Open the front door at six a.m. See if the dead still stir. They never keep to a regular schedule.
Swallow hard to move sinus pain from skull. Keep swallowing. Eventually, it might work.
Walk into bathroom. Splash face and back of neck with cold water. Whatever you do, don’t breathe. Gasp for oxygen, your face buried in a towel, once you’ve finished.
Do not notice the dead, laughing.
Make coffee. Two rounded scoops of grounds, three cups water, and who knows how much gravel from ancient water pipes.
Close eyes. Thank God the neighbors are quiet. They dragged trashcans along their driveway, dropped boxes from their second-floor balcony—all of this well after midnight. Hopefully, not even the dead are up over there. Purple nightshade twists through chain link, the fence one solid bloom; the vine has wrapped itself around the plum tree in a back-yard shotgun wedding.
Pour coffee. Take it black. Sip. Feel tiny gravestones down your throat.
Notice seven large parrots perched on a line between two phone poles. Their feathers glow green, brighter than money.
Fill large salad bowl with Cheerios. Add milk. Shovel mechanically into mouth.
Do not notice the parrots are now shiny black, look more like falcons.
Ingest two pills of sanity—one nightshade purple, one bleached bone—and a multivitamin, just in case you should live so long as to enjoy that sanity, whenever it might come—you’re pretty sure it’s not going to be today. The pills feel like larger chunks of gravestone going down.
Do not count the parrots. Do not notice there are only five now, or the two large splatter patterns below them, like when liquid-filled balloons are dropped from high above.
Drink more coffee. Keep drinking. There is only so much solace in the world.
Do not listen to the dead, laughing louder.