Starter sentence prompt:
“She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. ”
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. She dropped the electricity bill as she screamed. She had been gone three years.
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope in her hands. It was the first time she had ever been barefoot. She loved this sensation. She forgot why she was holding an envelope, so she put it down. Her feet had never made contact with the floor before. Ever since she was an infant, her mother always covered her feet with socks. Even while in the shower, or out swimming in the lake nearby, she was forced to wear socks. But now, at last, she was able to remove the cotton barrier between her body and the world. As she turned to gaze at the violent scene behind her, she giggled and said, “bye mommy.”
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. She couldn’t remember what was inside. No matter how many times we told her. Occasionally she would open it, remove the contents, meticulously going over every word and item contained within. When finished she would carefully return the contents from where they came. Taking great care to put everything back in its original state before carefully placing it back upon the fridge.
Days, weeks, months went by. Repeating the ritual with great care. In the moments between she would ask about the large fedex envelope and its contents. Continually reminded of the sadness which it contained. Tears formed in the corner of her eyes giving way to a semi forced smile. Moments later the feels would float away as she forgot the conversation as her mind grasped for fragments of other memories.
The sound of bare feet shuffling across the linoleum floor came to an end. The envelop was no longer white, but grey from a thick coating of dust. Time past as the long forgotten bubble wrap sleeve sit in its place, no longer perturbed on a daily basis.
Eventually the sound of young flesh on linoleum returned to the kitchen. Soon he would be able to stand on a chair and reach the envelope his mother cared for so deeply. Shortly after he would begin the daily ritual of pouring over the contents sent by the military. The last earthly remains of a hero lost much too soon.
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. She opened it. Seemingly harmless check out paperwork from her psychiatrist. He wrote F42 on her slip today in addition to the reliable F31.81. Knowing intuitively what it coded for on the ICD, she did a quick internet search anyway.
F42 Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
F31.81 Bipolar II Disorder
F31.81 was old news. OCD had been discussed many times, but this is the first time its incriminating scrawl had stared her in the face. It was as if to say “I’m here! I’m real!”
The first time he said she was obsessive, she didn’t believe it. “Is my brain so different than everyone else’s?” she had thought. But as time went on it became apparent. She was the pure O, he had said. Pure obsessive.
It was true. Obsessions haunted her in a way that was, at times, disabling. But she had been able to hide this from her friends and family. Now here is was, evidence staring at her, written on paper.
She let her mind wander; “Is this what makes it real? To write a billing code, to make it a diagnosis? Me on paper, my name birthday and F31.81, F42.”
She wondered if this made her more of a real person, or not much of a person at all. She was F42F31.81 now. They could check her number like a barcode for financial gain. Her secret number, her secret non person attribute. “Fuck this!” She said aloud, destroying it in the paper shredder.
“This week I will not be a number, I have a whole week to be more than F42F31.81.” The receipt of her mind would just drive her even more insane if she kept it around anyway. Her obsessive thoughts would go around and around, like they always do. She had more energy than usual anyway. At least until next week, when she sees him again. He will give her a mark, a grade, a price to quantify her mind.
She stood barefoot on the linoleum kitchen floor, staring at an envelope she held in her hands. Due Tuesday. Tuesday the 6th.
What day was today? The day-by-day calendar on the counter said Saturday, but it also said it was the 18th of June, which had come and gone months ago. She glanced out the window at the snow powdered across the porch, sky darkening into evening – which was deceptive, really; the snow came early this year and it was actually only September, or so she thought, as she dug into her pocket and thumbed her phone on. It buzzed loudly and lit up with new emails – spam, for sure – which she ignored in search of the date.
Saturday was right, after all. Saturday, September 3rd. Had to be a weekend. She didn’t work.
Then again, she hadn’t worked the past few weeks, anyway.
She placed her palms on the counter and pressed into them, breathing out with a solid whoosh of heavy air. Her shoulders tightened and she thought of calling to Jamie in his little apartment mirroring hers, ask him for his opinion, maybe invite herself to his place for dinner and a drink, but she didn’t want to show him the now-crumpled letter residing under her clammy hand on the counter because she knew if she did things could get emotional and Lord Knows she did not want him seeing that mess.
But still, she thought, misery needs company – or something along those lines, right? – and she through the cramped living room to the door and swung it open just in time to catch Jamie on his way into the opposing room, a lady on his arm with those dilated pupils and lips slightly opened in a cool smile that indicated a night of sweating bodies.
She crossed her arms and leaned into her door frame. “Jamie,” she huffed, “can we talk?”
He glanced over his shoulder, cheeks bright and shoulders raised in a shrug. “Uh, just getting home for a date, you know, maybe we can talk later?”
