Image by Chowdhury Mohammad Masum Refat from Pixabay. CC0/Public domain

Chirp chirp.
The morning’s first birds were up, chirping through the fading darkness, announcing dawn. In a moment the sun would rise.
Game over.

Chirping birds at dawn: the sound of failure.
As long as it was dark, well, Gregor effectively just kinda went to bed late, right?
Very late maybe?
It was exciting to go to bed so late. Almost romantic.

OK but look this was not late.
This was literally birds waking at dawn.
This was the grim bird gong sounding game over.
The death chirp of dawn:
“Gregor, you have failed
you have wasted the night
you can’t recover
you will fall asleep in guilt
the dismal light of dawn creeping into your bed like a stain of discouragement, spreading to your pillow, your pajamas, your blanket.”

More birds joined in: “Again! Again!”
You have failed again.
You have wasted the night again.
Game over. Again.

“I know, I know,” said Gregor to himself.

Seven hours later — ding dong — it was time for breakfast!
Or for a quick trip to the store? Tough call.
Or maybe read the news first?
What if there is other news? Like on another website?
What about a third website?
Maybe there’s more news in another language?
What about car news and computer news?
What about agriculture and marine archeology?
and Asia–Pacific bond markets?

Oh but it’s morning!
(not outside, but in Gregor’s underwear).
Well, that will take priority, won’t it?

Wasn’t there some boy with red hair in the news? Somewhere in the left-hand corner of a photo of something or other?
Gregor looked out the window.
It would be nice to have that red-haired boy right here in his room.
No no scratch that. What would be really amazing would be…
to be that red-haired boy? Like, to just be him, right?

(would he have to live in that photo though?)

“Now, if I was that boy with red hair, and I was looking out this window right now, the view would look the same, wouldn’t it?
Exactly the same.
As long as I keep my eyes focused on the outside,
Then I can be that boy and have red hair.
Shit that’s really exciting, having red hair,
instead of plain black!”

What would it be like to have red hair instead of black hair?
Gregor found himself consumed by the question. He projected himself into a red-haired boy’s body, looking out the window, bursting with desire, all the while mentally looking at himself from the back, being a red-haired boy looking out the window.
So arousing.
Now it’s morning in the red-haired boy’s underwear.
And Gregor can be right inside!
And experience it first person!

Actually wait.
Wouldn’t it be boring to have red hair if you had red hair?
Would the red-haired boy think it’s normal to have red hair?
Like just normal. Just plain.
After all, has he ever experienced the morning in any other
way than with red hair?

This is really discouraging. To be gifted with such a special feature and to experience it as something unremarkable.
Such a grim reality:
The red-haired boy has never eaten a sandwich,
or slept,
or done anything without having red hair.

Even brushing his teeth. Even having a headache.

“Quick quick quick!
Let’s enjoy myself while it’s unusual for me to have red hair,
while it’s still a novelty!” thought Gregor,
looking anxiously out the window
(as if the birds were going to cry game over once more)

too late
game over.
If he really was that boy with red hair,
then he had always been that boy with red hair.
And he had always had red hair.
And it had never been special.
And then it was not exciting.
It was utterly discouraging
The dream of his life, finally fulfilled!
and then it’s nothing special because red-haired boys come
with a history of always having had red hair.

The phone rang.
“Yes, yes, no. I’d say about 140 by 150 actually, or a bit wider. Tomorrow would be great, it’s up to you. Of course I’m here, call anytime. No, no, it’s not too early, of course. If there’s another one let me know. Thanks.”

Few phone calls could have been more erotically arousing. Somewhere, on the other end of the line, was a person who had talked to Gregor,
and for all that person knew,
Gregor might just have been a boy with red hair.
Yes, Gregor had just had been a boy with red hair,
not just to himself,
but to another person,
for the span of that conversation.
And if he had been a boy with red hair to another person,
he was a boy with red hair to the whole world.
And not just for the span of a conversation,
but forever,
like a fact.
I mean, that’s basically what a fact is.

