:: Article

Penetralia

By Adam Moorad.

Miracle thrusts her pelvis forward when her ankle rolls on a subway full of strangers. She locks her knees and tries to keep from touching any of the other passengers. She sits down in a seat, crosses her legs, and thinks, “I feel hot” so she pull her hair up and breathes through her mouth. Everything underground is hotter. The air bakes its own particles. At the next stop, everyone in the subway car seems to debark and Miracle is alone. She thinks, “I wish I lived in a neighborhood closer to my office so I could walk to work” then wishes she didn’t have to work at all. She gets off the train at her stop and walks to the grocery store. She buys a box of cereal and a gallon of soy milk. Miracle stands in the checkout line and reads a People magazine, examining the chests of many different female celebrities enviously. She studies the shape and location, the separation, and probable buoyancy of several different celebrity chests. Miracle thinks, “I hate my chest.” She goes home and eats breakfast for dinner. Afterwards, she takes a bubble bath and soaks for twenty minutes, wondering what other people are doing in her apartment building right now. She imagines families eating unhealthy, high-sodium food in an attempt to save money. These people have high-blood pressure. They will gradually develop a heart condition and die prematurely. She wonders why the world is arranged in a way that forces people to eat unhealthy food and she is overcome by the desire to do something to help these imaginary people live healthier lives. The bubbles in the bath begin to dissipate and Miracle can see her vagina through the water. She looks at it and feels sad. She thinks, “Sad lonely vagina.” She feels her hands and sees they have become pruned. Miracle feels cold. She waits for a few moments and climbs out of the tub. When she towels off she feels better. Her vagina feels better. She goes to bed. She thinks, “One day I will do something and will not have to work in the Human Resources department at a publishing company no one has ever heard of.” She turns on her air conditioner the goes to sleep.
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At work Miracle stares at a picture of writer on the internet who committed suicide. She thinks, “What if I died?” People magazine wouldn’t notice. No one would notice. She considers the Cartesian Subject of Self and feels confused. Miracle tries to remember if she’s ever met a famous person. She is in her cubicle alone. She googles the writer’s name and reads his Wikipedia page. he discovers the writer was of the ego-masculine variety and hung himself in a penthouse in New York City. Miracle reads a list of all the books the writer wrote. She recognizes the names of a few books and sees many others that she doesn’t know. he thinks, “I should read more” and wishes the human species had the technology to download information onto the human brain like computer hard drive. She wonders if this technology already exists somewhere in a top secret government laboratory. No one would notice. She thinks, “Like Area 51” and feels vaguely paranoid. Miracle looks around to see if any of her supervisors are standing behind her. She stretches and tries to breathe normally. She closes her eyes and feels her leggings riding up her crotch. She tries to pick herself as casually as possible. She thinks her circulation is inhibited and has difficulty absorbing oxygen. She counts to ten and wonders what would happen if her heart exploded.
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Miracle shops in a shoe store. When she sees the shelves of women’s footwear, she experiences an odd sensation and is unable to control her excitement. She tries on a pair of ruby red slippers with exposed toes and looks at herself in a full-length mirror. She thinks, “I love the way these slippers look on me and the way they offset the shape of my calves.” She wonders if she has a purse that will match the slippers. She takes the slippers off and carries them to the checkout line. At the counter Miracle tries to decide if she should buy the slippers with her debit card or credit card. She wonders how much money she has in her bank account and worries about incurring an overdraft fee. She buys the slippers with her credit card and leaves the shoe store. Miracle feels happy with her new footwear. She thinks, “I will get a pedicure and wear them tomorrow.” She walks to the subway. Ruby red. Exposed toe. Shape of calves. Miracle feels happy.
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Miracle thinks she has experienced several mornings in succession where she has felt depressed and disillusioned, but not in an intense enough way to make her lash out in a reckless manner. She wonders if she is unhappy and thinks about different way acting out. She thinks, “Like being a bitch to other people.” She wishes she knew what it would be like to have hasty, anonymous sex or to do drugs trying to fill her imagined spiritual void. She feels inattentive and surmounted by the desire to completely withdraw from society. She thinks, “I am too scared.” Instead she speaks in a monotone voice with a latent sarcasm about menial observations of things with a neutral facial expression.
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Miracle feels hot and shivers while looking at pictures of her friends on Facebook at work. She thinks, “I’m not doing anything wrong but it feels like I’m doing something wrong.” She wonders if she is behaving childishly and feels awkward. Miracle stands up from her desk and walks to the bathroom. She looks at herself in the mirror. She plays with her hair for ten minutes, wondering what to do. She thinks, “I want to not feel meaningless” then walks into the breakroom and fixes herself a cup of green tea. She walks back to her desk and looks at more pictures on the Facebook. Miracle sits in her cubicle and feels hot. She thinks, “If I was rich I wouldn’t have to work and could sit by a pool all day.” She rubs her eyes and yawns three times. She wishes she could yawn forever.
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At Julie’s apartment, Miracle feels intoxicated. Julie is in Honduras on family vacation and Miracle is watching her cat. Julie will sit by a pool all day. She will bungee jump in the rainforest. Dark Latino men will try tirelessly to seduce her. They will breathe Caribbean air. Julie’s cat is blind and can only walk to its litter box from the couch and back. The cat lies on the couch. Miracle walks up to the couch to sit down and waits for the cat to move but the cat doesn’t move. She sits down beside the cat. She pets the cat.

