by Dash Owens
Maeve lost time. It wasn’t exactly an unconscious time. Similar to a dying lightbulb, she flickered off and on, to and fro. She thought she saw her apartment, but then she saw swirls of dark colors. Her existence stuttered in the few blocks around her apartment, inconsiderate of material or time. She would find herself in front of a bodega, and then she would see herself falling into sidewalk like water through a slotted spoon. She saw underground passes and tunnels, and then she did not see them again. Memories also clicked off and on. Images. She saw her mother straining ricotta in a tight, twisted cheesecloth bound to the faucet above the kitchen sink. And then the cold concrete of a church parking lot, waiting for a bus. Why was she on the ground again? She knew it was cold, but she couldn’t feel the cold. She thought she should be in enormous pain, but she never seemed to touch or feel anything.
Finally, Maeve was still. As she jumped and flicked and stuttered, Maeve thought only of a series of cement stairs leading to a small train stop. The whole thought was solid. The world became solid again, and Maeve stood under the shuttle tracks at Park and Franklin.
Maeve realized she was dead as soon as three people walked through her. She attempted to touch fences and herself, but there was nothing to grip. The green gate next to the train entrance was the first object she attempted to lean on, her puzzled state causing her to call up the habit of bending when the sense of “this is too much” overwhelms the mind. That same thought grew in proportion when she did not seem to lean, bend, or experience any of the sensations related to balance or gravity. Her extended hand was simply in and out of the fence. Though it wasn’t simple at all. Whatever she was, she fell straight through the quantum gaps of every object she tried to touch. She stalked a huffing and puffing dad power walking a stroller. Each time he raised his phone, Maeve looked to see the time, which was how she discovered it was 11:41 a.m. on a Tuesday at the end of May. She had been dead long enough that time marched on and saw fit to begin a new month without her.
Maeve went to her apartment next, but everything was gone. No one had moved in yet. She didn’t linger in the emptiness, so she began walking. It’s fair to ask what Maeve wanted at this moment. Maeve didn’t exactly want anything at all. She thought and thought and thought about what she knew and what she didn’t know. The total sum of what she didn’t know humbled the imagination, so it made perfect sense for Maeve to choose to spend her time finding what she thought she knew. A month was enough time for everything to change for Maeve, but in truth very few material things in the world change over the course of a month. Maeve died, but most people didn’t.
Maeve walked miles, though she didn’t feel like she walked miles. Her steps were more like a metronome than a concerto, and she didn’t feel tired anymore. Frankly, the thought didn’t even occur to her. She first walked to see Mary, her closest friend in New York. Mary taught Kindergarten in East New York, and Maeve spent hours watching her. Lining kids up; sitting kids down; reading to kids; correcting kids; hugging; talking; standing; sitting; texting; walking. Maeve thought repeatedly about ways to describe the drudgery playing out in front of her. She imagined she could still open a book and turn a page to find additional synonyms for the tiresome display. Dry. Tedious. Dull. After hours of watching Mary teach and hours of watching her clean and print and grade and organize, Maeve followed Mary home to her apartment in Bed-Stuy.