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The Daily

Columns & Archives

Along with the daily feature articles from our columnists, read works from our past contributors in the categories of prose, poetry and visual art, alongside interviews and other musings.

 

White Surveillance Cam by Murielle Mueller

Updated: Sep 27, 2020

Art by Emily Kray

Title: Life Is Circular

It is the steel cream-color hour of night. Fog suffuses between the

auburn brick walls of the old town and melting the ridged contours to silhouettes.

Only the neon red light of an “Open” sign points its way into

the mist. Where to cannot be discerned. Yet.

Fog City Diner seems almost abandoned at split second after split second

after split second, the ominous omni-present. Church bells chime from afar –

the entrance door’s little bell merely tinkles.

I am, but a shadowgraph.

 

It is me and the cook, the cook and I, we are roaming about, waiting for

languid early birds and jaded late-nighters. Bored by the emptiness,

people-less booths, blasé about what morrow bears.

She enters as the click-clack digits turn 0|4|0|0|.

Fog City Diner is where I come to die.

We exchange a quiet nod, record each other’s presence as a liability, let

the air volume between us be a little more compressed by our bodyshells. She seems more

shell than me, no heat radiates from her slender

shape. Scuffle-shuffle-less, she must be floating to the booth in the right

corner of Fog City Diner.

I sit down in a booth on the left side corner of Fog City Diner. As if it

mattered.

I should take her order.

Choosing a place to die seems pointless. Over is over. Under is under is

Drowning.

“What can I get you?”

Choosing a last meal seems pointless.

“Just coffee, please,” she says.

Choosing last words seems pointless. Said is said, done is done is down.

I pour some coffee from the freshly brewed pot into a large mug for her.

She is lucky she came early. The smell of lime is mild in the steam today with

the chlorine nearly evaporated. Almost smells like coffee. The brew toys

with the idea of spilling over, as I walk, left right left right left right.

I leave no stain on the plastic table top. A you-are-my-customer-and-I-depend-on-tips-smile,

but her eyes are hollow.

I will not leave a stain. I am in control. Safe – and sorry. Not sorry.

I return to the tedious duties of an empty diner employee. Pretending to

have crucial tasks while I wait for someone to serve. A proper customer.

The cook rearranges ladles, large to larger. ‘Just coffee’ does not have to

be cooked.

Fog City Diner is almost silent. Only three people breathing the stale air.

Very soon, it will be more silent. More breathless. Less breath, more –

The damp pink cloth between my fingers, between skin and counter,

leaves a stream of mindless thought-moisture on the counter. Have to

send a card to mother for her birthday, and add something nice to it. Get

her some tea, she likes tea. Have to call the bank to find out if the new

credit card got lost in the mail. Or if the application got declined again.

Have to buy fabric softener. Have to remember to pick up the package

from the neighbor.

Have to have to have.

I scan the room, bit by bit: spotting a white surveillance cam.

Hold its gaze.

In there, I’m a bit.

Have to send an email to Morty and ask for the keys of his apartment by

the seaside. Have to buy beer for the weekend. Have to text Sarah and

Thomas back. Have to pick up my pay check tomorrow. Have to have to

have.

So tired now. And always. And forever.

All thoughts dried up on the counter now. I dampen the cloth again.

I fold my arms, rest my head on my wrist, watch my stomach as it moves

up and down. Up down up down up down up and

From the corner of my eyes, I notice subtle movement on the right side of

Fog City Diner. I see her rest her head on her arms, her cheek touches

the plastic table top.

That white cam – it sees me.

Eye, eye, eye in the ceiling

And soon

I, I, I in the sky.

I am, and then no longer.

She has fallen asleep. I wouldn’t dare to leave my face on this surface.

Even though I wipe it myself. The filthy Fog City Diner tables have seen

the grease, the puke, the drool.

I run to fixate the entrance door before the tiny tinkle-bell somersaults

endlessly.

Finally, customers to cook for, customers to serve.

 

“Excuse me,” I say and clear my throat. So much noise; bustle, fork dropping, plate-clatter

and chit-chat, she never woke up. All that coffee

didn't help.

“Excuse me,” I say, louder now.

“Sorry, Miss, you need to clear the booth for other customers.”

She doesn’t respond.

 

I go to pick up my pay check in the boss’s office. She is out running

errands, and rounds, circles, loops. After yesterday’s incident. She has left

the check on the desk. It looks as abandoned as Fog City Diner in the

cream-color hour.

My eyes fall on the monitor of the surveillance cam.

They don’t use tape anymore. Rewinding a spool is not an option.

Rewinding time is not an option.

I want to run, re-run, re-loop, re-make.

Fog City Diner, inside.

They said it was too many tablets, inside.

Security fail. No analogue-help possible. Nothing is in slow motion.

I wonder if you could see her soul leave her body in pixel-format.

A not so private private-death.


Also read: Covid Archives by Radhika Menon

 

Find Murielle: Here

 

Murielle Mueller is a postgraduate student of English Studies in Berlin, Germany. Her work has previously been published in MORIA Magazine, C-Heads Magazine and FU Review. She writes and performs her creative somethings in her mother tongue German, as well as English. Besides jumbling words, she also likes to paint and has a mild obsession with tea.

 

Read other published work:

Here

Edited by:

Rachel Blair


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