Monolith

Instead of eating, I walk the office park during my lunch break, my hair steadily slipping from a loose topknot. It’s grown so long now that when I bathe, even if I lie on the floor of the tub with my book until my skin is dry, my hair pours water onto the bathmat as if from a pitcher. I wring it out in the sink. I’m 27 and I still have never blow-dried my own hair.

When I reach the furthest parking circle I see Narcissus hunched in front of the reflecting pool, positioned in the shadow of a sculpture that rises from the center. It looks like the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey but bent as if it was twisted by a giant hand.

At first, I thought he was shaking with tears. I cupped my hands around my mouth.

“I know what you’re doing,” I call out to him.

Without turning to me he raises both hands, fingers spread and dry. I walk over and put my hand on his head. I can do this Narcissus is a little scared of me.

“What’s the plan, kid?” I ask him with irony. “How do you imagine this is going to work out?”

His hair is soft and curly under my fingers and it reminds me of the back of a small white dog. For some reason, this makes me furious, and I push his head down to almost meet his reflection. His perfect face looks ruined from the discomfort and the ripples passing across the surface. Like any child of rejection, I have a penchant for horseplay. I hold him down until the ends of his pale eyelashes are beaded with water.

“I know what you did.” He says, with his lips grazing the surface. When I let him up he shakes a drop from his nose onto my forearm.

“Okay,” I’m rolling my eyes. “But what do you care? Who could you tell?”

He sighs and gazes back into his own eyes.

I decide I can stay awhile, and straddle the polished stone sill of the pool facing him, one leg calf-deep in the water where it is black and glossy in the shade. It feels slimy when it separates my slacks from my ankle. Narcissus seems to have forgotten about me until he lifts his other hand to catch something that drops from his mouth. He places it on the sill next to him, at a midpoint exactly between my legs. I pick it up; his saliva is like a clot of quartz crystals, white and grey.

“I’ll just drop it in my cupholder with my loose change.”

No answer.

I lean back to press my length against the hot stone. I woke up with my back sore this morning. I can still hear his arm moving and can tell his efforts have turned laborious and are exhausting him, he is not sure this time if he will make it. The end of lunch hour is coming and I tense my stomach to sit up but feel a tug at my scalp; a black rope of my hair has fallen in the water. There is a leash between me and my reflection. Her eyes are wide and trained on me with determination.

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