Floor Man by Megan Heise

I want nothing more than to sleep. My alarm app wakes me up, says I got 9 hours of sleep, says it’s 94% quality sleep but still I’m exhausted. My head is foggy with exhaustion. It seemed so reasonable last night -- wake up early, get things done, walk to work instead of wasting $2.50 on a three subway stop ride.

But now, I can’t. Cannot. Nothing makes sense but to close my eyes again. To reopen them would take too much energy, take what I need to have stored up if I’m going to get through this day; I can’t possibly wake now. If I go back to sleep, though, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be able to make it through the whole day. My head is fuzz. My eyelids lead. My body feathers, in bed like a warm, soft, cozy cloud. I’m safe. Nothing  overwhelms me up here. No anxiety, no pressure. Just sleep. Let me go back to my dreams, let me live there instead of here. Let me sleep just a little while longer. Maybe this time I’ll stay and find the dreams are the real world and this is the nightmare. All I want is to stay asleep. Please. My lids relax. The other place starts to focus...and then, two knocks, sounds from the world back home.

Even now, rising is debatable. Yes, it’s the floor man, but I know he has the key and will let himself in. Yes, if he doesn’t know I’m here he’ll seal the floor and I’ll be trapped in my bedroom, unable to reach the door, the bathroom, the fridge. All day stuck in my room -- that’s what I wanted, wasn’t it? Then again, two knocks. He’ll be letting himself in now, no need for me to rush. I wipe my heavy eyes and reach for my light switch, turning on the lights that are never quite bright enough to prevent me from drowsing off again. I slowly bring my top half vertical, sitting in a daze at the edge of my bed. As the key turns in the lock, I collect my water cup and phone and carefully back my way down the loft stairs, catching the scent of the sunflower and lavender soaps I laid out on the steps two nights ago to cover the smell of dirty laundry and mildewy washcloths before doing the laundry. At the bottom, I rest my phone and cup on a low step and grab my mickey mouse boxers draped over a higher step and slip into them quickly. I look down and examine myself to make sure my boobs aren’t visible, and reach out and turn my bedroom knob. 

I step out into the hallway, calling out “hi!” so he’ll know I’m there. It’s the same guy from last week, and his look of surprise hits me as immediately as the smell of the poly he coated the floor with yesterday. We talk over each other: “I thought no one was h--” “Sorry, I couldn’t get to the door in--” our voices overlapping until I catch “Just came out beautiful.” I can feel the color in my face drain and fill the pit in my stomach. I’m suddenly very aware of my short shorts, my flimsy shirt, my bralessness. I’m trying to remember if I put on underwear. Is he really cat calling me in my own apartment? He mistakes my look of shock and horror for confusion, and repeats, “Didn’t the floor come out just beautiful?” The color rushes back to my cheeks tenfold. I say, with a forced smile, “yes, it’s great,” and hurry back to my room before he can hone in on my humiliation.

Back in my room, I shut the door and dress -- underwear, bra, everything -- as quickly as possible. I want to leave as fast as possible, and not only because I need to get to work on time. As I step out of my room again, I search my purse and pockets for my keys, looking up briefly to see the door propped open anyway. I stand there, staring down the hall at the door hanging wide open where he left it, seeing his wood saw exposed (but at least propped up against the fridge). I feel my legs moving, see him crouched by the saw eating a sandwich, hear myself saying nice things, turning my mouth into a smile and trying to be nice even though I’m furious that what should have been a two day project has spanned three weeks, furious that this stranger thinks he can walk all over us, even while we have no floor we can walk on. I feel betrayed, that he’s repaid my kindness these weeks with laziness, slowness, carelessness, that my kindness to him was returned with inconvenience, exposed mold, exposed saws, and a life put on hold for a month to fix a seemingly small problem. That whole, “catch more flies with honey,” thing is bulshit, I think, that you really need honey-flavored poison if you want to be rid of flies. Today should be the last day, though. The last day of sealant on our new wood floor. Out of habit I pause by the entry way, checking for my keys one last time so that I don’t lock myself out. But the door’s still propped wide open, and it’s clear I couldn’t lock myself out if I tried; today, I can’t even close my own door.