my good friend tim, a long time ago now:
I once met this girl who lost her Monday.
She didn’t drop it into the gutter on accident. It didn’t contract a rare disease and fade away in a hospital. She didn’t cut it off while steadying a tourniquet with her teeth.
Rather, her Monday left her like a male animal leaves its young. In the middle of the night, it understands that what it has made has grown the need to not need it anymore.
I ended up meeting her because she worked in an office. Her uniform involved being nice to everyone no matter what she thought. It wasn’t a bad job. All she had to do was be nice to everyone. I don’t know what else she did. I only knew she wasn’t supposed to tell her co-workers her job was just to be nice because I didn’t work with her. I saw the side of her that wasn’t nice to anybody, and wasn’t mean to anybody, either.
She wore what magazines told her, and she never trusted a theory. She lived in an apartment wide enough to touch the walls with the tips of her toes. She never invited anyone up there if she’d been nice to them beforehand.
She was scheduled to arrive at the office at nine, so she was contracted to show up at eight-thirty. She’d sit there looking good as people trickled in. She’d make coffee and smile.
She could not physically tolerate feeling bad about herself. She set her cellular phone alarm and felt horrible in the morning. She did this every day until her twenty-second birthday. She stopped feeling horrible, and hasn’t felt horrible since. I would wake up on her floor on Saturday mornings or Wednesday mornings, and she’d be watched television, eating granola, touching her toes, and bathing in the cold (or hot) humid (or dry) air of morning. She’d put on her makeup on Saturdays and Wednesdays, and gaze at the wall.
I had feelings in my bones. I had a shard of ice lodged in the meat of my chest. I’d wake with aches and roll over; I’d massage my back with the joints of my hands. Sometimes birds were singing; sometimes bikes were squeaking down the hill. I got up to use the bathroom, and she sat on her bed touching her toes, painting her toes, blinking at a mirror, and eating granola.
“You should be going soon,” she’d say, on Wednesdays.
“You should be going soon,” she’d say, on Saturdays.
One Sunday night, something hit her in her sleep, and she rolled over with a gasp. I was still awake, watching the ceiling for intruders.
“I did a terrible thing when I was younger,” she eventually said. “I disappointed everyone. They all hated me. They loathed me, for years and years.”
“It’s all in the past now.”
“There is no past,” she said.
The next day was a Monday for me. That day didn’t happen for her.
When I left on Saturdays, and spent the day in bookstores staring at pages, or in music stores listening to CDs, in no place no one had ever told me I had to be, did she stay there staring at the wall? Did she wear her suit and stockings? Did she drink her black coffee and go on eating toast like that until five o’clock struck?
She never told me any tales. She never spoke a story. Her body was a legend. Sleeping, it fell alone into a world I couldn’t see. Awake, once, I criticized her:
“Don’t you notice the trains are empty when you leave for work on Monday morning? Don’t you notice the world wakes more slowly than you do? Don’t you notice it’s always crumbling, every Monday morning? Don’t you realize we all can’t be as good as you?”
She told me nothing mattered. She said it’s all the same. She said life took her Monday morning and erased it from her brain.
I told her, “Your Monday is your only vitamin, your last reminder that you’re sane.” I said, “It’s not the dates or names that matter, it’s that you’re late for your weekly train.”
She said, we don’t need these reminders, she told me we’d be perfectly fine. She asked me please, to live to a hundred. She said she’d do the same. She asked me to work, to be frustrated; she said if not we’d lose our minds. She said she’d not change until we died.
She said, “Why I don’t love you I don’t know; you look like someone I loved before. If I love you, please don’t go; I promise not to love you anymore.”
When I left she was still touching her toes. I took my vitamin and awoke feeling unaccustomed to the touch of the world. My Monday told me I could do better on Tuesday. I did precisely that. My Friday told me Saturday would not trouble me; it indeed did not. My Sunday morning told me Monday was coming. I drank my Monday down.
She was somewhere, still touching her toes, painting her fingernails the color of the noontime sun.
She grew up, and old, away from me. She inherited a parrot, and grew sick, away from me. One winter, cursing failure, she set the parrot’s cage outside. Not so much a thing with a purpose as a method a man uses to throw away his child, the first and last word the thing had learned before the old lady died was the sound of a human cough.
A passerby or several dozen heard this on a Monday morning, eyes alive with freezing wind.