Her footsteps echoed down the concrete stairway. Each click of her high heels on the grey steps matched her increasing heart rate. Beads of sweat started forming under her arms, and as she contemplated what “all day protection” really meant, she finally found herself at the heavy grey door, emblazoned with the number four in orange spray paint. The metal door handle was cold in her hot, moist hands. A low rumble came from deep inside her as she pulled the door open, exposing the familiar hallway. It was thirty steps from the stairway to her door, the third on the left, the same as all the others. The only discernable difference between hers and the countless others was the keyhole. Every day that she would walk up to the pale wood, she would notice the scratches around the lock; shallow scars left from nights of passion, drunken fumbling, desperate to get inside and out of their clothes. Those were alcohol fueled nights, stripping in the artificial glow from the streetlights, stretching their naked bodies out in front of the windows, curtains open, only the fogging glass between them and the world. That was when they were younger, and more in love; days when whipped cream was eaten off of nipples and stomachs instead of added straight into a tub of double chocolate ice cream; back when he used to call her “Annie” instead of “Ann”. Now she hasn’t had sex in weeks, and even if she did, she’d spend most of the few minutes she had contemplating painting the walls.
She knew that when she opened their apartment door all of the lights would be on. This bothered Ann. Ann hated wasting anything, except for time on her way home. The lights would be on, yet they would be shining for no one. He would be off somewhere scrounging for more metal shit to dump in his little corner of the living room. The rest of the apartment was spotless, down to the grout between the tiles, but his corner, his fucking corner, it looked like trash that even the dump would reject. He was a sculptor. He was also a Jimmy. Not James, or Jim, or even Jimbo. No, this adult, or what was supposed to be an adult, was named Jimmy. This child sculptor managed to get himself a grant to pursue his garbage art, and that money was running thin, yet no sculpture seemed to manifest itself out of the scrap metal and foul smelling plastics. All that this project seemed to accomplish was giving them yet another thing to argue about. She could fix them both dinner, pork chops that were set to expire the day she froze them, and now laid in a perpetual state of almost bad for the last several months. She could do that, but why bother. It would sit on a plate next to his pile of shit, until it too became art. Her preferred art form was adjusting insurance claims. It was beautiful in its lack of soul. To her, it was the Mona Lisa, if looking at the Mona Lisa required you to sit in front of a computer screen and hate your life for eight hours a day.
It’s natural to find yourself bored with your life. When life is too exciting, it means you are doing something wrong. There’s always something that needs planning for, always something that requires the grunt work. Saving, planning, preparing, this was her life. Ann dreamed of doing something exciting. She stayed late at her office several nights a week. It was hers the way the apartment building was hers. She stayed there, but it would be there after she left, and she really held very little importance. Her small part of the office, though, that was hers. Her six by six cell was her slice of heaven; there were no piles of trash, and the cubicle adjacent held her muse. The most beautiful human being on the planet sat just eight feet away. They would shoot each other meaningful glances, low eyelids, puckered lips, flashes of tongue; the more than implied sexual connotations drove Ann crazy. One night Ann found herself scribbling a note on the inside of a paper airplane. After a precise throw that would make the most respected airline pilots jealous, the object of her desire opened and read the note. Scrawled inside was a simple message “On my desk, 5:45”. The meaning was clear enough. As the clock swung around its axis, and the colony deserted its paycheck-signing queen, Ann’s heart started beating faster. She knew what she was doing was wrong. She didn’t care, though. She wanted to be satisfied, and she wanted to be with someone who actually cared. At exactly 5:45, Ann was ready. As she sat the leaves fell from the trees, replaced by a thick white blanket. Soon, as the blankets unraveled, new buds popped up, eventually growing back into the lush green they once were. At 5:46 a figure appeared at her cubicle entrance. Ann felt herself become excited, the way the tequila once did. Her skin was burning hot with the increase in blood flow from her rapidly beating heart. Her armpits started beading with sweat. She stared at her co-worker’s perfect skin. She followed the jaw line down to the perfect neck lying just below the perfect jaw. Ann found herself staring at the perfect set of breasts on her co-workers perfect size five frame. As Helen, the number two claims adjuster in the region, stood before her, Ann felt that her life was finally coming to mean something beautiful; something that didn’t require planning. As Helen came in, her red, full lips wet and waiting, Ann realized that there was something stopping her. Ann opened her eyes, just in time to stop in her tracks. She had reached the door, absentmindedly putting yet another scratch around the lock. She smiled, tried again to put her key in the lock, opened the door, and stood looking at the pile of shit in the corner of the living room. She threw her purse on the floor, opened the freezer and grabbed the pint of double chocolate ice cream. She opened the refrigerator and sighed. They were out of whipped cream.