SPOTLIGHT: On Habits & Habitats by Jennifer Schneider

on habits and tastykakes

habits often work like clocks. even across time zones. most nights she’d fill a small glass with gin and a large plate with a single cake. buttercream filling. chocolate icing. “tasty,” she’d say with a snort. her left hand would pop the cake into parted lips & her right hand would pat the box. branded, of course. when she moved (was moved) by well meaning (& off putting) off-spring to a more temperate locale, she took the boxes (of cake & gin) with her. somehow, the movers lost the latter en route.

on low tides :: calls of/to/from home

males & meds of means visit on a regular basis. a quarter past each hour. dressed of raggedy ann jowls & long white coats. three steps in. four steps out. all laces tied. all eyes dotted. under eye shadows & concentric circles always expanding. pens clink of clipboards. tongues click on yellowed teeth. questions stream at rates that rival jeopardy. reruns at 7 o’clock eastern. the price always right. dateline always timely. eastern seaboards call. phone conversations carefully monitored. life jackets & dual pronged straps secured. in the small pockets of air where low meets high tide & where latches meet keys on silver rings, i inhale. exhale. long to go home.

on office memos ::

missed, missing, mysterious

we were uniformed to a degree, but highly irregular. bylines typically boasted terminal degrees. backgrounds fully checked. all t’s crossed. all i’s dotted. all temperatures regulated. no one noted that the water was murky. do you swim? one asked at the interview. to break the ice, she laughed & wrapped her pale pink cardigan – wool, perhaps acrylic – a little tighter. does it itch, i asked. no, she replied. when can you START. only later did that same individual clarify the urgency. rough waters. all seeking small pockets of air. & cover.

inhale. exhale. breathe.

later, on a day i sought pockets (of air & sanity) and came up empty, another member of the search committee confessed he couldn’t tell me why i didn’t want the job. the one he recruited me for. the one i took. ready to dive in, he asked? yes, i had replied. eager to START. 

on the day he found me sitting on the floor, crossed legged and double crossed, he offered me a cup of unsweetened applesauce & asked if i had met the barracudas. swimmers in the big tank. on the 5th floor. i think they’re goldfish, he mused. then told me a secret. they rotate the bodies & boast they’re original. all of us, sunk. belly-up.

in between feedings & mugs of black coffee – two creams, extra sugar, we’d pick up, chew, & spit quotes by the dozen. as a coping mechanism. artificial sweeteners everywhere. 

inhale. exhale. breathe.

when someone shows you who they truly are, believe them, one reminded. tigers don’t change their spots, another whispered. box, seal, & shelve, many suggested. only what happens when you’re in a cage & the only other inhabitant – your daily mail – is the man eating

the mail often came late. even so, we received certified letters on a regular basis. games always on. suits always threatened. decks always shuffled. jokers in all corners. all rules printed in 2-point font. no available readers. on perpetual reprint. 

inhale. exhale. breathe.

always a away from STOP. don’t quit. what will others say. more memos. bills to play. pay. you can’t do this. another day. STOP. 


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