The steam pipe drained, torturously, at a higher pitch than a wounded cat, higher than his hissing nervous system. He was afraid for a moment that he was in danger. But he dropped it, because, really, what was he going to do? Where was he going to go? And who could he call? At least it was still early. Nobody else had arrived to the office, it seemed. His eyes hurt. He felt that when he slept he must have been choking. Or he was never truly asleep. One channel was switched off in the dark and that was enough. He peered into the computer screen. The numbers were all in order and flagged where they needed flagging. He made a phone call and placed his voice onto a recorder. I am housed somewhere else, he thought, inside of a little black cubby. He expected no calls, not ever. More numbers came in and had to be hung properly in the spreadsheet. He placed them there neatly. More numbers were on their way. He could hear them being forged like chain—link by slow glowing link, slammed from the fire. He stood up, stretched his back, and gave way to a slow exhalation. He decided he’d take a walk. Why does everything look so bare? Why’s everything so hidden, he thought. It could be 1966. It could be 1988. It could be 2001. The computers are the only objects that mark time and even these checkpoints beg to be verified. He walked the long O of the 14th floor, nobody—no one sinking into his chair, grabbing with his numb butt for the sweet spot; no one standing over the coffeemaker with her hand at her hip. When he was at the ¾ mark of lap one, he heard the water running in the sink of the pantry. The stream was deliberate and slow. He told himself to ignore it, to walk past, but he had stopped before he came to the threshold. It was Rindder, a frighteningly slender analyst he tried to avoid for reasons he wasn't comfortable sharing with anyone. Rindder was there, rinsing the tomato sauce off of a Glenrych South Atlantic Plichard. Sardines. He watched him. The can sat there open, looking like a weapon with its sharp tin top still connected to the can’s body. He felt nauseous, but the kind of nausea he would feel when he would sleep, when the important channels were switched off. He watched Rindder’s thumb massage the fish’s belly. Red water fell away from the thing like blood or rust. Rindder took the fish to his mouth and bit into it at the gut. He slurped like he was dying of thirst. He thought about how wide his eyes must be as they hang over the sink and almost collapsed. Jesus Christ, he said, turned, and walked back toward his desk. It wasn't even noon.
Britt Melewski’s poems have appeared in Puerto Del Sol, the Philadelphia Review of Books, Sporkpress, Heavy Feather Review, and are forthcoming in Tidal Basin Review, among others. Melewski received his MFA at Rutgers-Newark in 2012. He lives in Brooklyn.