Unlike Any Other Day

The man was having a day unlike any other day. It was a day of mornings. He woke all day, stretched, looked in the mirror. It was a day of mirrors that glinted and refracted the morning light at odd angles. He poured himself coffee. It was a day of coffee but he was out of milk, and it wasn’t a day of going to the store, so he drank the coffee black. It occurred to the man it was Friday again. It had been a week of Fridays. It was June again. A year of Junes.

He repeated the word June out loud until it had no meaning. The idea of June kept star-tling him. The quick warm of June, the stutter of summer. It was a day of startled moments. He was startled by the crystal chandelier, which sprouted from the floor instead of the ceiling. By his reflection in the mirror, upside down instead of reversed. By the whale songs flowing out of birds’ mouths—or else the birds were tiny whales. How did they survive?

He remembered, from childhood, an exhibit at the aquarium. The exhibit was just two outlines of whales on a big wall, one inside the other, to scale. The larger outline represented the size of a whale from thousands of years ago. The smaller represented a whale of today. They were only lines on a wall but the idea of the shrinking whale had startled him so deeply with loss that he must have never fully recovered.

Another exhibit, another museum. Natural History. Behind glass, models of a what men and women looked like just before they were modern men. Bodies like lean humans, but simian faces. Jutting mouths and clunky cheeks. Long, dirty hair. The models stared out at some invis-ible threat—a lion, perhaps, or computer-aged technology.

It was the hair that looked like a homeless person’s hair. It was that they were so small and naked and vulnerable, and looked at through the glass. He felt small, naked, vulnerable too.

It was a day of calling his mother. Each time he woke and called his mother, she said, “Oh son, you’re just having a day. No problem. Take a breath.”

The feeling, and then the sight of a tiny beetle walking across his chest distracted him from the conversation. I am a bodyscape for the beetle, he thought. It was a day of wanting to be a bodyscape painting, hung on the wall of a museum.

His mother repeated, “Just breathe.”

He breathed.

It was a day of breathing, which made it more like other days than not, but he did not want to think about that too long. What if tomorrow he got stuck in a day full of the pauses be-tween breaths?

“Don’t worry,” his mother said. “You’re okay.”

It was a day of love for his mother. She tries her best.

“There,” she said. “A good many people have not come this far.”

She said it like a victory, but he heard it like a loss.  

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