What color is desperation? It can be a lot of colors. Sometimes desperation is off-white like gnashing teeth and cracking bones. Sometimes it's blue like the veins in the crook of an arm or red like spotty track marks. Other times desperation is black like funeral clothes or grey like cigarette ashes. It can be gold like a wedding ring, hidden in the pocket of a pair of jeans, and it can be clear like looking through a window in the rain. Desperation is a macabre rainbow with nothing but an empty pot at the end.
For Amylace, desperation was an itchy beige. It tickled her thin body. Little pieces of it trailed the rims of her eyes and floated deep into her nose and her throat and gave them its stinging itch that she could never scratch. For Amylace, desperation was a lot like allergies, but more permanent and lonelier.
When she woke up, it was in her blanket. When she brushed her teeth it was in the bristles of her toothbrush. It was under her eyes, in her smile, laid into the walls and floors of her dingy apartment, and it was even in the way she walked and spoke. Amylace's joints ached with the thought of a touch from another body. Flesh on flesh contact was a ghost that haunted her brain day and night, and it wasn't a desire for sex. It was deeper than that. The want was so deep and vast that if someone yelled into her, Amylace was sure she would echo.
Her alarm buzzes, and all her thought falls away. The young woman watches herself get out of bed and wander through her empty home filled with the ticking of clocks and the dribbling of her coffee maker, and nothing else. Everything is beige and stained with tears or uncomfortable memories. Even her skin is that same sickening shade of light tan, and her freckles are pin-pricks of scratchy imperfection that scream her humanness. It's like her whole body, her whole life, is an old bruise that lasts weeks longer than it should.
Eventually she's standing in her kitchen, and Amylace thinks about calling her work and saying she's sick. They'd let her stay home, but she doesn't really want to stay home. It's only out of habit that she even considers the possibility. Three months previous, her home became a prison, and her job served as twelve hours of rec time in the yard. Now, though, those twelve hours had become less of a Novocain and more of a heroin, thanks to a woman three years older than Amylace named Betsy. She was the wealthy heiress of some conman and had bought the bar for something to do with her endless hours of wealthy boredom.
She was there every day, for hours with a paralyzing grin on her face. Betsy was dark and earthy, and her voice made Amylace forget about the itch. She was like mulch or a root cellar, sort of rotten and fermenting, but so soothingly organic. There was nothing chemical about Betsy. She'd drink quietly behind the bar next to Amylace or watch her from the shadows, and her presence was the only thing the girl had left that made her feel anything, even though she didn't know what exactly it made her feel.
The dark-haired heiress would wait until closing, and then she'd corner and harangue her only employee with orders and vicious criticisms day after day for hours before she'd let Amylace go home, and for both girls it was the best part of the day.
Amylace opens her front door, and the air outside is brisk and stale from the smog. Walking through the urban atmosphere is like moving through a vacuum, except it's bumpy and wavering because Amylace is a little hung-over and the sidewalk is crumbling from years of weather.
The walk is short, just three blocks, but it feels like she's dragging herself the whole way. It's crushing how the-same everything looks, and she chokes on how heavy her body feels, a sack of dead weight slung over weary bones. It's like she's some malnourished slave or soldier pulling a rope attached to her own carcass at the other end. Faithfully she tugs and struggles to pull her own dead body across the pavement to get from one suffocating destination to another, from the morgue to the grave and back every twelve hours.
When she finally reaches the darkened door like a passage into the confusing, uncomfortable limbo where she works, the young woman takes a shaky breath to prepare herself for the scolding she knew she'd get for arriving at 10:17 rather than 10.
Instantly the shouting starts. It isn't as stinging that morning as it could've been because the place is completely empty so there's no one to observe the verbal abuse and feel bad for her, or to spit on her and join in.
"What the fuck, Amylace? Do you even know what fucking time you're supposed to be here? I'll fire you so help me god," Betsy snaps from where she sits across the room. Amylace suppresses a masochist's smile and takes her place behind the bar.
"There's no one here."
"There could've been."
"Sorry," Amylace murmurs passively and fires off at least five more aggressive things, in her head, that she could've responded with, as if she would ever stand up to Betsy.