Is Always Watching
I sit on a spongy sofa, my butt below my knees, and flip through the shift-change
journal. Across from me Tina overflows from the armchair, arms hanging down
the sides. In the corner Vicky is perched on the edge of a chair, legs crossed,
back hunched. Ted fills the doorway, his hands pressed into the frame.
They talk about Elvis. According to the notes, they’ve talked about Elvis
since morning. They’ve also cooked chicken with strawberry jam and roasted
potatoes (Tina), vacuumed (Vicky), played cards (Ted, Michael, and Tina),
and watched Seinfeld reruns (everybody but Michael). During my shifts we just
“Do you think he’d mind?” says Tina. She slides her hands
under a wobbly swell of fat on her stomach and lifts it up as though it were
filled with gravel. She holds her hands there for a while. “That I am
having Ted’s baby?”
“Tina, not now,” says Vicky and rubs her palms together.
Tina slumps in the armchair and rocks back and forth, her head hitting the wall
twice before she stops.
“Do you think he’d mind?” she says.
“Tina, not now,” says Vicky.
Ted turns his back to me. “Time to feed the cat,” he says.
I hear Ted opening a can, throw the can opener into the sink. I hear the clank
of dishes as the cat jumps onto the counter.
I sit deep between the cushions and watch the clock. I am ten minutes late to
dispense their medication. The cat is slurping.
“Do you think he’d mind?” says Tina.
“I need my pills,” says Vicky and rubs her palms on her skirt.
Ted is back to supporting the doorway. “Michael took his clothes off,” he
Last night Ted sat in my office for five hours. “I like your hair,” he
said. He lifted his hand, and then put it back on his knee. An hour later he
said: “May I touch?” Ted is twenty-five. Square shoulders. Short
brown hair. He is neither muscular nor fat. He looks soft all over. He hasn’t
left the house in two years.
“Michael took his clothes off,” says Vicky. Ted’s skin is
pale and must feel springy, like dough.
Thank God I have a boyfriend. He drives me to work. When he drops me off
and we kiss in the driveway, I see Ted’s pasty face pressed to the glass. “I
am taller than him,” Ted said last week. Something about the way he
said it reminded me how childish my boyfriend is.
On the ride home I looked at his hands, pressed flat into the steering wheel,
fingers fanned, and compared them to Ted’s. Ted must buff and polish
his fingernails. They are shiny and smooth.
“I think I am going to give birth now,” says Tina.
Michael enters the living room, fingers in his ears, eyes closed. His long flaccid
penis hangs between the knots of curly pubic hair.
I hear a door slam. Tina covers her face and prays. “Dear Lord, Dear
Lord, Dear Lord, forgive me, for I am about to give birth.”
Michael’s fingers are like sausages in a fancy restaurant—short
and fleshy. “Michael. Good boy,” I say and stand up. I look around,
but no one is watching.