:: Article

The Phenomenology of Envy

By Andrew Gretes.

She enters your thoughts. She looks good. Her health infects you. Inflammation, infatuation, inflation. She becomes a goal: something to be attained. Physique-to-be-attained. Intellect-to-be-attained. Glow-to-be-attained.

You stop seeing her as an object. Just subject. You see according to her. What’s it like to be her?

Her space-time expands, contracts, like the lungs of a resting decathlete. Her body shoots forth threads of intentionality that the world receives with electrical outlets. Plugged in, her fingers tap and the world dances. Her intentionality is causality.

But it only lasts so long. Like a rollercoaster titled “Be her!” The safety bar lifts, you get out, and the contrast is dizzying. Standing on your own feet is disappointing.

Return to planet you. Perspective. No longer a planet? Demotion. Pluto empathy.

What remains? Absence. A blueprint of surrendered ambitions unfurl before your feet like a paper carpet. It’s impressive: everything you have not accomplished. You imagine tour groups surveying your abandoned goals. One tourist comments: “Did you see the ‘Coming Soon’ sign—absolutely breathtaking—I’ve never seen such a finely realized sign!” You smile. Because it’s true. You worked so damn hard on that sign.

The tourists leave your thoughts. Gone. Good riddance. Your exhalation is a jet stream. Now it’s just you and an afterglow of juxtaposition. Slowly, the world around you reorganizes into a familiar ensemble. The seat opposite you acknowledges the possibility of your weight. You acknowledge the possibility of the seat preferring an alternate weight. The coffee on the table acknowledges the prospect of your consuming its contents. You acknowledge the prospect of the coffee desiring to stimulate someone else.

But her presence lingers. Miss Perfect. Miss Magic. Miss Accomplishment. She dwells inside you like hiccups. The lies you tell yourself are qualified by a spasm and a sudden closure of the glottis: Yes but she… Yes but she… Yes but she…




Andrew Gretes is the author of the novel, How to Dispose of Dead Elephants (Sandstone Press 2014). His fiction has appeared in such publications as Witness and The Pinch. He is currently a doctoral student at the University of Southern Mississippi. His website is www.andrewgretes.com


Digital manipulation of an early US patent for improved roller coaster design patent publication number US609164, filed on behalf of Edwin Prescott on Oct 11, 1897.

First published in 3:AM Magazine: Friday, July 28th, 2017.