People Everywhere

With every hurt word, I hid behind furniture and nail polish and sweaters. I hid in lines, on buses, underwater. I hid in burritos and cookies big as hands and milkshakes topped with awful cherries. I let the cherries sink to the bot- tom with the melt. With every hurt word, I was less able to cause hurt.
When I peeled a cucumber, I felt the sting of losing skin. I threw out the peeler and ate the waxy rinds.
I wore bolts of heavy linen widowhood around me, though I was never married. I slept beneath thick down comforters in summer. I put sharp things in boxes, sealed with many layers of packing tape. I put the car in the garage. Outside, I wore workman’s boots, the kind with steel.
Inside, I wore socks and slippers. I covered the walls with blankets, disabled the smoke alarm, threw out the coffee grinder and alarm clock. I laid down the thickest carpet. I settled in it when I was tired.
I took vitamins and supplements and powders and cures. I did cleanses and washed myself with loofah.
I said hello and goodbye and smiled. I said please and thank you and excuse me. I stayed in my soft apartment so I wouldn’t have to do these things.
I ordered soft things on the internet. Toilet paper and pillows and mittens. I ate soft foods. Boiled eggs, macaroni, oatmeal, cotton candy.
I stopped watching movies about people and reading books about people. People were everywhere.
I sat in the bath, head tilted back, listening to my breath in the water. It became the sound I hated most.

Lauren Becker is editor of Corium Magazine. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Opium, Wigleaf, Juked, and elsewhere.