Should I be a machinist is just one of the things I wonder, carpet and outlets and soda cups and red straws and the same quilted frantic ﬂower sac-y totes sitting in the places where the students will sit when they return. Once again I am a ﬁeld of swivel chairs and gray tables and notebook fringe. Blacked-out computer monitors stare me down. Screens scare me sometimes: I hide my phone in the closet, which means I rummage through pants to check it twenty times a day. My closet has shelves. My phone has a pulse. If I put it between my legs, will it make me alive with beneﬁts and a 401K? Will it watch me enroll? I’m talking my phone. Calculate my loans? Will it suck my cells? Insulin is insulting my dresses. I swear I really do need new pants. Another semester ending with none of these ﬁts. Nothing to wear! My phone ﬁts my ﬁst while I run for the jobs—Dunkin’ needs a clerk, Greenﬁed Cap & Dye. I see myself soldering, soot on my cheeks, sweat rivulets like cheap, pretty, shiny earrings (they stay in my closet). I’m thinking Flashdance. I’m thinking SnapChat. I’m thinking Sugar Snaps and that cunnilingus frog. Creep. Bury the toy in your cereal: I could do that. Back-up in the drive-thru: try me. My brother and I were in double digits (age and weight) when we tried to bike through Burger King. Pranks like these are ways for white kids to learn disappointment. Fry-less, we were turned away. One of us went inside and someone kept eyes on the bikes. That or the MFA. My degree is my prize. I have a friend who has three years now applied for a second-MFA—cake on cake. I think he’s calling it quits. He’s laking at a cabin, he crafting in the woods with his unsuitable wife. I can be a suitable wife when I’m well-paid and not on sugar. I can wear leather pants. Royal pants, seafoam silk, claret pants. I wear my parent-pants when I think of my failed friend: do the right thing, I want to say, leave her, as though I know what that means, as though a right thing comes oﬀ a factory line still warm from the machine. I mean do the right thing so I can wear the pants. Room service girl: I would do that for the skirt.
JoAnna Novak is the Pushcart-Prize-nominated author of Laps (Another New Calligraphy, 2014), a limited-edition art book of short stories, and Something Real (dancing girl press, 2011), a prose chapbook. With Thomas Cook and Tyler Flynn Dorholt, she publishes Tammy. A finalist for Sarabande's 2014 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, she lives in Massachusetts, where she is working on a memoir.