It’s the armpit of winter. 9 o’clock at night.
An orange football thermometer mocks me with a reading of 34 degrees, as I shiver in plastic gloves, black jeans and a baseball cap, fishing rogue “mile high wieners” out from underneath a rusting, mobile rotisserie.
To distract myself from the drunken Bronco’s fans whooping and cursing outside, I imagine that I am a benevolent sea captain, rescuing down on their luck Titanic passengers from treading an icy grave.
Now, don’t be fooled. I’m no altruist. I don’t wish to rewrite the actual incident in 1912 in my hotdog play, rather, alternate- ending the happenings of the 1998 movie interpretation with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s nice to conceive that in some capacity, in some universe, he owes me a favor. Plus, patriarchal systems of 1912 probably wouldn’t allow me and my vagina to captain anything other than a gravy boat. My imagination doesn’t require historical accuracy, so yes, it’s mostly for Leo Deo.
Tonight we are short staffed at the glorious establishment that is Philadelphia Philly, and I’m feeling subtly feverish. However, like any good employee of the food-service industry, I persevere, and continue food preparation despite potential for contamination. And like any good, card carrying, hypochondriac, I begin to wonder if I have meningitis or some other potentially fatal disease.
“It’s actually more common than you may think, and can be contracted from sharing drinks”, I warn my co-worker, suspiciously eyeing my blue water bottle. Having read an article earlier that day about the sickness, my mind, no doubt a little frazzled from synthetic cheese fumes, can’t help but wander into the worst case scenario. Anxiously, I recite my death sentence to every rowdy orange blob that approaches me, “ Do you want your buns cut in half?” , only to receive arrogant grunts and sidelong glances in return. Maybe if the people knew I was dying, they wouldn’t be so rude.
I try to reason with myself that this increasingly uneasy feeling that is overcoming me can be attributed to prolonged exposure to tight pants and football fans. After all, I’m a notorious WEbMd inspector, and the notion that I have meningitis is not only improbable but also not in step with my symptoms.
As I continue to work, my limbs begin to feel feverishly warm despite the frigid outdoor temperature. But what is really strange, what triggers the development of a totally logical thought process of concern, is how eerily detached I feel, as if I’m not truly present, completely disassociated. . The feeling threatens bile up my throat like magma. If I can just make it through the next half hour, I can go home and sleep it off.
I focus on other things.
Some time passes and we are down to the last couple of straggling customers. Having finished food prep, I switch gears and begin to check people out at the register. Growing increasingly feverish, I am starting to believe that maybe there is some validity to my paranoid concerns. Maybe it’s not meningitis, but it is something.
I am sorting creased bills when the shaking begins.
It is first evident in the sodas, plastic bottles absorbing the waves, silently transferring to the liquid inside.
Then, in the overhead lights, waving ever so slightly, like a child sitting on a swing.
Before I know it, everything is shaking as if something turned the stadium on vibrate. I lock eyes with a woman across the stand.
Then, there is a flash, and chaos erupts. There is a blaring sound and a lot of movement. A sanguine stench penetrates the air and I want to vomit. It’s coming out of my nose, more blood than I have ever seen, and I want to vomit.
Someone grabs my arm and I am being dragged away from the commotion, away from the sound, away from the light. Then, there is nothing.
I am unaware of how much time has passed as I gradually gain consciousness. My mouth tastes like metal and I feel like I am drowning, but I can breath.
An unnerving sound emerges from the silence, like a heartbeat, but not alive- one two.
I am in a small room with many desks, seated in the very back row. A massive, analog clock is mounted on the wall, ticking anxiously.
one two -one two- one two
Before me is a sheet of paper and an inkwell. Or at least what I think is an inkwell, I had never seen one before. I examine the paper, which appears to be some sort of ad or questionnaire.
Complete the survey and receive complimentary meal at TGI Friday’s
- Rate your experience with Al’s locomotives on a scale of one to ten.
- In the future, how can we be more accommodating?
- How did you hear about us?
I go through the rest half attentive. It is the last one that strikes me.
8. Are you happy with your decision? Check Y or N.
I am staring at the question when the shaking begins again. First evident in the inkwell, transferring the waves to the liquid inside, then in the clock, arms vibrating out of their rhythm. like a heart palpitating.
The next thing I know, I am shaking and I want to vomit. Oh god I want to vomit. I feel like I am submerged in water, faint voices echo through, barely reaching me.
Make up, Jessie make up
The words are muffled, I can’t hear them at first.
Wake up, wake up
I open my eyes slowly, suddenly everything is clear…
“We’re breaking through the stratosphere”
The overhead light is beeping and the craft is shaking, rocking back and forward. People are cheering. I slept through the beginning of the landing. How could I have slept through the beginning of the landing?. One two One two One two
“Welcome to Mars, kid.”