I began my day at the office, attempting to scooch so far into the desk that it would envelop me. Though I couldn’t imagine the entirety of the process, I was convinced the desk would look the way invasive vines look when they overtake a sidewalk, a street sign, or someone’s stagnant car. When I considered the process of the wilderness, I found it to be an utterly evil thing.
But that’s not how I thought of my desk. I loved my desk. I loved its stability. It always appeared where I expected it to upon my return. And I could put so much on top of it: my cup of Folgers; my dual monitors set up at the perfect height to avoid a crick in the neck; the photo of my moon-soaked wife; all my pens and highlighters in a cup, awaiting the arrival of my hold.
So, throwing my tie around my shoulder, I unbuttoned my shirt and began to push my belly against the desk.
At that point in my life, I had appeared unrecognizable to myself many times. I was required to type up documents with such fervor my hands often appeared more spider-like than human. I was so inarticulate that, at times, I mistook my tongue for a slug; the fact I knew the exact number of times I said “oops” made me believe my brain was software for collecting data; and my fear of losing all my money appeared as a big, cultural ghost.
Some nights, with the office emptied of its occupants, I’d do handstands on my desk, and with blood filling my head to pressurize my brain, I felt like something completely other than myself. My legs waved like a plant. The ground sprawled forward in fluorescent light. Supplies looked like frozen birds in the carpeted sky.
As I began to shorten in stature—with my abdomen enveloped first—I folded backward like a halved sheet of paper inserted into a thin mail slot.
On the other side of my cubicle wall, Cindy performed a major copy job. Since this was my first time being enveloped, I was unsure if my body made noises. If the disappearance of my bones made a sound—like molars crunching hard candy—I couldn’t hear it over the sound of Cindy’s copying.
“Great work,” I said to Cindy.
She said nothing.
Then a large tangerine rose above my cubicle wall like some sudden sun rising on my private horizon. She launched it. It squashed against my forehead. Pulp rained down my face.
Later in the morning, the only parts of my body that remained were just above my chest and below my hamstrings. I balanced my keyboard on my chest as I had become mostly horizontal. I clicked open a chatbox and typed, that was a good tangerine. can i interest you in the remaining pulp? And sent it to Cindy.
In the left bottom corner of the box, an ellipsis moved in a wave of dots, small to large, small to large; gray to black, gray to black. Then her message appeared: an emoticon of a woman, dressed in a virtual purple, crossing her arms in front of her face. I laughed. I couldn’t help but find this small world, where a person fends off words of her same size with an x of the arms, to be funny and, for a moment, odder than the unfolding situation.
I typed, i’m being enveloped by my desk. i’ll be gone soon, and sent.
I watched the ellipsis speak for her thinking again. Then her message: what about joan? and the kids?
I typed a few words, deleted them, typed others, and deleted those too. I typed, does it matter? you say joan and me fight and that’s it and that’s all. that I should go and stay with you for a spell ‘til I’ve found a condo of my own. And sent.
Her ellipsis waved quicker that final time: tell me the truth and tell it straight: is this whole business of envelopment because she suspects something?
Then I lost my shoulders and my mobility to respond.
In my first instance of Misrecognition of Self that I can remember, I was four and realized my face belonged to me. Until that point, my sense of self, if one existed at all, was defined as an endless series of activities that belonged to the world in which they took place as much as they belonged to my body. My face, looming new and other in the mirror, baffled my four-year-old brain, which commanded me to use an index finger to prod cheek, forehead, and nostril, which I stuck the finger in because I knew no better, and found that this, this all this, I’d never, not once, escape.
Word had spread through the office of my day’s decision. Many heads peered above my cubicle wall. I couldn’t hear much of what they were saying as my ears were halfway gone. I heard Carl from accounts compare my condition to a poorly packed suitcase. Tanya from marketing said she would report me as medical news. They sounded watery and muffled.
I realized I would miss my eyes. I looked at the photo of my wife and thought right at it. I had lost my hands before lunch, but I could remember the shape of the camera in them in a time when all I wanted was to be the very chemicals that held her bright and washed-out face.
And then it went black, and with my mind, the final unenveloped thing, I hoped to have a bit of time in this solid-state with my wife before my replacement arrived.
Isaac George Lauritsen
Isaac George Lauritsen is a Chicago writer. His work can be found or is forthcoming in Bennington Review, Denver Quarterly, DIAGRAM, Hobart Pulp, Inverted Syntax, Muzzle Magazine, Sidereal Review, TIMBER, on a broadside from Octopus Books, and elsewhere. You can look at his photos and illustrations on Instagram: @ig_laurit