9 to 5 | Flash Fiction
Watch the blue jays arch their necks, peck at empty space. They are so plentiful, like flies. Watch the blue jays fly away. Sleepwalk to the bookcase; transpose the diet coke from top to bottom shelf. Tetris the grid. Strangle the tube of hand lotion. Lather the cream into waiting palm. Collapse into your seat and swivel once, twice. Throw your head back, let raspberry lime seltzer trickle down your throat. You’ve never liked seltzer, nor the artificial tinge of citrus, but carbonation breaks your hunger. You’re always hungry but you never eat. There’s a certain eroticism to the ache.
Toggle between Python scripts and Thrillist, Eater. You’re always hungry but you never eat. Covet the perfectly-burnt waffle cones, the artisanal ice cream and tiny cakes, parse the Yelp reviews line by line, and oh—you could sustain yourself on the possibilities alone, and oh—maybe the grim satisfaction of living flows not from consumption but from the anticipation of it, thwarted desire, from driving yourself to the edge of what is bearable again and again.
Obnoxiously tap your keyboard. Flick from Stack Overflow, where you’ve been untangling a “layman’s explanation” for the entire morning, to your IDE, where your code hibernates, ungainly and raw as a child’s scribbles. Delete delete delete. Try for indignation when your co-worker comments upon your “unhealthy obsession with food.” Fail. Sharpen your shame into anger. Fail better.
Take your one-hour lunch break. You’re always hungry but you never eat. Walk to Starbucks in the unrelenting heat. You’re always hungry. Order an iced black coffee, bitter, unblemished by milk, precisely how you like it. It’ll burn the hunger out of you. Pipette the coffee through wooden lips. Rake your eyes over the menu. Ham and swiss panini, turkey and basil pesto, chicken Caprese, no. Desire bobs to the surface, and you push it down, and you know you’ve lost. Make for the door because then you can tell yourself, later, that you tried. Desire, like a float it comes back up. Pivot. Chicken Caprese? No, a bagel. The plain bagels have sold out, fine. Order a bagel specked with sesame and cheese, you’re too far gone, when you get like this you just can’t stop, old train barreling toward old destination at 120 mph and you can’t get off, don’t want to, not now, your mind’s locked onto the memory of taste—the bagel is there and then it isn’t, and you’re still so hungry, and your hand is carving out the cream cheese with the frail black knife, again and again, guiding it to your parted lips, your hand, your hand on that contemptible knife, like a malfunctioning robot-like someone else’s arm—
Emily Yin is a junior studying computer science at Princeton University. Her writing has been recognized by the UK Poetry Society and the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers. She currently serves as a poetry editor at Nassau Literary Review. Her work is published in or forthcoming from the Indiana Review Online, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, decomP magazinE, and Connotation Press, among others.