Suite X by Amy Breau
I was prepared to answer the first question, have you ever wanted to kill someone? But it completely threw me off when they asked, have you ever wanted to keep someone needlessly alive? One of the interviewers blinked every time I said the word “and.” When I stuttered over the word three times—three blinks in a row.
I still wanted the job. I’d always admired the people who worked for the department, how they strode purposefully in their well-pressed white suits, brandishing IDs that allowed them to enter that building. I couldn’t sleep until my letter came, we are pleased to inform you, report to Suite X….
The woman whose position I filled had disappeared. Nothing could be done without forms from her files, or by specific procedures known only to her. I was to reconstruct the way she did things, piecing together her handwritten notes and computer files. When people asked for her by name–I’m sorry to say, the investigation underway, perhaps I could help?
All this time, sitting under the desk was a pair of shoes. I’d figured out how she processed head injuries as opposed to natural disasters, which announcements to broadcast to which constituencies. But the shoes—should I leave them where they were, give them to someone on the street? And what if she returned?
One day—there was nothing unusual about this day—I threw them in the wastebasket and covered them with Kleenex. For the first time, I could stretch my legs under the desk in the direction of the shoes! That afternoon I was promoted. My new office looks down a hundred floors to the harbor. The tiny ships below look like shoes.
There was a tag inside one of them, burnished with sweat and beginning to curl. Every morning I glanced down and read it, though now I can’t remember what it said.
Amy Breau is a writer and registered nurse whose work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, The Year’s Best Fantasy & Horror, Cleveland Magazine and on the popular science public radio spot, A Moment of Science. She studied poetry at Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a 2016 Creative Workforce Fellow with the Community Partnership for Arts and Culture, funded by a public grant from Cuyahoga Arts & Culture. She’s interested in integrating her own caregiving experience into the broader narrative of her life and supporting such efforts in others, and in arguing for greater integration of mothering and other caregiving narratives into literary and other public discourse.