It’s one o’clock in the afternoon and Miracle watches a reality show about competitive weight loss. She thinks, “I like this show because these people are working towards a collective goal.” A commercial for HPV vaccinations comes on the television. Miracle watches the commercial and sees a couple riding bicycles in the countryside. She thinks about riding a bicycle and wonders if she knows anyone who owns a bicycle that she could borrow for an afternoon so she could go for a ride in the countryside. Miracle is filled with the sudden, lonesome emotion. She wants to cry. She thinks, “Even if I had a bicycle I wouldn’t have anyone to ride with me.” Miracle feels sad and thinks, “I bet if I dress inappropriately more often I would attract more attention from the opposite sex.” Julie is riding a bicycle in the rainforest with dark, Latino men. She thinks, “I wish I was famous so I could have thousands of different people jumping at the chance to ride bicycles with me in the countryside.” Miracle is overcome with the desire to scream, then touches her face and realizes she is smiling.

She walks into her Julie’s kitchen and tries to stop feeling sad. She pours herself a glass of water then returns to the couch and watches another episode of “competitive weight loss.” She doesn’t pay attention and instead looks at Julie’s cat. Miracle thinks about having a disability like blindness and feels like crying. She sits on the couch and cries. She thinks she is behaving very strange and wonders what to do. She imagines if she was disabled, people who would see her crying wouldn’t think she is that strange because she would be interpreted as an innocent victim of an unfortunate circumstance. Miracle thinks about disabled people when they walk or talk or try to do the things that normal, non-disabled people do and wonders what living life would be like with everyone looking at her and treating her with an incorrigible understanding designed to make the her feel okay when she laughs or cries or screams indecipherable things or speaks in an unchecked volume. Miracle thinks this is kind of funny. She pets Julie’s cat. She tries to imagine how she would cry if she was disabled and wonders if she would be able to accept her situation if she was blind or paralyzed. Miracle thinks, “My life would be completely the same as it is right now if I was handicapped.” She pauses and thinks, “I really believe that” then says “But maybe I’m not sure” to Julie’s cat.