Now that he had red hair, Gregor decided to write himself a letter, which he started by signing “Walter Benjamin Franklin Roosevelt,” with a little heart next to his name (so cute).
Then he grabbed a towel, covered his black hair with it, and looked at himself in the mirror,
seeing a boy with red hair,
his hair entirely covered by a towel
but its redness an undeniable reality nonetheless.
A truly exciting way to start the day. To get to be that attractive red-haired boy in the left-hand corner of the photo in the news. So what would he do in that boy’s body?
He could do anything he wanted. Hehehe even dirty things.

would it really be exciting to do dirty things
to himself
if he was that red-haired boy?
Mr. red-haired boy didn’t think it was anything special to have red hair, did he?

Slowly that realization bloomed from a concern to a discouraging certainty that
took over the whole room
(like an overcooked metaphysical soufflé)
and cast a pall of depressing familiarity over Gregor’s body.

“Bah, if this is the body I grew up with, then what do I care?”

What would the red-haired boy actually fantasize about?
Being someone else?

Now that Gregor was the red-haired boy,
he stared out the window,
consumed with the desire to be another.

What if it was boring to have red hair and freckles?
Or worse,
what if it was annoying,
something to hate about yourself,
something to get rid of,
something to fantasize away?

Red hair and freckles on Monday
Red hair and freckles on Tuesday
Red hair and freckles for breakfast, lunch and dinner
Even with the flu
or while traveling abroad!

Encountering other red-haired boys and finding them… plain?
boringly similar to himself?
The thought devoured him.

“I would probably hate having red hair if I was him.
I would find my body so plain.
I would hate freckles.
I would find red-haired boys so unattractive.”

Gregor found himself obsessed with this new question.
He tried to project himself out of the red-haired boy’s body
looking out the window
bursting with desire
all the while mentally looking at himself from the back
(being a red-haired boy looking out the window and desiring to be someone else).

“I bet I want to have black hair.
Hard to imagine.
Black hair.
But I would love to have black hair.
All the other red-haired boys would find me special!
I’d be the only red-haired boy with black hair!
They would desire me,
like I desire black-haired boys!
and want to be one of them.”

Gregor went back to the mirror, still with the towel on his head, trying hard to imagine that his red hair beneath the towel was actually black — which in fact it was. He projected himself with all the force of his sexual desire into the body of a black-haired boy. He furiously tried to ignore his non-existent freckles and imagine them gone until they weren’t there anymore — which they had never been.

Then he took off his towel
and he actually had black hair.

He was so aroused by the sudden transformation that he started to vigorously masturbate the body of that black-haired boy of his dreams in front of the mirror. He watched the reflection of that body he had obsessively desired as it heaved, sighed, and came, his mind flooded with anger, despair, discouragement, hatred, bliss, and orgasm.

Then he fell asleep on the couch and slept for two hours.

Then he ate two cans of asparagus and a peanut from the floor (it was still clean).

Then he put some underwear back on.

Then apparently some ferry sank in Bangladesh with millions of people on it.

He fell asleep again and dreamed that he had freckles
with red-haired birds
and light coming from underneath his pillow
and he was angry and discouraged
and wanted to be someone else, somewhere else.
But he was stuck on a boat in Bangladesh, staring out the
window, with black hair.

He woke up a few hours later — it was dark

(thank God)

and as it was dark, not to press Gertrude Stein’s point though,
but it was necessary
to speak louder
or very softly

So ding dong — breakfast time yep. Maybe a bowl of cereal with milk? Is there even a clean bowl in the house?
No, there was a dirty bowl
a sponge
hot water from the tap
and dish soap.
So basically no way to make a clean bowl.

(He would have to turn on the water
and literally start scraping the bowl
like with the sponge)

OK so — in theory — that was possible,
but where would he stop?

