The Third Place
As usual, there is no one else to do the job, so I buy myself soup and pomegranates and pears and one Sierra mountain apple and four cans of food for Sophie and lay them out beautifully on the black conveyor belt: the pomegranates upright, five crossing the entire width of the river. The three pears side-by-side, the single, small apple, the container of soup, making another bridge. The four small cat food cans stacked in a narrow tower. I think about the impulse to make things beautiful: the way I arrange apple slices into a spiral of overlapping flower petals on a plate, or, with olives, punctuate the perimeter of a salad. The distance the spines of my books stick out relative to each other. I watch the thirty-something couple in front of me buy rainbow chard and granola that they will feed to each other at home, spoons clinking teeth, which is really metal to bone.
I walk home, headphones on, and open a can of food for Sophie. The smell of it should be enough to convince me to switch to raw, but I haven’t yet, and so I open the can anyway, thinking the headphones will protect me from smelling it, and they do. I put soup in a bowl. I cut a pomegranate and unthinkingly call the juice blood.
What I mean is that when you are sick enough, you start to live in the third place, in the white room, the quiet, slipping in-between. Oxygen tubes burn holes through my nose. My images are lapsing into each other. Yesterday, my foot in the shower was suddenly a deformed hand: the palm horribly fleshy and long, the fingers stubbed, curled over and useless. Today a half-eaten strawberry on the sidewalk looked up at me, a human eyeball.
Hope Henderson is a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Hypocrite Reader, The Mighty, Avatar Review, Monstering, and The Citron Review. Find her work or contact her at hoperhenderson.com, or on twitter at @hoperhenderson.
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