maybe that's what I have, I told her, knowing full well that my problem wasn't physical.
Yeah, maybe she said, exhaling a cloud of thin smoke that dissipated almost instantly on the wind.
I stood up. My legs behaved just fine.
Well, see ya in there, I said and walked to the door, pulling it open and disappearing into the dark hallway, the main canal from which a million streams fed off. The instant it slammed shut behind me, cutting off the sweet warm air, and the sun, and the sense of space that I had been missing, yes, that's it, I had been missing having a sky overhead instead of a ceiling, complicated long distance views sideways instead of painted walls, the instant that was closed off from me I shuddered and walked back into the greasy kitchen full of people running around, and I tried to breathe through my mouth not my nose to avoid the cloying sticky eggy smell, and I was in some sort of hell once more.