Jane watches the wall and it watches back. Jane talks to the wall, sometimes, but it does not answer. Say hello to Jane. Hello. Jane is me, and I am alone. Jane has been alone for I do not know how long. Many years. Many lives. If Jane stretches her arms wide the time will break out and keep spreading, cracking through the walls and flying free, free, free. Jane thinks this is good for time. Jane thinks that time goes in loops and loops that spell infinity, and Jane likes this because this is how it goes for her also.
I n f i n i t y, she says, not in all caps like a spelling bee, just in upper-case, lower-case, up down up down. Jane thinks this is what crazy looks like. Jane might have thought she was crazy a while ago, but Jane does not believe in the crazy anymore, because there is not enough of it to excuse her actions, excuse me excuse me. Jane remembers the word infinity from very quickly ago and realizes that saying the letters out loud is too abrupt, too rude. I n f i n i t y, she whispers, and the breath spirals up towards the ceiling and falls down flat, a little moth Icarus burnt by the sun. Jane feels better, but it would be better as a real moth. Like a real hello-I-am-alive moth. She could talk to it then. Jane talks in a beautiful mess, a supernova. Ouch. Let’s talk to Jane. Where is your house, Jane? Point to it. Jane’s world is a little shoebox with a ‘bedroom’ and a ‘bathroom’ that are three feet apart, no less. For one slice of infinity a day (infinity twenty-three of twenty-four, Jane believes), Jane leaves her world for the other world. They put Jane in a cage and she runs until the sweat makes her body healthy. Then they think this means she is healthy and Jane goes back into the box again. It is alright for Jane, because she does not mind. If she did mind it would be bad. But Jane does not bother with minding things anymore. Jane does not think, because thinking is bad. If Jane does that she will–
Jane slides down the wall like a streak of paint, the thick and greasy kind that costs less. She can see the faces looking at her, saying something, saying nothing, don’t talk to me–
No. Jane is thinking. Do not think, do not think.
Jane rises awkwardly, slowly, like a film in reverse. Jane wants to see a film. Pretty pictures in pretty boxes. Jane sits down again and surveys the land. Lioness, she is. Protect, Jane. Hide yourself. The box has a toilet, a sink, and a bed. That is all. The sheets are stained and striped like an American flag dragged through the mud. Jane thinks this is funny. There is a hole near the top right corner that cuts through exactly fifteen tiny pinstripes where Jane hides her memories. (Memories are not good to dwell on, only to browse.) The sink is an odd shade of not-white with lickings of rust around the edges. The handles do not turn unless Jane tries very, very hard after the cage-running infinity. The walls are gritty and have over one hundred gray bricks (sometimes Jane loses her counting under the bed where her head is) that align in rows that bother Jane because they do not lock together. Some rows are too forward, some too backwards. They are uneven and Jane does not like this. Jane likes things to work out. Jane likes things to be simple. Jane does not want to have to stay after school like a bad kid because she knows he’s gonna be home any minute, hide hide–
Jane takes a deep breath, rubs her hair together and un-together, shakes her head. Jane should not think. Thinking is not good for Jane. Jane likes the talking better.
Beeeeeeeeep, says a cell door. Oh. Talking.
Hello, says Jane.
Beeeeeeeeep, groans another door.
I’m terribly sorry, door, Jane says, is Jane bothering you?
Beeeeeeeeep-kerchunk, the next one snaps, and the others hum together in agreement.
See you some infinity, Jane says. Jane does not like to say goodbye. Don’t say goodbye.
If Jane says that, she will have to think about that time when the rain was blowing all around and he slipped it was an accident repeat after me–
Jane, stop thinking, dammit. Stop. Think. Ing. Now. Think. Bad.
Jane closes her eyes. Jane likes doing this. When her eyes are closed, Jane is in the open blackness. It is a nice place, because it is infinite too. Jane likes when things are infinite. Her day is the loop that repeats and repeats until there are no days anymore and that is okay. Jane believes she is more peaceful now than all the other livings. Doors are fun. Beeeeeeeeep, Jane says. But it’s only a pretend. Not a hello-I-am-alive door, not a moth. Jane thinks a little about Yesterday Jane. Yesterday Jane was thinking about stars again, about how the sky bleeds through them when you look outside like they’re bullet holes or stab wounds that just leak into thick blue-blackness. Jane likes the stars, but if she thinks of them she will be sad.
