by Vee Weeks
Artist: Christopher Burns
When Daisy’s alarm went off at 7 am., she had already been staring at her white walls for three hours and she felt like her blue eyes were going to pop out of her head. She silenced her blaring phone and sat up, her bare feet hovering over the wooden floor. The razor blades on the bottoms of her feet glistened like they always did, slicing the air as Daisy kicked them out and then back in, like a little kid pumping on a swing. She didn’t start work until 9 and her office was only a fifteen-minute bus ride away, but it always took her a little extra time in the morning to work up the courage to put her full weight on those razor blades. They were a birth defect, having been embedded in her feet for all twenty-six years of her life. A life that consisted of wearing special shoes, seeing special doctors and never getting a break from the pain. Even when she was lying in bed, the pain would still trickle through her blood vessels, hence why she frequently woke up three hours before her alarm and had permanent raccoon eyes. It’s just that the pain always got worse when she stood up for the first time in the morning, therefore this was always the worst part of the day.
Her mind shuffled through the “exercises” she discussed with her doctors to make this part of the day easier. She squeezed her eyes shut and imagined her floor was a refreshing, soft lake on a summer afternoon, and all she had to do was put her feet in the water, which wouldn’t shove her razor blades further into her skin because water is gentle. Next she had to add the little mantra her doctors made her repeat to them a dozen times when she saw them.
“I am more than just these blades,” she whispered to herself. “I am a full person, and I just got a promotion, and eventually I will work my way up to Head Accountant. My friends like me a lot because I’m sweet and I’m a good listener, and my boss likes me because I’m engaged and creative and come up with great ideas for YWC. This is the woman I am, not the woman who lets these piercing, painful…”
She gulped. She never really did finish these stupid mantras when she had to say them to herself. Did she want to keep getting promotions until she was the head of her department? Of course. But what she wanted most of all in life is to get these stupid blades removed. The problem was, no cure had been created yet. As the doctors explained to her during her monthly visits, her birth defect was extremely rare and “affected less than 1% of the world’s population, blah, blah, excuses”, so no one was funding very much research into curing it, or at least creating a painkiller that would actually work. Daisy wished the doctors could just accept her life was hopeless and let her be miserable, but instead they insisted her life would be more bearable if she “just changed her attitude.”
Usually this dull, cynical anger was what pushed her to get out of bed, sucking her teeth as the razor blades shoved deeper into her skin. Although her feet stopped bleeding years ago, toughening up to this permanent bully they had to deal with, the pain was the same as always. For a few slow seconds, black dots danced around Daisy as she gripped the edge
of her bed. The doctors always told her to take deep breaths during this part, and that advice actually did pay off most days, so Daisy did it until the pain got milder and the dots cleared away. Now she was supposed to remind herself the worst was over and she could seize the day, but she had a hard enough time getting to the bathroom and seizing her toothbrush.
No one enjoys their commute, but it’s ten times worse when you’ve got razor blades in your feet. That’s what Daisy always thought as she limped onto her bus, imagining each step as a mountain peak. At least she had the foresight to get an apartment as close as possible to her office, and right upstairs from the bus stop. Maybe after enough promotions, she could even afford to live near her office and basically cut out the commute altogether. Daisy sucked her teeth as she limped down the aisle, hoping she wouldn’t collapse onto the seats and land on some old guy with a newspaper like she did last Tuesday. But sometimes the pain consumed her so much, she just had to rest her feet, old guys with newspapers be damned. She scanned the seats at the front, looking for even the smallest opening where she could sit, a skill that you learn when you frequently ride city buses during rush hour. Daisy squeezed between a brunette woman in a suit and the wall, taking the last seat at the front of the bus.
Just as the pain in her feet dialed back to something she could tolerate, the bus doors swished open and a man with a cane and silver hair hobbled on, having even more trouble with the stairs than Daisy was. She tried to make herself as small as possible, hoping the man would hobble past her and give up on getting a seat in the front, given they were occupied by the other disabled and old people that these seats were reserved for. But he saw her, of course, and although he was too polite to actually ask for the seat, he paused right in front of her and cleared his throat, muttering something about how he fought in Nam. A couple of older people nearby heard him, and now they looked at Daisy expectantly, too. They wouldn’t ask her to move, their eyes said, But really, how much trouble is it for a young, healthy woman to give her seat up to an old man with a cane? Her special boots lightly shuffled the floor as the bus resumed driving, totally concealing the razor blades she could feel beginning to pierce her skin as she stood up.
“Thank you, miss,” the man said, plopping down in the empty seat.
Ignoring him, Daisy moved to a pole a few feet away. The only empty seats were way in the back, and her stop was next, so it would be less trouble to stand in agony holding the pole than it would be to walk all the way back there only to get up two minutes later.
Daisy liked her job well enough, but actually getting to her desk was a marathon of wincing
and biting her lip as she walked to keep from screaming or doing something stupid and disruptive in this sterile, serious office. Her desk just had to be on the top floor of the building, and all the way at the back wall opposite the elevator. Some of her coworkers turned away from their desks to say hi as she passed them, and Daisy gave a quick wave without slowing her pace.
The sooner she got to her desk, the sooner she could feel (some) relief again. The sounds of clicking keyboards all around her pounded in her sleep-deprived brain as she finally sat down and the pain dialed back again. She consulted her calendar first, like she did every morning. No meetings today, thank god, and if she took lunch at her desk, she could make it the whole day without getting up. Walking to the conference room on the floor below hers was its own fresh hell.
After work, while waiting for the elevator with some coworkers, they told her they were going to Pax Hall for happy hour, and did she want to come? Daisy ate lunch with a few of them and they seemed friendly and cool, and they were the ones who called her a good listener, and she heard the margaritas at Pax Hall were out of this world. But she couldn’t imagine sitting at the bar with these people, fidgeting in her bar stool and trying not to act weird as the pain ate her alive. Or, worse, if the bar was crowded, and she had to stand and drink. Did she even have that in her? Probably not, and it’s no fun being the one person who everyone needs to accommodate, especially since she barely knew these people.
“I’m pretty beat, actually,” she said, plastering on a smile that hopefully didn’t look too fake.
“I might just go home tonight.” Like she did every night.
That was followed up by a chorus of “yeah, today was crazy, maybe next time, it’s been
forever since we all went out.” Had they ever gone out together.
Daisy got home around 6, stuck some mozzarella sticks in the microwave and let the noises drown out the sound of her tears. She should be used to this stupid, lonely routine by now, but it never stopped hurting that she couldn’t just have some margaritas at Pax Hall like every other twenty-six-year-old. She wiped her eyes as the microwave beeped its final beeps, then collapsed on her bed and drowned her sorrows with Hulu. At least she lived in an age with TV.
What would she do if she was born like this in 1760 or something? Maybe she would have been hung for being a witch. She snickered at the thought. One of her hobbies was making herself laugh, but understandably, it got old really fast. Her eyes grew heavy with sleep, but she knew the pain would keep her up for hours, even after she yanked some painkillers and melatonin out of her nightstand in a little while. Even after she shut off her light and the TV and laid in the darkness, staring at the white walls. She hated those blank, sterile, white walls. Would love to repaint them a hot pink, or lime green, or sky blue, but she didn’t even want to think about how much pain that would cause.
Vee Weeks graduated from Purchase Colleges’ Creative Writing Program with a Bachelor of
Arts. She has been published in Italics Mine, her college’s literary magazine, and is currently in the process of finding more homes for her creative work. When she’s not busy with that project, she spends her time drinking copious amounts of Starbucks and hanging out with her pet rat, who is cuter than you’re probably imagining.