Would he just pause the entire activity when the bowl was clean?
He would rather keep the water on forever and wash every bowl in the world.

But he only had one dirty bowl.
(so get more bowls and wash them?)

Would he have to turn the water back off
and dry the bowl?
This was getting too complicated.
Better just use a dirty bowl
Also, like, complex engineering problems so early in the morning, seriously, no.
Even at night. Whatever time it was.

He poured some milk into the bowl.
Whoa wait, was that milk still good?
Did it smell funny?
Gregor smelled the milk.
It didn’t smell funny. But it didn’t smell clean either.
It didn’t smell like anything.
wtf this noncommittal milk is freaking me out!!
(i.e., as in, “ ”)

He dipped one finger in the milk
and cautiously tasted his finger.
It didn’t taste bad.
Or good.
It didn’t taste like anything.
Maybe it was……………. rotten?
Shouldn’t milk smell and taste clean and fresh?
It was probably rotten.
Maybe it wasn’t rotten,
but it could have been rotten.

The thought that it conceivably could be rotten filled Gregor with such revulsion that he couldn’t bring himself to drink that milk. He went to the sink and poured the milk down the drain, to the last drop. Then he turned the water on, cleaned the bowl with dish soap until there was no trace left of the milk, turned the water back off, and dried the bowl.

Oof. In extreme situations people can do amazing things, and this was certainly one of those situations, with the milk possibly rotten, and every drop of it portending contamination, bad smell, revulsion, and yuck.

He certainly wouldn’t use that bowl again — perhaps ever (at least not today).
He considered an apricot.

There were four apricots
in a little wicker tray on the table,
soft and green,
with thick fuzzy mold growing on them.

They were already rotten yesterday,
and two days ago.

Gregor had hoped that they wouldn’t be rotten today. Ideally, the rot would resolve spontaneously and they would be clean and fresh today.
But no. Give them another day (safest thing to do).

What about a peach?
There was a peach in the fridge,
nice and clean,
fresh and ripe.

He pulled out the peach, but the situation was intractable. He could bite directly into it, but then it would be juicy and messy and filthy sweet liquid would drip down his chin and onto his chest, and that was just unthinkable. And also, he wouldn’t know what was inside the peach if he didn’t cut it open first.

What if it was filled with: – worms, or
– cucumbers, or
– goat cheese?

Obviously, he had to cut it first, look inside, and if it looked clean and peach-colored, then he would eat it.
How could he cut it, just with a knife,
with brutal violence?
Also impossible.
The peach was round and closed
the knife would make it irregular and open.
An act of cosmological destruction.
There would be a discontinuity between the wet part and the dry part.
It would be different colors inside and outside.
It wouldn’t be round anymore.
It would probably require superhuman strength to push the knife into the peach.
He couldn’t bring himself to do it,
not at this hour, not to that peach, not in his own home.

He put the peach back in the fridge. He would eat it tomorrow, if it was already cut. Hopefully someone would come to his fridge while he was asleep and cut his peach for him. Otherwise he would wait patiently.
He grabbed a glass and filled it with tap water.
It tasted funny.
Maybe it didn’t.
But it tasted as though it was about to taste funny.
Maybe it was…………… rotten?
Maybe there was something rotten in the pipes?

He could just have another sip and check. But that sounded disgusting.
The first sip was already rotten,
why try another one, right?

He poured the glass out into the sink in revulsion and didn’t rinse it out.
The whole sink was rotten,
and the water was rotten.
He looked away from the sink with disgust.
He wouldn’t go near that sink again — perhaps ever (at least not today).

He looked in his cupboard to see what other supplies he had for breakfast.
Seven cans of cod liver
(bought a few days earlier at the supermarket).
Those were certainly rotten.
They were probably shipped rotten from the factory.
He checked the date on the can: good for another two years.
That was a sign: they were rotten.

