She Sees Metaphors

She Sees Metaphors

Jacqueline Schuler sees the world in metaphors. Like, literally. Walking piles of excrement, censored nymphomaniacs, streets of violent rivers, and theatre props covering the burnt walls of a home make up the background to a life she tries to keep as normal as she can. But with the truth, comes the whole truth, and Jacqui finds herself having to cope with the mortality of those she cares about, time and time again.

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    Illustration by Amanda Dine

Sometimes she misses the lies.

Our story begins at the tail end of two-thousand and twelve. Inside the one bedroom of a small apartment just east of the downtown area of a lively city, Jacqueline Schuler is sound asleep, unaware that in just seconds her alarm clock will sound off like some rude bastard in a theatre, and fatigue, headache, and the other sensations of dehydration are awaiting to remind her that she said one more drink one time too many. But right now, she’s peaceful. Her small, tattooed frame is curled into a ball with two layers of blankets wrapped tight around her as she exhales whiskey tinted breath through lightly parted lips. With her are the basic makings of a bedroom. There’s an old dresser, a passed down gift from her late grandmother, and a small, thrift store purchased nightstand where the alarm clock, her cell phone and a copy of The Complete Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are sitting, all waiting to be victimized in the blind assault on the noise that will force her into consciousness and begin another day.
Her bedroom and all of its contents (let’s not forget the window and two doors, one closed, leading to the living room, and the other, slightly ajar, offering a glimpse to the closet’s holdings), stands in a far corner of the universe. Stars forming new constellations and strange alien planets go about their orbit like shy employees. Jacqui has given all of them names, of course, and constantly refers to them in her thoughts: I’ll move the dresser by the Grand Raven so that Aqua World is more visible. That sort of thing. Above her bed in the center of her room is the New Sun, with the faint glow of a bulb that has just lost its power. Just beneath it hangs a string of stars, the Cat’s Tail.
The moment for her alarm to go off has arrived. An aggravated, evil sound erupts and echoes through the universe and Jacqui’s sleep ends. Awake and unhappy about it, she buries her head into her pillow, her black and blue hair a gravity defying mess, and positions herself like a defensive hedgehog. Her left arm, covered from shoulder to wrist in a tattoo sleeve depicting characters from The Lion King, starts slapping around the night stand. Her widespread fingers hit the Hitchhiker’s Collection first, then both her cell phone and a corner of her alarm. The snooze button is assaulted on her third attempt and the universe is quiet once again. She sits upright, now facing her wall, and stretches, muttering harsh words her mother taught her never to use.
The time is six o’clock.
Jacqui reaches to the Cat’s Tail and pulls on the dim pearl string of stars. They give and then resist with a snap, and the New Sun is no longer faint, but a bright star that illuminates the bedroom in all of its one-hundred watt energy saving efficiency.
The hangover’s symptoms set in and Jacqui holds still while assessing their strength. When it’s clear that the morning will not require her to run to the bathroom and empty the contents of her stomach, she looks around her room to see where she threw her purse the previous night. A morning cigarette is in order, and every step she has to take to get ready for work, from a shower to eating something awful, are queued until a Camel is between her lips.
There’s no sign of her purse, and so she slides out of bed and makes her way to the bedroom door. She opens it and an old wooden bridge that hangs from the limbs of a massive tree, connecting the larger limbs to each other is revealed. Jacqui steps out of space and into the tropical accomplishment, making her way to the living room where two figures are cuddled together on her couch. One, a plush young man, thin and adorable, with rusted nails extending from his skin’s surface and threatening anything that comes close, is holding a young woman tight. Where their bodies meet his nails have retreated and all that remains is a soft surface. The young woman is carved from marble, with cracks running along her surface and a black sludge coursing through like a river in slow motion. Her lower jaw is connected to her face by a series of gears that are forever spinning, keeping her mouth moving, even in sleep.
Jacqui sees her purse on the coffee table and staggers towards it, one arm extended in an undead parody and digs in, pulling out her pack of smokes and removing the second to last cigarette from the box. There’s no lighter, but she knows Gabe has one in his jacket pocket, a Zippo with a teddy bear on it that was a gift from Hailey for his twenty-fifth birthday. Jacqui treats it like a frail artifact and lights her cigarette, filling her lungs with the first glorious and relaxing drag of the day. She sets it back in Gabe’s pocket and stretches again. The space between the leaves and branches of her living room tree is still dark. At the far end of the room is a window, surrounded by twigs and branches that are bent and twisted acting as a trim. Jacqui parts the curtains and uses her index finger to pull the blinds down and see what’s walking around outside of her apartment.