She looks around Julie’s apartment and tries to breathe. She thinks, “If I was paralyzed I wouldn’t feel any more alone than I already feel.” Miracle wonders there is something wrong with her. She tells herself, “If I was paralyzed it would be okay to feel this way.” She tries to envision how it would feel to push herself in a wheelchair while screaming things at people on the sidewalk outside her work. She wonders if these people would look at her as “that stupid paralyzed girl” or as “that poor, victimized girl.” Miracle feels oddly entertained. She imagines that most people would be polite to her but would secretly be rejoicing in her bodily affliction because all human beings are entrenched in a power struggle against one another. She thinks, “People, whether they want to admit it or not, need the weak to prey on.” Miracle considers the evolutionary hierarchies of the human species and wonders what role they play in her life. She closes her eyes and reflects on all the things in her life that make her feel uncertainty and despair, wishing she was blind or paralyzed. She thinks, “Then feeling the way I feel would be okay.” She touches her legs and pretends to be paralyzed for sixty seconds. After a while, she leaves Julie’s apartment and walks back to her apartment. She takes all her clothes off and looks out the window from her bed. She closes her eyes and thinks, “I don’t care if anyone sees me.”
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Miracle thinks about the time she lost her virginity on a beach in Virginia her freshman year of high school. She briefly recalls feeling ironic and surprised she lost her virginity in Virginia. She gets distracted and climbs out of bed then walks through her kitchen. She thinks she feels crumbs on her feet then takes her mop out of the hallway closet. She mops the floor. She feels dirty and changes her clothes, then waits for the floor to dry. While waiting, she changes clothes again. Miracle tells herself she’s being melodramatic and wishes she was more self-aware. She thinks, “I need to be a stronger person” and wonders what stronger people do to remain unaffected by sentimental and melodramatic things. She thinks people who are immune to melodrama are people who have felt like shit for an extended period of time and have become less sentimental and melodramatic because they have successfully acclimated to feeling like shit and have forced themselves to think of life in a more realistic context in an effort to stops feeling like shit. Miracle tells herself, “Sentimentality and Melodrama are opposites of Reality.” She smells her fingers then decides people who are immune to Sentimentality are the way they are because they just feel so shitty and alone and hopeless that they no longer have the desire or the confidence to expend the energy to not feel shitty and hopeless anymore. Miracle considers brewing a cup of coffee. She stands in a moment of indecision for one minute, trying to remember her the date of her last period. Reality. Coffee. Caribbean air. She turns off all the lights in her apartment and walks to the subway.
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Conrad calls Miracle and says, “Do you want to do something tonight?” and Miracle thinks, “Conrad is immature and only wants to have sex” and she is happy with her ability to differentiate between mature and immature people. She says, “Okay” and Conrad says “Alright” and Miracle rides the subway to Conrad’s apartment. When she arrives, Conrad is drinking beer with his roommate, Byron, and his little brother. Byron says, “Did you bring any beer?” and Miracle rolls her eyes. Later they go to a bar around corner in Conrad’s neighborhood and Byron and his little brother are already drunk. The jukebox plays 80s music at full volume and no one can understand one another. Conrad asks Miracle to go outside with him while he smokes a cigarette and they stand on the front steps of the bar. After two cigarettes, Conrad says, “Can I kiss you?” to Miracle and Miracle says “Yeah, okay” and Conrad smiles and puts his mouth on her mouth and begins to suck and Miracle feels startled, then thinks “We would make a good couple.” They kiss for awhile until Byron and his little brother walk outside and Byron laughs and says something to his little brother that Miracle cannot understand and Conrad doesn’t say anything. Miracle pretends to laugh and chews her fingernails.