Another carton of milk,
bought from the store this week?
Too risky.
First of all, the carton was closed.
To drink from it, he would have to open it.
But then it would be open!
And he wouldn’t feel comfortable drinking from an open carton of milk.
What if it was rotten?
Better leave it closed
and not take the risk!
Actually there was nothing good to eat in the cupboard,
everything was rotten.

Everything in the fridge was also rotten.
Not only the food that was actually rotten (for weeks),
but also the fresh food from this week’s grocery run.
The yoghurt was probably rotten.
Everything was rotten, the whole fridge.
Everything already open was definitely rotten.
And everything that was still closed and fresh was off-limits
because it was still closed.
And despite being fresh, maybe it was also rotten.
There was no way to know
(unless he opened it — and that thought was so disgusting omg)

better not to try it.

Maybe he could have pizza delivered?
But that would require calling someone on the phone.
And that person may or may not think he was a red-haired boy with freckles,
or a black-haired boy without freckles,

And that was just too complicated because he just wanted pizza. He didn’t want to have hair right now, black or red, he just wanted to order pizza as an anonymous caller. Isn’t there a way to order pizza without having a specific hair color? You’d think there would be a demand for that kind of service.

What about the embarrassment of everything being rotten in his kitchen?
Even the sink and the tap water?

He didn’t mind the delivery person showing up in his mess. After all, it’s their job. They show up in everyone’s mess, they probably don’t care. They just think about their next delivery.
But the person on the phone.
That was another matter.
Don’t people on the phone sometimes also show up at your window
and look at you?
There was probably some way that they could see him
through the phone.
Maybe his phone had a secret camera
that lets people see how his kitchen is filled with rot
when he calls to order pizza.
Maybe they could smell it.
Maybe they had a big switchboard
with lots of lights!
and when they got a phone call from a house where the tap
water was rotten,
a big red light would start to blink.

Gregor sat at the table for a while, ashamed at the big blinking red light on the switchboard of the pizza delivery place.
Dozens of employees huddled around it!
nauseated by his stack of cans of rotten cod liver,
laughing snidely at him for ordering pizza,
thinking he was a red-haired boy,
(or a black-haired boy? perhaps? hard to say)
What if his phone didn’t hang up properly afterwards?
Wasn’t there a chance that they could keep listening to him
in the privacy of his room,
even after he thought he was all alone?

I don’t know, you read a lot of strange stories today, literally.
A better solution was not to call,
but to hope that they would know to send pizza anyway.
He would be really grateful.
And perhaps he would strike up a great friendship
with the pizza delivery boy.
(they’re sending a boy, right?)
And perhaps more.
Perhaps the pizza delivery boy looked just like him,
with black hair.
Or perhaps, he looked just like him,
with red hair and freckles,
and he loved black-haired boys
and would be immediately charmed
and they’d make love after eating the pizza,
or even before.

Gregor felt at peace with this practical compromise solution. He didn’t eat, lay down on the couch, and fell asleep again.

He woke up a few hours later — ding dong — breakfast time! It was kind of dark. Or maybe not too dark, but like a bit dark, who knows.

He made himself a bowl of cereal with milk, into which he cut some fresh peach slices. He looked at himself in the mirror briefly, and thought he quite liked his attractive black hair. The air was still and peaceful. He put on a Mahalia Jackson song and smiled. He fell back asleep to the sound of gospel music.

A few hours later he woke up rested and content — ding dong — it was time for breakfast. He got dressed, hopped in the car, and drove down to the supermarket in search of breakfast inspiration.

The supermarket is an exciting but difficult place. It’s a space designed by cruel playful forces to torment people and tease their appetite for shapes and colors. Research shows that the idea of using that kind of space to sell food was hatched out of primal sadism, i.e., to give people an impossible choice between starvation and overstimulation. The exciting game-like aspect of the interaction only developed later from a supermarket evolutionary point of view, when humans learned to make the best out of a hostile sensory environment that was out to make sure they wouldn’t get any breakfast.