“Dinner?” she asked, ignoring the girl’s giggling presence. She wasn’t going to be outdone by this dandy little lady in a sleek black dress – she stretched her shoulders back and set her jaw in a way that she knew caused all of the right bones and muscles to protrude. Even in her lounge clothes and messy braid, she knew she was a match for Miss Dandy.
Jamie paused to look down at the girl on his arm, then looked up to the sky and swallowed hard. “Jesus, Angela, can’t it wait?”
“Jesus, Jamie, it pretty clearly cannot. It’s due Tuesday.”
The air froze and Jamie looked back towards her, eyebrows low enough to crease his nose. “You don’t need money again, do you? Rent was due two days ago-”
“No. This is different.” She pushed hard on her chest, forcing bile and tears back. She wouldn’t cry. Wouldn’t puke. Would be fine. If only Miss Dandy would leave. Angela glared at her with such force that the young lady felt it and began fussing with her dress, trying to solve the problem that way. “Lady, you’ve gotta go,” Angela smirked.
Jamie looked up to the ceiling and closed his eyes. The keys were still in the doorknob, chains dangling loosely and clanking against the door as he raised that hand to his forehead and pressed in hard circles. “Jen, if we could postpone this date, I’d really appreciate it,” he finally mumbled. The woman gave them both dirty looks – a look that said, Are you fucking kidding me, I didn’t realize you were so involved here or I wouldn’t have gone out with you, you wasted my time and my money, I look great how do you want that instead… but she wisely held her tongue and graciously dipped out with little more than a goodbye thrown Jamie’s way. He would never hear from her again.
Angela was in Jamie’s apartment pressing the letter firmly into his hand before he even had time to remove his shoes or coat. “What’s this?” he asked, inspecting it. He flattened it against the wall and read, in fancy font befitting some royal occasion:
“You are cordially invited to the union of Miss Kennedy Johns and Miss Olivia Stretton, November 1st, 2016. Please RSVP by Tuesday, September 6th.”
The signature at the bottom, handwritten, unforgettable. O. Stretton.
“Your ex-girlfriend is inviting you to her wedding?”
“Ex-fiancée,” Angela corrected, “and a real bitch at that.” She pounded her chest once more, a last ditch effort to hold back the tears, but they came anyways and Jamie was holding her in his arms in an instant.
“Due Tuesday,” she hiccuped between sobs. “I have to respond by Tuesday.”
Unpaid bills? Expected. A loan for some fancy new video game? Expected. This? No. This was new to him. He’d been there when she moved into this complex, a time when she was obviously spinning out of control. She’d lost job after job. Quit some of them. Abused anxiety meds. Had avoided deep stuff, thank God, he’d helped her out of loads of messes and heard tidbits about her relationship gone sour, but this was new. Holding her in his arms was new. Hearing her cry was new.
He liked the way she sunk into his body. He liked the way her hair smelled, clean but tangled in that ever-present braid. He liked how he could feel the sobs well up in her body and be there when they came out, wretched and disgusting and slobbery and natural.
“What do I do? I didn’t even know she was engaged.” The hysterics were over, but she was holding onto him tighter than ever. He patted her back and smiled into her hair, thinking. Thinking. Thinking.
“You go,” he said, hugging her tight. She froze in that position, waiting for more. “You go, you take me as your plus one, we sit at a table and make fun of her all night, just between you and me, then we drink some and dance some and we have a great time at a free party. Good food. Liquor. Music. What more could you ask for?”
The sobbing stopped and she contemplated this before pulling away from him, splotchy red face and faucet nose. She hiccuped once. Twice. Then the giggles began. She looked at Jamie and couldn’t hold them in. Her neighbour – her friend – of a year, suggesting such an awfully delightful idea as going on a date to her ex-fiancée’s wedding with the sole purpose of gourging on tasty food and making a mockery of the fine bitch.
“Jamie,” she said, placing her hands onto his chest and pressing to feel that heartbeat, to feel that human soul, that presence. It had been over a year since she was this close to someone last, and that someone was her bitch of a bitch. She grinned at Jamie and spoke through that grin, suddenly shyer than ever. “I like that idea.”
Miss Dandy was somewhere at a bar, not wanting to waste her flawless makeup and cute dress on a date that ended too soon. Across the state, two women watched a movie, nestled lovingly in each other’s arms, matching diamond rings shining. And in an apartment above the street, in the kitchen with the linoleum floor, two bodies with nowhere else to go intertwined, brought together by an ex-fiancée, a letter, due Tuesday.
-by members of bipolardisordered