I nod, washing the oil and dirt away from my face. Waking up can be the hardest part but I got up. And I will have a piece of leftover ice cream cake as reward for level one. When I bring my eyes back up to the mirror, she stares at me. It’s a hard, well weathered stare. She tells me that I have to do this. Every day, wake up, repeat the rules, go through the day, get home, sleep and repeat.
You know what you did. And I nod. And for that, I live on repeat. But at least I live, I can’t say the same for-
You can’t say their names. Not out loud. No, never out loud. It’s not a rule but it’s Breaking something none the less. I shut my mouth and she nods at me. Yes. This is what needs to be done.
There’s a single mountain of ice cream cake swimming in a lake of cream speckled with the chocolate crunchy insides sitting in my bowl. Time must have past because I don’t remember sitting down to eat this slice at all. I’m late. I slurp up the cream and crunchies, toss the bowl into the sink and rush out the door. I start to form the reasons in my head. The bus was late. I forgot my cell phone. I saved a cat from a tree.
I go with the cell phone excuse and they seem to believe me. They care more about a game coming out in the fall and something about who they are going to date in which play through. I want to join in the conversation. I remember I used to play games like that, read books, watch movies. I liked stories. Before the breath leaves my lips, I see her in the faded reflection of the vending machine. She shakes her head. I know she’s right. It’s hard enough to keep my own Story straight. I don’t need others to confuse me.
I can’t help it but I’m always shocked when I hear the names. They were common enough names, people aren’t all that creative so of course I’m going to hear them. Today is a Not Good day. There’s a Matthew, an Amber and a James in the store. A group of kids that are just goofing off and chatting it up but I couldn’t help it. I jumped when I heard Amber. My coworker laughs at me and I laugh it off, saying I thought I saw a hornet or something. Game face back on. I don’t need her to remind me to do it.
Late lunch, more like a dinner. But it’s a sub so I count it as a lunch. I scribble it down in my notepad. If someone asks about it I tell them I’m just keeping up with my daily purchases. Satisfied that it’s not some kind of diary they leave it alone. The sub as avocado on it. It’s a nice treat. One of the few.
It rains on the way home but I don’t mind. I only Broke one rule today, and just barely. I get to do a little yoga and play online checkers online with strangers. People that I’ll never know and they’ll never know me so I’ll be able to rest easy when I go to bed. The clouds are heavy overhead, it’s dark. I can see her in the dark reflections of the windows I pass. I don’t want to look but I know she’s nodding in approval. Another day, another Round won. If I can keep this up, maybe… There’s no maybes. Just Rounds, just days.
I’m tracking rain into the hallway of the apartment building but there’s little I can do. It’ll dry up, and by the looks of it, I’m not the first person to have trudged through the hall like this. For some reason my keys are always hard to find and they never open the door well, always getting jammed. I wish they stayed jammed this time because when I open the door I look down and see a sheet of paper on the ground, laying in the place where the mail slot would have left it. Still wet from the rain outside. I know about Matthew, Amber and James is scribbled hastily on the surface. I don’t need a reflection to know she’s glaring at me.