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Conrad and Miracle sit on a couch. Conrad watches baseball. It’s cold and Miracle feels uncomfortable. She looks at Conrad and wonders if he wants kiss her. She thinks, “He’s kinda handsome” and feels awkward. Miracle closes her eyes and listens to the humming television. She feels the need to do something with her hands and thinks, “I’m not making sense.” Conrad says, “Swing the bat!” He looks at Miracle and Miracle thinks Conrad thinks she looks happy. He put his arms around her and moves his face up to hers so that she will kiss him. Miracle says, “I think I should, I don’t know. You’ve been drinking. I think I should leave because don’t know.” Conrad doesn’t say anything then stands up. He looks at Miracle for ten seconds and pulls his shorts down. Miracle looks at Conrad’s penis and is speechless. Conrad wobbles and says, “I like you because I think you’re a really beautiful person and, you know, we are having such a good time together.” Miracle says, “Wow” and Conrad stands motionless, wondering whether or not he should do something his penis. He touches his stomach and Miracle says, “Wow, I just really. I don’t know.” Miracle waits for Conrad to do something then says, “We’re sitting on the couch and you take your shorts off.” Conrad says, “Yeah, it’s just that I wanted to get comfortable” and Miracle thinks, “I don’t like the length of his pubic hair.” She looks at Conrad then looks at the television screen and folds her arms. Conrad looks at himself. He looks at Miracle. He looks back at himself. He admires himself. Conrad says, “Don’t be mean” and Miracle says, “I’m not.” She wonders if she is a selfish person. She says, “I’m feeling sick” and walks into the bathroom. She looks at her face in the mirror and thinks, “I feel young in a bad way.” Miracle closes her eyes and feels like crying. She pictures a baseball diamond. Dark, Latino men are running the bases. She runs her fingers through her bangs several times. She wonders what the weather is like right now in Honduras. She closes her eyes.
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Miracle walks down the street and comes to a liquor store. She goes into the liquor store and looks at the shelves of wine. She considers white or red. She decides on red then considers what kind. She buys the cheapest bottle or red wine and thinks, “Saving money is responsible.” She goes to her apartment and listens to B.B. King. She pictures B.B. King playing the electric guitar at a bar in Memphis, Tennessee and feels happy. Miracle drinks two glasses of wine and wishes she had a cigarette. She feels guilty for wanting to do something unhealthy. She pours herself another glass of wine. She turns the music off and the television on. She watches a movie starring Morgan Freeman where an asteroid is about to destroy the earth. She feels vaguely alarmed. She thinks, “What if that really happened?” and becomes depressed. She walks to her closet and looks through her old purses looking for a cigarette but cannot find anything. Miracle feels anxious and confused. She pictures B.B. King chain-smoking cigarettes at a bar in Memphis, Tennessee. She wonders if she should go buy a pack but thinks, “But I’m not a smoker.” She feels a little sad that she deprives herself of the small things that make her happy but she also feels sort of happy because the feels like an adult. She has another glass of wine and goes to sleep.
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Miracle pages through an old yearbook looking for pictures of herself as a younger person. She doesn’t find one but sees many different pictures of people she used to know. She wonders if any of the people she went to high school with are dead or living homosexual lifestyles. She thinks, “I doubt any of these people remember me.” She closes the yearbook and turns on her computer. She logs on to her Gmail account and deletes several spam emails. She closes her email and wonders what to do. She thinks about checking her bank account but turns off her computer instead. She lies in bed and tries to make herself comfortable. Miracle reads Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger and wonders what excerpts are based of real life events the author experienced. Miracle reads for thirty minutes then closes her eyes. She feels happy.
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After work, Miracle bought a pint of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and now she’s eating it. She is glad she is alone in her apartment with a cardboard container and a plastic spoon. She’s happy that when she touches the cardboard and feels the cold condensation on her fingertips. She thinks about walking to the kitchen sink to get a glass of water. She eats the first spoonful of ice cream and looks at the wall. She sits on her couch with her feet folded beneath her. Her pants are off. It’s dinnertime and the sun is still out. She thinks, “Summer will be here soon.” It’s always summer in Honduras. Miracle turns on the television and watches a reality show about models competing to be supermodels. Some of the models are shouting at one another and some of other models are crying. Miracle envisions herself as one of the models and feels she can sympathize with their problems. She has the strong urge to help them but understands she is powerless to do anything for them. Miracle eats another spoonful of ice cream and wonders if Ben and Jerry are living a homosexual lifestyle. She begins to cry. She considers calling someone but isn’t sure of what she would say. She wipes her tears and tries to think about something happy. She eats more and more of her ice cream until only a quarter of the pint is left. Miracle stretches out across the couch. She looks at the television and wonders what makes her happy. After a while, she feels cold and pulls a blanket over her body. She closes her eyes slowly, retracing her day. Work. Ben and Jerry. Condensation. Summer in Honduras. Miracle rolls onto her face and presses her chest into the mattress.
