‘Gray Jello’ by Marija Lukic

I call it gray jello.

This thing happens every morning where a gelatinous gray substance greets me. I fought yesterday, but when I slept it got me.  I wake up with jello in my eyes and ears and throat.

It’s thick and sticky and fills the apartment, covering the floor and piling up to the ceiling.  The jello is thicker near the door. To see you, I have to go to war. The first half of the day is everything: if I don’t win now (and trust me, fighting jello is a depressing way to spend your morning), I will die. So I start hacking through jello. The problem is I’m tired and it won’t give, but I have to wade through this gray sludge to get my purse, to get my phone, to get my keys. It all sounds simple enough when you’re moving through air, but when there’s a bunch of gray jello around, your body is so weighed down by the stuff that every step is five hours, five days, five lifetimes.

I slam the door on a scream of relief. The air lifts for a second and I run out to the car. I skip to meet you, hugging you and grinning, shoving snarls of jello-streaked hair out of my face.

You glance at your watch. “I only have an hour for lunch. We won’t have time to go for a walk.”

I shuffle behind you and catch a glimpse of the time on your stove: 12:17 p.m. I swipe my hands across jello-crusted lashes and cough. “I left on time, I promise,” I croak.

“It’s fine. Let’s eat. I have to get back to my meeting….Did you shower?”

I drop my head towards bacon-wrapped meat with potatoes and carrots, and gobble.

“What did you do today?”

“I…can’t really explain it.”

You are already wiping down the counter, putting dishes in the sink. “It’s a secret?” you ask.

“No,” I say. “I just—there isn’t time.” Because you’re fiddling with your earphones, and someone from the UK or another time zone is pulling you away, I say, “Maybe tomorrow.”

“Okay.” You smile as you pack up some food for me. “You did your oil change?”

“No. Not yet.”

I see you thinking about what the hell I was doing all day. I beat the jello (3 hours gone) and I got here but all you see is that I was late and I didn’t do my oil change.

“Maybe we’ll go together,” you say. “I have to get back to work. It’s really beautiful outside. You should go to Starbucks or something and enjoy it.”

“Yeah. Maybe I’ll do that.” I wave at the back of your head and trudge into pointy-toothed sun. The next time I open my eyes the car clock says it is 2:34. A group of kids are looking at me so I drive, past the Starbucks, and pull into my parking space which is too far from the door. I place one foot in front of the other. Gulping icy air, I keep moving.  What always happens when I walk through those doors will not happen.

I march into my apartment. My laptop is all the way on the other end of the living room. I pick my way around mountains of smelly clothes, and step over sad pizza with the pepperoni scraped off. A moldy tea bag sticks to the inside of my favorite mug. Five bags of garbage pile on the kitchen floor, which is sticky with juice I spilled last week. “Move,” I say, and I stomp forward. I bend to scoop up panties stained with a rust color. I fight but when it gets me, it’s got me good.  I fold under the weight of jello and crumple-fall to the carpet, gaping at the sloped ceiling, my mouth catching jello flies.

I become one with the jello. I turn into a squishy blob that is not in this world. I have crashed and it is like being next to the slimy, evil, beating heart of the jello. I am powerless to dig my way out. Time doesn’t move here. It continues outside but not in here.

I feel clocks. The hour hand ticks at the same speed as the minute (three hours gone is three years gone), and the clock stands on my head and follows me around all day. The clock snickers as I am encased in a jello grave. When I dig my way out, I am a few hours, weeks, YEARS older and the world doesn’t care.

Let me go, I tell the clock. Then, for a minute, the jello lets me go.

I fly through star-studded skies and lie against a golden clock-face next to a massive minute-hand. I float through space on the biggest clock at the center of the universe. For a minute, the world ticks into place.

I’m back. I stumble to the bathroom mirror. My face is white and my forehead cracked. I tug upward at it, changing my skin for a moment. Stay put. No use. Tiny feet frame my eyes; a silver thread streaks my hair. My teeth are turning yellow and I squeeze toothpaste onto the brush. I turn from my horror movie reflection and strip and scrub. It takes a month and I lurch towards my bed which is covered with cereal. I stop. I don’t want to sleep in cereal.

I put on my reindeer sweater and shove my laptop into my bag, and I make it to the 24-hour Starbucks. The barista’s name-tag says ‘Kevin’, and he puts a smiley face on my cup. I set up my laptop and drink at a table away from the cold air blowing in through the door and for a few minutes I watch the guy with his hand on a girl’s back as they stand in line, and the two ladies who are talking about teaching and nodding and agreeing with each other about everything. I bounce in my seat a little and open my laptop and type, and I soar.

It is 11:05 p.m. You are in bed. Tomorrow you will work and around 11 a.m., you will invite me to lunch and I will fight my way over there, and you will ask me what I did today. Or maybe you will read my explanation and it will change everything. At least, I’m sure you’ll never look at jello the same way again.

Love,

The girl who tried to live.

 


MARIJA LUKIC is an emerging writer and was born in Belgrade, Serbia. She came to Canada at the age of six and currently lives in Oakville, Ontario. In addition to short fiction, she is working on her first novel. When not writing, she acts in local theatre and collects degrees. So far she has three: a Bachelor of Arts in English, one in Psychology, Neuroscience and Behavior, and a Masters in Global Business Management from France.

Copyright © 2018 by Marija Lukic. All rights reserved.