For one thing, the supermarket is organized in an utterly illogical manner: all the meat is grouped together in one area, all the cereal in another area, all the cans in yet another area, vegetables in yet another area. To buy a simple meal, you literally have to visit several aisles, be exposed to a wide variety of unrelated shapes and colors with different hues and saturation levels, and even occasionally to other people.

The logical arrangement would be to make hundreds of little private aisles right next to the entrance, each of them with the ingredients for just one breakfast: one cereal box, one piece of meat, one bottle of juice, a few vegetables. This would keep trips as short as possible, minimize interaction with other customers, and provide less choice, making the whole experience infinitely more pleasant.

Ideally it would also be dark, perhaps candle-lit. And all the same color.

The rest of the store, away from the entrance, could be devoted to:
– mysterious things,
– imaginary things,
– dangerous things,
– rotten things,
– undefined things,
– inexplicable things that other people buy, and
– things that nobody buys (with the bright lights concentrated there please).

That would be the most sensible use of space.
But no: products are deliberately spread out over the entire surface of the supermarket, so that even basic supplies can sometimes be found only in dangerous remote corners of the store,
or in prime number aisles,
or in area with unpleasant floor tiling,
or in other places that customers should not reasonably be exposed to.

Gregor found himself in the red meat aisle, looking for some red meat. It was clearly not going to work: there was lots of meat, and it was all red. He gave up on meat but came up with a better methodology: he would turn left at the next three yellow items he would see, and buy whatever he found there.
He ended up in the ice cream section.
The ice cream section was uniquely problematic on a metaphysical level because the boxes of ice cream were on shelves inside coolers with glass doors.

There were four shelves in each cooler
and eight boxes of ice cream on each shelf,
in two rows of four,
which meant 32 boxes of ice cream in each cooler.
If he took one,
there would be 31 left,
but that was a prime number
— not an impossibility per se, but obviously a loaded statement.

If he took two,
there would be two black holes
in the constellation of remaining ice cream boxes,
which was simply inelegant.

If he took four,
one off each shelf,
then at least there would be seven left on each shelf,
and there would be a harsh prime number situation at the shelf level
but a sort of compensatory wholesomeness at the cooler level.
This was, plainly speaking, a question of his impact on the world as a person.

He took four identical ones,
one from each shelf,
plus one vanilla almond from another cooler
(because he actually liked that flavor).

Next he needed cans,
because so far he only had cans of cod liver at home
and that just looked crazy.

If someone came and inspected his cupboard
and failed to see a random distribution of household items
beyond the cans of cod liver,
they would think he’s insane
and as a result he could be blacklisted from pizza delivery
or deliberately served rotten water by the utility company,
and generally speaking
there was just too much at stake cosmologically
to only have cans of cod liver in the cupboard,
and he had already carefully thought this through anyway.

What he needed was lentils because they’re brown, oval, and unthreatening.
Gregor found the lentil section.
He counted. The store had:

  • – 37 cans of the store-brand lentils,
    • of which one batch of 31 cans expired in 421 days and
    • another batch of 6 cans expired in 303 days, and
  • – 26 cans of the name-brand lentils,
    • of which one batch of 16 cans expired in 456 days,
    • one batch of 9 cans expired in 298 days, and
    • one can with a slightly lighter color that expired in 133 days.

The store brand was cheaper but the label had an unpleasant sans-serif font that made the lentils look less deliberate and — in Gregor’s opinion — defeated the whole point of buying lentils in the first place.
He bought one of each, plus the one slightly lighter-colored name-brand can that expired earlier, because it looked jarring next to the other name-brand can with its darker label. He liked the raucousness of the cans not quite matching, probably hating each other, and still having to live together forever in his cupboard. Hehehe.
On his way to the checkout register he ran into an unnamed girl that he may have known. She was with her roommate, who also had no name.
“Hey,” he said cheerfully.
“Oh hey Gregor, what’s up?” said the first girl.
“Are you shopping?” he asked.
“So, yeah.”
“Right, so.”
“Right, yeah.”

