Today's Reading

There's a line for the showers, a line that consists of a gaggle of overweight women huddling behind threadbare towels that fit nicely into a compact gym bag but barely conceal their collective backs and fronts. No, thanks. I will just shower at home. I worked up more of a sweat trying to disintegrate these people with my mind than I did jogging the track, anyway. Scattered valuables litter the benches in front of my locker, which I of course secure with a purple Master
combination lock. (Rumor has it there's a thief around here.) Despite the fact that I'm far too annoyed to want to steal anything, a fabulous pair of red high heels hooked expertly on the edge of the bench catch my eye. I have very few occasions that necessitate shoes that are not of the flip-flop or cross-trainer variety, but then I also have very few shoes for said few occasions. I pick up the right one, not caring who's watching—like I said, all you have to do is
act like it's yours and no one is the wiser; people are a lot less perceptive than we give them credit for. Unfortunately for me, it's a size too big, so I nonchalantly return it to its spot, hoisting my bag over my shoulder and squeezing through the crowd.

"Hey Ann," Jeanette says to me as I try to sneak out without making small talk. I like Jeanette, definitely more than I like the other desk jockeys here. Jeanette had a particular glow in her eye tonight; maybe it's left over from that date she had last week, the one I know about because I stole her day planner two days ago.

"Hey. Crazy night, right?" I'm almost cut off by the terrified screams of a curly-haired child in the nursery next to the front desk.

Jeanette sighs loudly. "It's January, all right. But hey, we've had a record number of new memberships this week."

They have a record number of new memberships every January. "Eh. They'll thin out eventually."

"I sure hope not," Jeanette says, twisting a bracelet around her left wrist. New. Sparkly. "But you're probably right."

"See you tomorrow?" I smile, pulling on my gloves. Stupid cold weather.

Jeanette nods. I turn to leave when I hear her voice behind me. "Oh hey, did you see?"

"See what?" Why is my skin already crawling? I didn't take the shoes. I didn't take anything.

"This year's catalog!" She reaches under the desk and withdraws the Percival O'Shaughnessy Community Center 2016 Class and Activities Catalog. On the cover, my own determined face stares back at me, running the indoor relay in my favorite sports bra. I feel my jaw drop.

"I'm on the catalog?" I don't mean for it to come out like a question.


"And everyone gets these?"

"Everyone in the city."

"Great." I lie. Super. Now I can really blend in. "See you tomorrow."

I turn to leave, my mind racing and the familiar tug in my gut wrenching its way to the surface. I must find something to steal before I can leave. If I don't, the wrenching will only grow until I am shaking from anxiety and eating everything in my fridge. The only thing between me and the door is the "adult lounge," which is really more of a conference room where they have AA meetings twice a week and old people congregate to watch Fox News and drink shitty coffee. I pop in and glance around. It doesn't even have to be something good. It just has to be something. Something that isn't mine. I feel my pulse regulate as I spot a coffee mug with a bright red smear of lipstick on the rim sitting next to the sink. It's a pretty brazen shade for a suburban queen, almost the exact color of the shoes in the locker room. Maybe they belong to the same person. Maybe the match is intentional. Maybe she came straight to the gym after seducing her pool boy. Do people have their pool boys over in January?

I admit I am impressed. I'd never have the guts to wear this color lipstick. I awkwardly stuff the mug into my coat pocket and can't wait to add it to Room 403 when I get home.


By the time I make it home, my temporary hyperventilation after the community center catalog unveiling is a distant memory, albeit it's a short distance. As much I want to believe I recovered from my little episode with remarkable aplomb, I have yet to make it any farther than barely inside my front door. It's currently propping me up as I sit, slumped against it on my dingy, worn-out carpet. I stare at the red ring of lipstick on the coffee mug I just stole. I have more coffee mugs than I could ever drink out of myself; what made me think I needed another one? Even as I ask myself—silently, I think—I know the answer. It was there; that's all. Nothing more. A gesture as empty as the dirty mug in my hand, as empty as I feel sitting on the floor of the two-bedroom apartment I said I needed for office space.

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