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Miracle lies on her bed. She feels bloated. She is wearing a white tank top and blue boxer shorts. She is watching What About Bob? starring Bill Murray on her computer. She turns her computer off. She thinks about getting a breast reduction surgery because she doesn’t like the attention she thinks she gets from other people. She think, “My breasts are the size of babies’ heads” and says, “But I don’t want to be a plastic surgery freak.” She wonders what her breast will look like ten years from now. She is afraid her breasts will stretch and hang over her belly button and people will looks at her strangely on the subway. She briefly fantasized about Bill Murray and wonders if there are different diets that could prevent her breasts from sagging. Miracle says, “I could always starve myself” out loud ironically. She feels the urge to giggle. She giggles. She thinks, “Breasts.” She stops giggling. She thinks, “Babies’ heads.” She feels melodramatic. She wonders if Bill Murray has ever been to Honduras. She presses her palms against her chest and tries to breathe.
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Miracle takes the subway to Conrad’s apartment. Byron is smoking marijuana in the kitchen and when he sees Miracle he stops smoking. Miracle says, “Hello again” and Byron says, “Hello.” There is an awkward silence for five seconds and Byron says, “Conrad is in his room.” Miracle says, “Okay, thanks” and Byron coughs and adjusts his crotch. Miracle walks through the apartment towards Conrad’s bedroom, passing a muted television screen. She hears music playing and she opens the door. She finds Conrad lying on his bed sleeping. Miracle sits down beside him. Conrad wakes up and pretends to appear startled. He says, “What do you want to do today?” She says, “I thought we were going for a bike ride.” He says, “Oh yeah.” Conrad takes off some of his clothes and tries to make himself comfortable. Miracle doesn’t look. Conrad moves beside her and tries to get her to lie down beside him. Miracle can tell he is stoned. She looks towards him and isn’t sure if she wants to have sex with him or not. Conrad places his hand on the small of Miracle’s back. She closes her eyes and forgets about riding bikes. She counts to ten and waits for something to happen. When she turns around, she sees Conrad has fallen asleep. She stands up quietly and quickly leaves the apartment.
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Miracle is sitting on her bed. Her face is sweating but she feels cold. She looks at the air conditioner and wonders if more cold air would blow out of it if she changed the filter. Miracle thinks, “If I didn’t have to pay for electricity I would leave my air conditioner on twenty-four hours a day.” She thinks she sounds wasteful. Miracle burps and wonders if she is pregnant. She closes the curtains and takes off all her clothes. She turns on her computer, opens iTunes, plays some music, and lies on the floor naked. She tries to find a song she likes but thinks, “I like all of them.” She walks to the bathroom to brush her teeth then realizes she is out of toothpaste. She dips her toothbrush in a bottle of mouthwash and saws her teeth. She walks around her apartment, looking at the ceiling. She notices her ceiling fan is covered in an inch of dust and wonders if she is tall enough to reach the ceiling fan to clean it. Miracle moves to the kitchen sink and spits. She hears ‘Pieces of You’ by The Cure playing from her computer. Miracle experiences a sentimental emotion as she listens to the song, feeling melodramatic. She imagines this song encompasses a number of different memories and feelings that are both happy and sad. She wonders how many other people love or have loved this song and other songs like it. Miracle pictures millions of people hearing this song and remembering good times. She wonders what this song really means. She thinks it would be great if she had written this song. She wishes she had written this song or a song equally as meaningful to millions of people. She thinks that if she wrote a song like this it would make her very proud. She thinks, “If I could make millions of people feel anything, it would be enough.” Miracle considers happiness and wonders what it takes to make other people happy consistently. She thinks, “I am only one person.” She walks back into the bathroom and spits.
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Conrad kisses Miracle on the cheek and says, “I’ll text you later” and Miracle leaves. When she gets back to her apartment she sees she has a missed call from a strange international number she doesn’t recognize. She shivers and calls the number back.