It’s early and most of the city sleeps. The main street is a calm stream that will grow vicious and ugly as the morning traffic of nine to five freaks and lovelies make their way to work or wherever it is they have to be in the early hours. A man made from wet and sloppy shit is crossing the street towards Jacqui’s building. Flies surround and cling to his body as though he were a treasure to be protected, a treasure that drips filth and leaves a path of excrement in his wake. He shuffles past a girl with lines of poetry and prose forming and dissolving across her exposed pure white skin while she sips from a to-go cup of something unhealthy and delicious.
Just another fucking Tuesday.
Jacqui moves to sit in the lone chair and curls into the thick cushions, reaching out to ash her cig in a half empty can of Mt. Dew from the previous night. She scratches her nose with her thumb and looks down at the branch that is supporting her, running her toes along its bark, feeling the cheap carpet that her landlord, an ever elusive man often thought of as a myth or strange deity requiring faith rather than proof in his existence, had provided with the apartment. While Jacqui looks at the floor and kills her smoke, she considers calling in sick to work, telling the restaurant owner that she’s been vomiting, or maybe begin telling a tale of diarrhea that the easily sickened man felt warranted no questions, just a bitter exhale and halfhearted get better comment.
While Hailey twitches and says something in her sleep that Jacqui doesn’t make out, rain starts to fall from the apartment ceiling. Jacqui has seen the living room rain often enough to ignore the light downfall that would sooner or later pick up and pass through the gaps in the floor like the Roadrunner through one of the Coyote’s painted pathways. The oncoming storm is always the morning visitor after a difficult night and today would be the second consecutive day of early downpours.
Her casual attitude is misplaced. The falling waters do not disappear into the spaces of the tree, still dark from the forest’s evening hours. Instead they hit invisible surfaces and splash lightly into the air and settle, slowly building into a puddle. It is not until Jacqui is halfway through her second cigarette and the downpour a heavy storm, that she notices something is off. She extends her hand and watches the rain land and slide down her arm, this one an artist’s collage of Norman Rockwell pieces, and land on the floor. Her mind almost allows her to feel the drops, but years of knowing full well that nothing is there do not permit such imaginings any more than an atheist will permit the idea of God touching the soul.
While the flood builds, Jacqui dismisses her previous notions on how to proceed with her day and starts moving quickly to get ready. She takes clean clothes and a towel from her bedroom and goes across the hall.
The bathroom is a haven of sorts. The floor is a white cloud and the walls are slow moving waterfalls with roses of every color, red, blue, green, purple, orange, yellow, and so forth, falling with the water as though they were being dictated by a gentle current rather than gravity. Above the medicine cabinet, which is almost always open so that Jacqui doesn’t have to look into a mirror, incense waits to be ignited and fill the bathroom with the relaxing scent of lavender. Jacqui places a stick in the holder, seeing the roses move aside from the mirror, and uses a match in the medicine cabinet. Jacqui parts her shower curtain to reveal a stone bathtub. One stone stands out among the others with a detailed label indicating temperature carved above it, and Jacqui turns it to her preferred setting. Water starts to fall from a small hole in the wall and Jacqui steps back and undresses while it warms. The drain in the rocky floor has been recently cleaned, and Jacqui is grateful that she doesn’t have to watch water build up to remind her of what’s happening on the other side of the door. She can almost see the flood leaking into the emptiness of space and travel aimlessly in zero gravity pools around her bedroom.
Showered, refreshed and in a rut, Jacqui opens the bathroom door and moves quickly. Experience gives her a shielded attitude and the clock is ticking, getting closer to the start of her shift. Her mind focuses its priorities and she finishes getting ready in record time.
Before leaving, Jacqui pokes Gabe awake, gently. The flood in the living room is higher now, and the surface is just touching his left ear while Hailey appears to be peacefully drowning in her substance induced sleep. His eyes open, and he lifts his head from the rising waters while his nails extend further.
“I’m going to work. Lock up when you guys leave?” Jacqui says.
“Yeah, sure.” He immediately goes back to sleep.
Once at the door, Jacqui stops for a moment and lets her hand rest on the knob. Anxiety starts to make its way into her thoughts and she wants to leave, but before she does, she finds herself falling into an old habit from when she was a teenager, and the change was too much for her. She takes a breath and reminds herself that she can do this. She’s done it a million times.
And so, confident but shaky, she twists the doorknob and steps into a cremated hallway and walks as fast as she can to the stairs that will lead her outside and into the city.

She Sees Metaphors is Copyright © 2014 by Jacob Sailor 

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this sample or portions thereof in any form whatsoever.