He had no idea what her name was. He had no idea what any girl’s name was. The universe seemed to be so much more complex as a result of girls having names, it was hard to understand the logic behind it.
For a brief moment he felt genuine admiration for his straight male friends who were able to keep track of girls’ names individually. By sheer power of cognition and memory basically. Though he realized he didn’t have any straight male friends. Which he tentatively chalked up to the hypothesis that perhaps girls don’t actually have individual names and therefore he doesn’t need straight male friends to remember them?

Checkout was difficult. First there was this sitting lady, who not only bore the name Cyndi (said her name tag), but requested money.
And not only requested money, but a specific amount
and clearly would take no less and no more,
her calculation being tied in some cosmic way
to the kind of ice cream and lentils Gregor intended to take
but also to how much of each.

But aha, Gregor used his credit card: a little plastic device capable of deflecting the machinations of Cyndies by giving her ilk what they want without having to count money!

Secretly he suspected the credit card machine also really wanted to eat his card and had an oral fixation on hard plastic. You could tell it derived pleasure from Gregor pushing his hard plastic card deep into its mouth. The erogenous part must have been at the very end of the slit because the machine only expressed satisfaction when the card was deep inside it. Actually Gregor enjoyed giving the credit card machine pleasure. He felt a special power as the munificent giver of oral satisfaction, as he pushed his hard plastic card slowly and deliberately into the machine.
“Debit or credit?” asked Cyndi.
Gregor didn’t understand the point of the question, and why Cyndi was trying to insert herself into this sensual moment. Was this an invitation to a threesome or something?

Then there was the boy next to him, at the neighboring register.
He had light red hair and freckles
(but probably thought himself plain and boring),
perhaps he even found his own hair black!

Perhaps he even considered coming to the supermarket with a towel around his head so people would imagine his hair was red, which it was.
He was probably named Athanagild and was probably a Visigothic prince, otherwise perhaps Ben.
He clearly relished watching Gregor stick his hard plastic credit card deep into the terminal’s mouth, and was doing the same with gusto at his own register.

Gregor was debating: would he rather follow the boy to his apartment, make love with him, and marry him, especially if he was a Visigothic prince? Or was it was more prudent to first invite him to his home? Ideally they would move in together and make love all the time.
But without the red-haired boy’s actual presence
(so Gregor could be left alone).
Otherwise the boy might complain about Gregor’s lentils
and keep him awake at odd hours.
Also what about that awkward moment after making love,
when the boy would realize that Gregor’s tap water and apricots
were rotten?
What if he was disgusted?
What if he hated tap water?
What if he worked for the pizza union
and blacklisted Gregor forever?
What if he wanted to have other meals than breakfast
and didn’t like cod liver?

Did the Visigothic religion ban cod liver? Gregor couldn’t remember. He had probably learned that in high school and foolishly thought he would never need that information. He was stressed out at the idea of having to visit his new lover in the Visigothic neighborhood.
What if he didn’t live there?
What if he lived somewhere strange,
in a strange apartment with unpleasant lighting,
with a high creaky bed
with a thin mattress pushed right against the window
so all the neighbors could watch them make love
and call the police if they kept their socks on?
What if he had mice in his apartment,
or feral artichoke-eating lobsters that carried diseases?

Gregor realized the boy would probably insist on making love on a ferry in Bangladesh
(some people just have that fantasy and you can’t get it out
of them)
and they would die drowning together.
This was a very bad idea.
Also, what was the point of this random red-hair freckled boy?
Gregor himself had red hair and freckles (despite having black hair).
He was not the kind of person who would date someone
because they look like him,
oh no.
How narcissistic.
And even if that boy secretly had black hair,
well, so did Gregor.
They basically looked like twins actually,
what would be the point of even dating him?
He drove home.

