The bureaucrats are not faceless. They have the same face. One man sits inside them and processes all the forms. One man says no to the confused applicants. One man with long thin fingers as smooth as a surgeon’s hidden inside the fat ones and the broken ones.
Three applicants return again and again, a nondescript middle-aged couple with long gray coats and too many kids who don’t accompany them and an elderly woman who sometimes looks like a man.
The building is large and the parking lot is filled with small foreign cars, hunkering dented American gas hogs and pickup trucks. In the vacant lot across the street, left-over cinder blocks serve as planters for weeds.
Outside, the statistics posture and wait. They never enter the building. One of them holds a loaf of bread gently like a child’s head. His pain is gone, but the limbs are still twisted. It’s not possible to live where no one is sick or tired and the cold can’t get in.
I’ve been resting in the grass and it’s time to come out. Because my family multiplies, I fill out the same forms again and again. Brothers and sisters and brothers and sisters and the children diving between each other’s legs and rhyming, diving and rhyming.
Death doesn’t join in. It waits in line. It can’t be enough.
I must have been recurring. I must have been happening more than once. I needed the careless silence scattered on the lawn. I needed the lawn. I needed a smoky ruin of a man wheezing with strained pleasure to guide me. I needed to breathe again. The same face removing the obstacles. I needed the pleasure of my name on a form to make me count, I needed spaces with labels to fill me in, I needed numbers. I needed routine. I was about to be processed but I wasn’t part of the process. I saw the man who handled the forms and he wasn’t me, but he was the same man. He wasn’t a man, but he was the same one. I didn’t know how long he would take. I held my breath and started counting. I held my breath and let it out and I held it again. And then again until it didn’t belong to me.
Rich Ives is the author of Tunneling to the Moon: A Psychological Gardener’s Book of Days currently being published in serial @ Silenced Press everyday in 2014 and forthcoming in paperback. Begin from the beginning, catch up, read daily. Just refer to the Burrow Guide.