by Nikita Gourishetty
Issue: Elysium (Spring 2012)
Naya’s first order of business in her day was to smooth out the creases in her red bed sheet. Next came 20 circles per each tooth with her brush, 4 different face routines, and a shower that lasted exactly 10 minutes. 1 hour of exercise to burn exactly 250 calories and 1 glass of nonfat smoothie for breakfast.
Satisfied, she looked around to make sure her house seemed perfect to the outside eye. The messy handwriting of her checklist caught her eye, and she had to stop in order to rewrite the paper.
Today would be the day to cross out the last accomplishment on her checklist when she finally gained that last promotion. She could imagine the sickening sight of those envious glances from her overly-perky colleagues. She would have to face them – a party was being thrown in her honor, of course.
Her fists clenched, and she walked out of the house with the click-clack of her heels following her. The shoes seemed to be making a slightly squeaky noise, and Naya couldn’t imagine why. She felt a hot flash run through her, but any attempts to drown out the noise failed.
As she walked out to her red convertible, Naya could feel her throat constrict as if she had gone swimming and had forgotten how to breathe. Someone had smashed the window! The glass pieces splattered the backseat of her car, creating a mirage of clear blue in a sea of red. 1, 2, 3, 4, she counted in her head to control herself. But the eerie silence was shattered by her shriek.
5, 6, 7, 8, the moments passed. A new found frustration ignited her, and she dove into her vehicle to drive to the car wash in an attempt to wash away the imperfection on her car. It was 7:01, the first day she wasn’t at her desk at precisely 7:00.
But she didn’t care anymore – it was an emergency. Naya whirled her car around to go to the other car wash – it was huge and out of place, an antique in the city of new buildings. As the robotic machine ordered Naya to keep her windows down, she smiled at her tiny form of rebelling. Why did that moment give her more happiness than that last checkmark ever could have?
A wave of sadness filled her heart and created a hole so big that she would never be able to fill it. She was searching, longing just to feel. But Naya couldn’t understand – she had accomplished all of her innermost desires, kicking away others to climb painfully to the top. Somehow, writing that last checkmark didn’t satisfy her fiery desire for more. Somehow, the spark in her heart that she had created for herself had been washed out by crashing waves of depression.
She entered the car wash, not knowing what to do about her sudden epiphany. The car wash reminded her of her days in high school, where she would enter with all the windows open so that the water would drip down her face and make her feel anew.
All at once she could feel the blissful memories returning. Whenever she used to feel stressed out from school’s or life’s troubles, she would return to her car wash, all alone.
The relaxation calmed her aching spirit and strength of desire, while allowing her to swim, to float, to heart’s delight.
She could bathe under the covers of the night, never choosing accomplishments over happiness. Naya used to envy those girls with no desires, no stress, no grades or clubs to constantly worry about; she used to tell herself how much more successful she would be than them, but it seemed silly now.
Beneath the shield of liquid love, she could finally see the truth of vision that was planted in her brain. Her regrets burned like silent raindrops – those drops etched across her car window, slowly drifting upwards. Where is the water going? she wondered. It runs, runs, runs, only to end up as running pools in the gutter.
She could relate, she thought, as she lovingly traced those silver rain drops. She inhaled and quivered with the bliss of utter radiance.
Finally, she began to feel the numb happiness that clawed at her heart – sometimes it didn’t take accomplishments, but rather fond memories to brighten up one’s day.
But at the same time, the car wash was nearly over, and she had no choice but to return to the life she had been living.
Consumed by the fire, Naya once again let her ever-burning infatuation for success become the passion that she was known for. She was drowning, yet living all the same.
It was time to make a new list.