Olivia possessed a chic frustration with her inability to impact humankind, or Süskind-kind, for that matter. She kept secrets instead. One was that she would quit smoking soon. Too many of her arteries had been condemned. Those that hadn’t would be finished off by factory smog. Süskind’s dry season came through like a knotted stent. The wind was stabby, bus stop to café. “Need more ice,” she whined to Carlos, partitioned in the kitchen. She would not stop wearing tight pants, even if they sent the wrong message, because of their comfort and compression. At some point she stopped turning to face the men who pinched her. Classically heart-shaped cheeks curving to the palm of another passerby. Even Carlos positioned himself so their bodies touched. The side of his head brushed her bust. He forgot what he was pretending to reach for. She pictured his whole visage as round contaminant.
Her black bib, waitress outfit, and other service-industry adornments toggled on and off over her head like a neon “Jackpot” sign. Being a halfway-decent blonde by men’s throbbingly low standards was reason enough to swap clothes after getting tipped out. A hopeless romantic shuffling between the ghetto’s shadows and soft spotlighting, she considered taking her own life. The knowledge that men desired cripples fortified her even more. Two years after the collision, she was riding buses instead of bikes, warming to her discombobulated leg and its ungodly pangs. She knew promiscuity deluded one’s spiritual self. The oil-slick wing she clutched at night was lathered with human stench. Laying herself bare before a beloved (whomever), she felt born on the shore where life first slithered free.
Slouched in plastic seating, she massaged her left knee until her hands went numb. Yellow pullcords slapped the dirty windows. She positioned her temple against the pane, each whack lulling her further to sleep. Cash she’d made throughout the day sat at the bottom of her string bag, big bills at the top. In this low light, their green glowed. Crisp bills reminded her of her friends, so pristine they looked fake, overtaking beauty for something wordless, more of a blunder. No creases, folds, marks, wet off the press, warm and womblike. The room-temperature world beckoned, then fizzled. Eyes fixed on the oblong mirror above the bus driver’s head, Olivia obscured her face with the seat in front of her and tucked a bill into her mouth. She folded it hamburger-style and let it melt like a giant sheet of LSD, the ink slowly fading, turning her tongue blue. Outside, the sky whizzed by, trees cheering, their leaves shooting straight up like confetti. Olivia chewed, swallowed, shut her eyes.
Her neighborhood resembled an overturned litter box, a shit cascade. The cul-de-sac stank like twist-tied fecal matter. “Every cripple to their smothered cat,” she thought. The freeway was a dumping ground. The weed-whipped, sludgy ravine etched out the face of the block. She blinked the houses gone, leaving only the brown vines that coated them. People walked on air, dry-humping clumped bedding. Ghosts came to mean something to Olivia. People rebranded currency with a value in and of itself. The billfold was a remnant of palms. Rich people didn’t tip, because they were too close to the top to stop. They wouldn’t be shaken awake before the wet dream was over.
Olivia wasn’t convinced there was any separation between the way things were and what they were destined to become. “If only madness could be caught like a cold!” she thought. Men’s mouths opened in the toilet beneath her, a color-changing ink she distributed across their lips. The linen bills she ate absorbed well. The watermark spiced it up. Water in the toilet swirled blue then red as she flushed. She had never been the centerpiece of someone else’s life. She wished for celestial love, not window dressing, but the whole planet was disabled.