Work Day
Sobri Quet


Stay with me for a moment. I need to build up my energy. I’m going to talk about food. I need to just think about food, something basic, like given, safe, fundamental, like material, like I need food to think, well, to think beyond thinking for itself—the thinking that loops life without reflection.
 
After food, through food, I’ll be able to talk/think. I haven’t found time to go to the grocery in like a week, so I’m short on all sorts of staples. Tamari, frozen waffles, greens, vegetables (zucchini), white rice (and maybe some short brown), orange juice (been craving it in the mornings), instant coffee, coconut milk, black beans (dried and canned), chick peas, tomatoes (canned and not), thai chili peppers, serrano peppers, jalapenos, tofu, tempeh, garlic, tumeric.
 
I’m making polenta for dinner. It’ll take forever, so I set the water over heat before I bother to take off my coat. I wash my face. There’s candy at the office. There will be for the remainder of the holiday season. While I eat salad out of the grocery bag, the water comes to a confident boil. Smell the garlic, intuit the salt and watch the glob of margarine dissolve. I place my whole face in the steam streaming up from the rolling clot. Just as the heat pushes me away, a sincere hope that everyone feels a self-directed warmth at some point in their life percolates in my stomach.
 
Today I defended someone against mental health commitment. A nurse guides me through labyrinthine hallways paradoxically painted with calming muted colors and natural tones. We pause outside the crisis hall while the nurse unlocks the metal, pastel door. People dressed in teal scrubs linger near the door. I see through the small metal mesh square. The square sits slight lower than eye level, so I instinctively crook my neck to meet someone’s eye through the mesh. I don’t understand this impulse. I cling to the nurse’s sphere of personal space as we enter the small teal flood and racks of postprandial hospital trays.
 
I almost vomit. I hate myself. I almost vomit again. I avoid eye contact with everyone. I hate this situation, a small dissociation, suspension of self and deflection, to get through the next few seconds. I want it to end. I emotionally rush—through I wouldn’t let myself actually move any faster—into the TV room where I’ll meet with my guy. As the door closes behind us, a person in teal reaches out, brushing my back and I hear the nurse say, no touching.  
 
Fuck. I recognize my guy from a bail review a few weeks ago. He looks up at me and smiles as though he recognizes me too. I feel relief. Comforted by his warmth, I sit close to him. I fold back into myself, and we shake hands. He’s cold and suddenly flat. I regret shaking hands, and complete the return trip back to self-loathing. He’s watching the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air on a small TV encased in a pastel cage seamlessly welded to the floor and walls. I introduce myself and mention the bail review; under normal circumstances, I would halfheartedly hope that this chit-chat would lead trust; however in this low saturation metal box, I’m tossing out a cogency litmus test. My guy’s response: Almost everyone is on television. After a few more questions largely followed by mutual incomplete sentences spaced by monosyllabic onomatopoeia instead of punctuation, the nurse and security guard lead us to the makeshift court room.
 
The doctors and nurses wear teal scrubs and erratic affects also, making the visual language of the hospital ambiguous. During the hearing, my guy parrots the judge; with full sentences he agrees to commitment. I ask questions of the confusing doctor, but can’t argue. I think all of my sentences trailed. Ugh. I leave the hospital after the hearing, which I knew before I went was more of a formality than other hearings, most of which are opaque formalities. So I didn’t leave defeated and I didn’t leave feeling useful. I left feeling like there wasn’t anywhere to go. Emptied of the energy for resentment, I left my guy in bizarre purge, a seamless, visceral loop.