It's the ritual.
In itself, it's the bathroom tiles and its unnecessary rows of blue gum-square teeth. It's its adolescent personality that stings and bites my chest. Waking up in the middle of the night and reaching out to the mirror and attempting to see both of my eyes at the same time, instead of focusing on each one, one and then the other, until I get dizzy; this is what it is, a ritual. It makes me sick, but I do it religiously.
I did it in an elevator. I killed a man. Do you believe me? He was short and stocky and his doughy face presented itself in the ugliest shade of purple I'd ever seen. He gave this smile, like he owned the world. It made me sick. SICK. I can remember the walls of the elevator were a marbled gray. And the interior had this maniacal glint, like rows and rows of metal teeth adorned by a vagrant monster truck. These places all have teeth, and eyes, and voices. The voices don't sound like anyone or anything in particular, but they have voices, and I listen, and they tell me waht to do, and I do. I always do. If I don't, they'll swallow me whole the way a cat swallows a canary.
The dough man irritated me. I smiled at him, shifted my skirt and rubbed one ankle against the other, trying to get his attention. The grotesquery of this, the sheer UGLINESS, is what motivated me. I had to see if he'd take the bait. And he did. He took the bait. His pug-ugly face squared a little to the side and stared up my white leg. His black inky, blurry, oily eyes gathered themselves at my stomach, up my chest, to my face. I smirked. You ugly bastard, I thought. You make me sick. You've got some money, don't you? Don't you?
The mirror watched peevishly as I pressed harder against the marble-patterned elevator wall. I -
I'm at the mirror again. This is getting ridiculous. The knife wants me. Look at it - cold white harsh as hell in a small neat metal package. Its handle is the color of big sky, which makes me feel lonesome. It feels so cool underneath my palm. My fingers ache over its handle, over the blade itself. What did I name it? Trevor? Aren't I Trevor? Am I Cindy?
"You go ahead," someone's mouth mutters. "You do." It's lips are pink and soft and remind me of oyster flesh, so smooth and gentle. I want to kiss this person's mouth, that's how soft and big it is. I want.
The blade is a snake and is no longer in my palm but folding itself smoothly against my neck, shimmying silently. Its blue scales contort and convex as its one long network of muscles contract and compel it further up, towards my left ear. There it stops and licks at the creases and ridges of it with its cold black tongue. It nestles its pencil-tipped head against the crease underneath my earlobe and strikes. I hiss and pull at my ear. I tug hard as the snake struggles and maneuvers its two twiggy fangs into my facial muscles, grazing the lower half of my jawbone. Oh god. Blood. There is is, sliding like melted ice into the bowl I placed on the sink's ledge. My head is on fire; it's on fire. The skin is ripping. The snake is suckling. The moist gurgling sounds are so airy.
- spat out my wad of gum and flicked a wrist to unfold my pocketknife. It was the best pocketknife I've ever owned. I've had it for ten years. Ten full years with this baby, and still it wasn't dull. It cut like a dream.
The dough man made no move, but stared dumbly at the knife-gleam, which soured me. Who the hell was he not to jump? I killed men who had squealed like hogs when I'd shown them my knife. The women had more sense, though. The women pleaded, or edged away as slowly as they could. But this man - this man was either dumb as rocks, or slower in reaction than a southern funeral procession. I lunged at him. Fucking asshole.
He pressed his hands aginst my waist and tailored his gulps to sharp, dissuasive cries. I slashed at the piglets on each hand, and his blood spilled itself out over my skirt, which, by the way, was my favorite skirt, so this added to the fervor with which I gave him hell. His skin, more observably, his fat aroused itself into red bulges at each knife entry, making a soft and hilarious plopping sound. It was more like a pluph, pluph, pluph. I laughed so hard I almost forgot about the stupid fuck.
My facial skin is what ultimately alerts me, and draws my attention from the beauty of the ritual, to the fear of irretrievable loss. The snake is pulling at my left cheek, ripping and slashing at the muscle in order to free it. My hands, confused and dazed as they are, herd themselves to any corner necessary, in order to help the snake in its job. The snake will not stop no matter how hard I will it to. It juts over the muscle, poking its skinny head into even more corners otherwise untouched by its persistence. It's peeling my fucking face away!
"Nooo!" There is that same voice, its soft lips now purple and blue - now pale as the snake cowers beneath a blanket of skin and coils its body left and right, further separating skin from muscle. The left cheek curls like a lock of hair and gives grave slurping sounds as it wags and slaps against throbbing muscle. Oh god. There it goes! It slides like pork fat down my shirt, down into the bowl. Look at it. Look at the twitching muscles. Look. If I smile - can I smile? Yes. Yes, and listen to that crying! Who is that? Is that -? Am I crying? Who...?
The poor old dog of a man was hunched over and sobbing. As if I woke up from some icy dream, I stepped into the elevator and found him there, fantastically cut up like a slab of beef. Fingers, fingers were everywhere. Everywhere. By his head, they were. By the soles of his Croc-print boots - or was that real skin there on those shoes? Hmm. An eye was missing! Look at that! An eye! I needed to call the police. He was whispering to me, but I couldn't make out what he was saying. "I'm calling an ambulance right away!" I heard myself assuring him, hovering over him and plucking my cell phone from one of the pockets of my jacket. No signal. Well, that would be obvious, wouldn't it? Of course there'd be no signal in an elevator. Does this thing have sensers? I surely don't want to be stuck with this pathetic heap of meat. There, I put a shoe down in the track of the elevator door. Hopefully it won't slide shut. I have to leave him, don't I? I do. I need to tell him that.