By the time Gregor got home it was breakfast time.
(yes, ding dong)
I guess it was maybe a little dark, like somewhere in the sky? Hard to say.
He made himself a bowl of vanilla almond ice cream with lentils and cod liver, then microwaved it for a minute. It wasn’t very good. Not like rotten, but something about the bowl maybe was the wrong shape?

He turned on the TV but it was that time of day when broadcast TV revolves around creepy artichoke-eating lobster issues and Bangladesh and that kind of thing,
and he didn’t have the Visigothic channel
— if there was such a thing —
and anyway there were enough sinking ferries in this country without having to occupy his mind with everyone else’s.
Also seriously why does TV always seem to have so many moving images
with people talking
and making noise
and so many different channels,
each with moving colors
and shapes
and noises,
that is just so much input,
so much stimulation,
so exhausting,
who could possibly watch such a thing?

He turned off the TV, turned the screen around so it faced the wall, and covered it with a shirt. He was slightly concerned that people would look at him through the screen (though he realized they were probably too busy making noise and getting agitated to pay attention to him). Still it was better to have the screen face the wall.

the wall was slightly glossy,
and maybe they could see out the angles of the screen?
in a sort of curved way?
thanks to the wall’s slightly reflective coating?

Probably not, but the shirt was still a sensible precaution. Though that shirt was actually a bit thin. In theory you could see through it. You’d have to really put your eyes right up to it and look into the light. But who knows how close they’d get to his shirt? After all it was right on the screen, touching it. He put a thicker sweater on top of the shirt and now the screen was securely blind.

The phone rang.
“Hi Gregor.”
“Hi mom.”
“How are things going, how are you feeling?”
“Fine, normal, everything fine. I went to the store — like, earlier.”
Gregor wasn’t an expert at technical questions of morning or evening or yesterday or today and all that stuff, but “earlier” was pretty safe.
“Good, what did you get?”
“Stuff for breakfast, vegetables.”
“Nice. Are you eating well? Balanced meals?”
“Of course, you know I like cooking. I eat very well.”
“Sounds like you’re doing great. Are you being social, seeing some people?”
“Sure. I saw this girl with her roommate, we talked for a little while. I don’t think you know her name,” said Gregor — truthfully, in the sense that he didn’t know her name either.
“Well that sounds wonderful. Glad you’re seeing people and eating well. Keep up the good work, love you.”
“Love you mom.”

Mom was nice. It was funny that she didn’t have a name either — except for “mom,” but that was more a function or a title than a name, like “majesty” or “your honor.” There was a logic and an order in the universe after all.
I mean, he never doubted that.
Gregor sat on the floor. The triangle formed by the fridge handle, the overhead lamp and the sink tap pointed up, and
if the world was symmetrical
then it implied a similar triangle
right underneath it,
but pointing down.
And that was essentially an invitation by the universe to sit there, on that auspicious well-signed spot designated by the apex of the triangle.

The floor was cold and uncomfortable. Maybe he didn’t care so much about this triangle and he could just sit in the couch?
He felt calm.
He felt this strangely relaxing sense that he was alone in his room,
and nobody was looking at him
and nothing mattered very much at all.
Objects around him were blissfully still,
even the ones out of his field of vision
all polite, staying still.

He showered, then looked at himself in the mirror.
There was no one else in the mirror, just him, naked.
He felt fresh.
He put on his pajamas.
The air was still and peaceful
The light was pleasantly irrelevant.
The objects had no angles: geometry was suspended.

He put on a Mahalia Jackson song. He stripped the linens off his bed and put the dirty sheets in the laundry basket, then put on new sheets and made the bed. Mahalia Jackson was singing “I’m glad salvation is free.”
He crawled into bed — his sheets were crisp and clean. He fell asleep to the sound of gospel music. Salvation was free, hallelujah.

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