You Okay – Kevin Sampsell

The only thing comforting about the hour of 3am is knowing that someone who is in pain is no longer in pain, is sleeping, is breathing steady, is not thinking of the reality of life. 

Someone knocking on your door at 3am is the scariest thing in the world. They ask you, advise you, recommend to you, tell you to get in an elevator with them. You walk fifteen minutes in the gray dark alongside them and they say it’s “just a little further” and you walk for twenty more minutes until you come upon a door and it opens. You are even more tired now but you can’t rest or even lean. It’s a small elevator and there are dirty napkins everywhere and you’re afraid to touch them so you have to stand close together as you feel yourself being jostled upward in that ghostly way that elevators move without you actually seeing where they’re going. There are no buttons or numbers in sight, or maybe they are behind the filthy napkins. 

It smells like chocolate milk in there and the sound coming from just above your head is the sound a glass of chocolate milk makes when it’s being stirred.

* * * 

You begin to understand that this is only part of your experience. You have another body somewhere, or actually two other bodies. One of them is likely sleeping. The other one is probably awake and angry, coughing persistently, driving a rusted Uber.

* * * 

You feel your crotch buzzing and reach in to pull out your cell phone. An ex-lover who hasn’t spoken to you in ten years is texting you. “Hey are you okay?” You can’t remember what she looks like. You ask her to send a photo of herself. 

She says, “You first,” and you start to wonder if this is some kind of scam or spambot. 

As you are texting, the door of the elevator opens and you realize you’re alone. You walk out and see a long hallway ahead of you. There is a desk with a pile of hospital papers on it and a glass of metallic-looking water.

You pour the water on the ground and take a photo of your reflection in it. You send the photo to your ex-lover but there is no response. You start to think it was a wrong number. 

Hours pass through you, slowly, one at a time. You feel them exiting your face. You wonder if you’re in a coma. A cloud of gnats hovers a few feet in front of you, crying like a baby. 

* * * 

You have parked your Uber in front of a pink house that looks familiar. The moon spotlights it and you half-expect the house to tear from its foundation and levitate, abduction-style. 

You have waited five minutes for the customer and you should drive away but you don’t. It feels like magic slumber hour and no one else is awake. You could take all your clothes off and run through the streets and no one would know. You could light a mailbox on fire and it would look pretty. You could cough at the stars as loud as you want. You could smash twenty Neti pots on the sidewalk without upsetting anyone. 

You could set up an easel and paint a portrait of that raccoon watching you.

* * * 

Eventually, the ex-lover texts you a single word: “Look.” And there is a blurred photo of a stubby arm holding a tennis racquet. You stare at it and see her face appear where the strings should be. A long neck tilting forward. You let your eyes blur more and realize you can’t remember the last time you ate.

You text back: “I see.”

She types back quickly, “Do I look good?”  

* * * 

Inside the familiar pink house is the you that is sleeping. You are having a dream that your two ex-spouses have married each other. They open a café called Spouse’s. You wonder if all of this is legal. You never dream. You never drink coffee. You never use the word Spouse. You feel so heavy while trying to fathom this all that you forget who you are and how many you are. 

Are you a lawyer or a bookseller?

An elevator?

A hospital bed?

* * * 

You read through the hospital files and locate one with your name. It has a room number on it and you decide to go looking. The hallways seem extra wide and long. It takes you several minutes to get from room to room, so you remove your shoes. You get a running start in your socks until you’re sliding. This works well, like you’re on an invisible skateboard, casually glancing at the room numbers as they flash by.

When you get to the right number, there is a handwritten note with an address. It is written in pink and someone has drawn a frowny face on it.

* * * 

You are drinking chocolate milk while sitting on the hood of your car. You start to feel nervous and wonder if an imposter Uber came before you and picked up your customer.    

You look for your Uber rulebook but can’t find one in the glove compartment. There are seven individual gloves without a match in there instead, plus a Buick owner’s manual, even though your car is a Toyota. 

You start to shake and cough as you approach the house. You wish you could shave all the mucous off of the walls of your throat with a butter knife. It’s such a nagging feeling, wanting to hollow yourself out, to scrape your tubes clean, to breathe easy. You have a knife in your pocket but it’s not for that. It’s for waking up your inconsiderate customer.

* * * 

You dance through wet grass in your socks. You jump and fly. You take off your belt and whip it over your head. A leather propeller, sparking at the UFO moon. You leap over houses and hurdle Hyundais. 

When you find the address, you see a raccoon spying on you from the bushes. You make up a name for it (Robert) and try to coax it out. You get closer and realize it is not a real raccoon but a freshly painted portrait of one instead. The black mask on its face dripping black tears. You cell phone starts buzzing with a call from “Ex Lover” but you ignore it. You dig a hole near a bed of flowers. You bury it with your bare hands. You piss, you spit, you water the ground.

The front door of the pink house is open. When you walk inside, your knack for flying, for floating, for levitating, is grounded. The lights are off but there are slats of moonlight cutting through as you follow the sound of bed springs.

When you see the bed, there is someone sitting up in it. The person looks to be yawning but there is nothing audible coming out. Facing the person in bed is someone crouched low, as if to attack. Their mouth is O-shaped as well, and frozen in silence. Both of these people turn to look at you, synchronized like twins. A hot flash of urgency rises to the surface of your skin. You shape your mouth like theirs. You tighten your body like them. You reach up to your hair and mess it up like theirs. You try making a yawn, a scream, a word. But it’s only silence that gets louder. You close your eyes and burst them open.

You close your eyes and burst them open.

You close your eyes and burst them open.

Kevin Sampsell has worked at Powell’s Books since getting hired as “temporary” holiday help in 1997. He’s now an events coordinator and the small press section curator. He also runs the long-running micro press, Future Tense Books. Besides his published writing, he has also contributed collage art to a number of publications and websites.

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