Miracle says, “Hello?” and Julie says, “Hi Miracle.”

Miracle says, “How are you?”

Julie says, “I’m doing great.”

Miracle says, “Good.” Her reply is half-hearted and sounds sleepy. She hears people talking in the background in a language she doesn’t recognize. These people are dark, Latino men attempting to seduce her. Miracle wishes she was in a place where dark, Latino try to seduce her in unrecognizable languages. Conrad is not a dark, Latino. She says, “So, um, how is the whole family vacation?

Julie says, “I’m actually alone right now. Everyone left this morning and I decided to stay for another few days. How do you feel about that?”

Miracle says, “Nothing, I mean, I don’t know. Good? I feel good.”

Julie says, “What?”

Miracle says, “Okay. Your cat is okay.”

Julie says, “Okay. Good.”

Miracle says, “Alright, then.” She can hear the dark, Latino laughing in the background. They are asking Julie to bungee jump with them in a rainforest. Miracle feels distracted.

Julie says, “Thanks a ton” and waits for Miracle to say something then says, “You know where everything is so just let me know if you need anything.”

Miracle says, “Yeah, probably not. I’m not doing anything. Do you want to call me later?”

Julie says, “Okay, sure. Cool.”

Miracle says, “Alright. Enjoy your vacation” and Julie says, “Okay. I will. Good-bye.”

Miracle says, “Good-bye” and closes her phone. She sits down in a chair and feels exhausted and sick. She pours herself a glass of orange juice. She drinks the orange juice and feels better. She tells herself she isn’t sick in hopes that she isn’t becoming sick. She thinks, “The mind commands the body and it obeys” then looks out the window and sees it’s raining. She sits on the floor and watches the rain fall against the window, wondering when it started and when it will stop.
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Miracle is at Julie’s apartment. She is watching one of Julie’s DVDs titled Raising Arizona starring Nicolas Cage. She eats sushi for dinner with a fork. She can feel cat hair sticking to her legs. Her legs are sweating. Nicolas Cage kidnaps a baby. The baby’s head reminds Miracle of her breasts. She pauses the DVD and walks into the kitchen. She takes a napkin out of a cabinet and sits back down. The cat’s litter box is clean and Miracle feels happy. After eating, she gets on Julie’s computer and checks her email. She thinks about vacuuming Julie’s couch. She wonders if using someone else’s vacuum without their permission is inappropriate. She looks at Julie’s bookshelf and tries to find a book she’s already read. Miracle can’t find one and isn’t sure what to do. She lies down in Julie’s bed and tries to fall asleep. She thinks, “Julie’s mattress is much more comfortable than mine.” She thinks, “I like everything about this place” and considers moving into Julie’s apartment permanently until Julie gets back from vacation. Julie will never come back from vacation. She will spend the rest of her life in the company of dark, Latino men. Nicolas Cage will attempt to steal the children Julie bares these men but he will fail. Miracle closes her eyes and wonders if there is someone within the same city block who feels the way she does. She wishes she could meet this person and be their friend without going through the process of becoming friends. She thinks, “But maybe that’s a selfish thing to feel.” She wonders if she remembered to feed the cat. She closes her eyes and counts the seconds as they pass. She loses count.
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Days pass. Julie’s cat touches Miracle with its paw and Miracle wakes up. She thinks, “Where am I?” then remembers. She looks at Julie’s cat and feels as though the cat wants to say something and Miracle feels alarmed. She says, “Hello cat?” and wonders what to do. The cat looks at Miracle and Miracle feels vaguely frightened. The cat blinks. Miracle blinks. The cat does not move and Miracle starts crying. She looks at the ground then back at the cat. She coughs and snorts back mucous. She reaches towards the cat coaxingly and pets it. The cat raises its ass and begins to purr. Miracle holds the cat in her arms and lies on her back, cradling the cat like a human infant. She thinks about people, then stops. She thinks about a supernatural situation where she meets a version of herself from five years ago and neither she nor her younger self recognize or like one another. She touches one of her breasts. She starts to say something to herself then stops. The cat yawns and inadvertently brushes Miracle’s face with its paw. Miracle pretends the cat is attempting to wipe away her tears and she feels embarrassed. She says, “I’m sorry blind cat. For behaving this way.” The cat is silent. Miracle stares at the ceiling. Caribbean air. HPV vaccinations. She hears a bus drive past Julie’s apartment. She says the words, “Human Resource” softly under her breath. She feels sedated and unhealthy and cannot understand why. Everything becomes silent and stays silent. She tries to keep her eyes from closing then slowly allows them to close, wishing she had the ability to dissolve into the recesses of someplace warm, collecting her thoughts, trying to arrange them in a way that makes sense. Cat. Miracle. Silence. Blindness.

adammoorad

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Adam Moorad‘s writing has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Underground Voices, Thieves Jargon, Storyglossia and Pear Noir. He lives in Brooklyn and works in publishing. Visit him here.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Thursday, July 9th, 2009.