So Jane does this instead:
- Jane wakes up and lies down on the floor. It is cold. Jane can feel the gray seeping into her back.
- Jane sits up. Jane sits down. Again. Again. Again. Exercise.
- Jane looks through the window that is cut like a small knife slit and checks off the things that she sees. Dead grass. Cold, dead-metal gates. Dead people, too, wearing bright orange funeral clothes.
- Jane washes herself in the sink. Jane splashes the water on her face, but she still doesn’t feel hello-I-am alive. She has been alive for too long, maybe. Too many infinities. Humans cannot understand infinity. Is she human? On the days the sink does not work, Jane just pretends.
- Jane tells the wall what she did on February twenty-seventh two years ago. It was her birthday, so she got presents. She didn’t get presents this year. The wall does not sympathize. Jane threw her food against it yesterday, so it’s not speaking to her. Jane will try again tomorrow.
Something is shoved through a slot by a pale hand. Jane thinks it is a person hand for a quick time, but that is silly. Jane doesn’t believe in humans anymore. Jane takes the food and studies it. It is the bad loaf. Jane counts the raisins. They are little wrinkled seeds, skinny and lonely. They are Jane’s favorite. Jane picks off a few and eats them. Then she counts the carrot pieces. They are also orange. They must be dressed for the funeral, too. Jane laughs softly, then loudly, until she is unable to breathe. Lots of times Jane needs funny things to happen. When Jane has calmed down, she takes the loaf and mashes it up, making a sculpture. On second thought, Jane destroys it: there is not enough room for a sculpture. Jane needs the space so she can stretch out her arms. Jane hasn’t been able to do that in a while. Maybe if she moved the bed it would work. Jane starts thinking about this and feels uncomfortable. Jane wants to spread her arms. Jane wants to feel, but she cannot, I cannot, because he will find me out there but if I stay here I will be swallowed by infinity oh no–
I start screaming and I do not stop. It goes on for infinities and infinities and is so much more hurting than a quick time ouch. I take the loaf and I scream at it too. I throw it. Again. Again. Again. It’s not broken yet, so I hit it again, but it is too soft like me all mushy insides, mushy–
Jane is crying. Why is Jane crying? Jane is stupid to cry. Shut up, Jane. Shut up shut up shut up. I’m trying to think, Jane. We are crying for infinities. I can say infinity backwards and forwards. Some people can’t do that. Calm down, Jane, calm down. Let’s say it backwards, okay?
Y t i n i f n i, Jane says, soft and slow. Y t i n i f n i, not in all caps like a spelling bee, just in upper-case, lower-case, down up down up. Parallel. Jane breathes and realizes that she is still alive. Jane is not orange and dead; Jane is alive, and alone.
Humans are not alone.
Jane tries to stop thinking, but it is all coming back now. The man she does not want to see, in the corner of the room with his lips on fire. He bites the cylinder, orange and white. Half dead, half not. He is still alive inside me, I think. The man wearing blood on his skin, like I do. Shut up–
I am crazy because my head melted all wrong, like a sad blue popsicle. Bad. Bad Jane. Jane knows nobody. Nobody is Jane. Oh, please talk to me. There is talking. I freeze. The talking sounds make no sense. I fear them. The door opens all the way. It is not the twenty-third infinity, is it? Has it already passed? I do not remember time. I do not move, but Jane stands up. Jane wants to look respectable, so she fixes her hair and brushes off the bad loaf. Jane is hungry, but it doesn’t matter, because she’s been hungry for many infinities. There is a face, a man. Jane does not know it. It makes her uncomfortable. He looks at her, but Jane does not know expressions anymore. She hasn’t seen one for many infinities. She looks at him. She does not like. The man opens his mouth and speaks in static. Jane does not understand.
He says again, “Come on.”
Oh. Jane hesitates. The shoebox is nice. It’s small and sad, but it’s safe. She does not trust the man, even with the badge sewn in his suit. She does not trust him.
Jane does not know that word. She whispers it to herself. O u t, she says. Oh. He waits impatiently for a response. Jane is afraid. Jane doesn’t know what to do. So Jane follows him. Jane follows him down a corridor and into a room, hums with a fax machine as it beep beep beeps out information, and is led outside. Jane sees the bright and it hurts. She does not know where to go. She does not know who to be. Jane is out. Jane is not liking. Jane is not alive.
Jane, Jane is alone.