This page contains:
- Disregard for personal autonomy
- Drug use
- Mental health issues
Eva waits until it’s three-zero-zero on the screen of her phone to look up at the art nouveau clock encrusted onto the façade of the corner hotel. The longest of the clock hands is just now rolling into noon, but Eva has been parked in this exact spot since before her own noon, which suggests this godforsaken miracle cure of a hotel is happy to consider her three hours of wishful thinking (maybe I won’t have to go in, maybe heatstroke will kill me before depression does, maybe there are no answers here, maybe it’s full of old people ironing out the kinks of time with spa treatments and water jets, maybe there’s no room for me and they’ll kick me out and my brain will fight-or-flight and I’ll wake up from this slumber that won’t let me sleep at all, at all, at all) null and void. Summer is peaking in this once-sophisticated spa town, but when she bites into a cookie she’s purchased from the only corner store, she tastes chocolate and a 1934 expiration date. Everything here is null and void.
If she’d asked anyone out in the town, they would have happily told her the town is always empty and the hotel is always full, because those who pay for a night don’t always rise in the morning. But of course, she did not know to ask, she does not know to ask, and there is no one to ask. The town is always empty and the hotel is always full. She would have rolled her eyes at the urban legend, anyway. She would have learned nothing.
The church bell tolls twelve times. It’s fucking three. She leaves the car, slams the door, and fakes confidence as she marches through the open gates and up the gravel road, embers under her thin-soled sandal feet. To her right, beyond the swimming pool, a girl in a striped yellow bikini sunbathes atop the diving board, a bird of prey in sunglasses, her legs swinging in lazy figure-eights. The distance between them is short enough that she’d probably heed the call if Eva called out to her and asked, half-blinded by the sun, “Is the town really always empty and is the hotel really always full?” but of course she doesn’t think to ask. She is unprepared to deal with common sense within the grasp of these manicured hedges. She marches on. She enters the hotel.
The lobby is old-fashioned but airy, grandiose, not unlike the first-class sundeck of a still-floating Titanic. Wicker chairs gather in small, gossipy groups around coffee tables crowned with refined bunches of hydrangeas. The marble staircase curls around an elaborate elevator, a rickety-looking contraption of dark green iron and stained glass. Two stuffed lions flank the reception counter and there’s no need to ring the bell—for a young man stands behind it in a black turtleneck and skin the color of soggy printer paper, looking exactly like what Eva imagines brutalism would look like, if it were a person. He’s using a mechanical pencil for a pointer as he makes his way down the logbook, and he barely looks up to receive her.
“May I help you?”
“They told me to come to you if a storm came.” She’s practiced this greeting countless times since she’s been told to speak it to the owner of the hotel in her plea for help—it sounds rather more sophisticated among this throng of wicker chairs than it did in her studio apartment.
“And so it seems a storm has come, yes, yes, I know the words, yet I regret to inform you I’m not the one you should be speaking them to.” Up close, he smells bandaged and perfumed, a sleeping king left to await better days in a faraway tomb. “What have you come for?”
“To sleep, isn’t that why everyone comes?” That’s all this hotel offers, that’s what the online reviews confirm, no rejuvenating sleep, no retreat from life’s bitter grind quite like this one. This is what she has come for.
“Some do come to enjoy the pool, or the rose garden. How did you find us?”
“A customer at work. I work at a luxury boutique and—”
“How long will you be staying?”
He points the mechanical pencil at the gold-and-glass cabinet behind him, keys on nails instead of butterflies on pins, and so few of them left, too. Even fewer cars parked outside, or anywhere near the hotel. None, in fact. The town is always empty and the hotel is always full, goes the story, but she hasn’t been listening. She never listens.
The empty slots all have names on them. Mismatched labels, some chicken-scratched, some typewritten, some printed in the gaudy rainbow font she remembers from her middle school days, helming essays and research papers and early attempts at fighting for her place in the sun.
“I don’t think so, young lady.”
She bends over the counter, tiptoeing even though he can’t see it. Her nails are claws on the edge; let the stuffed lions on pedestals on either side of the counter, plush toys so far removed from the action both in time and space, watch and learn.
“I see quite a few keys left, young sir. Just tell me how much and we’ll both be happy.”
“No, no we won’t,” he says, folding his hands over the logbook in a show of patience, “because we are unworthy of what they represent.”
“Unworthy of sleep?”
“It pains me as much as it pains you.”
“Listen, I don’t know what you’re on about, just tell me what I have to do. How do I go to sleep? Do you make me meditate, do you tire me out? Do you sedate me? Barbiturates, is that it? Some sort of deep sleep therapy, right? How the fuck can I be unworthy of any of that? I just want out of my head!”
“I cannot help you. Please don’t fight me on this.”
Eva looks at her nails, filed to nude pink points. When she got them done, she was assured they were sharp enough to kill a man. She has done nothing, and will do nothing, but fight.
“Listen to me, mister, I will be coming back for those keys—”
“I would not recommend it.”
“—and when I do, you better be ready, because I’m filing a formal complaint for the way you’ve just treated me.”
Unworthy. Unworthy? What the fuck.
A week goes by. Two. At the salon, Eva gets her nails redone in lilac, the color of hotel hydrangeas and the bathtub she might just die in, if nothing comes to change. Standing behind a counter, Eva sells time-traveling dreams, multicolored dresses to old ladies trying to appear young and young girls trying to appear old. On the train, Eva scrolls down a deluge of updates from people she calls friends but rarely feels like befriending. At home, curled in on herself, Eva changes channels on TV, illegally downloads movies she will not watch, orders pizzas she will barely touch.
It’s three in the morning when the church bell tolls thrice, and the only light in her room is the computer screen, pictures fading in and out of each other, happy holidaymakers sated and asleep on last-century patio recliners, sophisticated socialites savoring champagne and macarons in bed. Instead of attending a party three of her friends are also attending, Eva drives back to the corner hotel on a Friday night.
It’s not hydrangeas, tonight. It’s white magnolias, arranged in the same tasteful gourmet bouquets, delectable as cake toppers, and there is no one behind the reception counter, nothing but a nearly empty key cabinet and a large, silver smartphone plugged into the charger. She rings the bell. There is no one at all.
But there is music, an early 2000s tune she follows into the dining room to the right of the lobby. It could seat and feed a hundred, easy, but not today. One table is littered with empty teacups, one half-eaten slice of cake. She spots the record player sitting on a spindly table by the heavily-patterned far wall. From here, the motif reminds her of the richest of velvets, but the comparison proves unworthy once she’s close enough to touch.
Butterflies. Hundreds, thousands of butterflies pinned onto a cushioned wall, protected by sliding glass doors. Here a large, fat moth, wide as a knife handle, so close to what it must have looked like as a caterpillar; there a delicate little blue slip of a winged thing. The record fades into silence. There are steps.
“May I help you?”
Those words again, spoken by an old woman she didn’t expect to recognize, but somehow still does, thin, skeletal even, white as bone. Supported by a gloved hand on a cane, she scrutinizes Eva from behind large, round glasses. Her lips are so pink they seem open wounds on her face. She smiles in this choking hazard of a night, dry as sawdust, and Eva doesn’t smile back. This is it.
“They told me to come to you if a storm came.”
Now smiling a little wider, until her teeth show, the old woman responds.
“And so it seems a storm has come.”
There, they have made contact. They’re in on the shared secret. Eva has come as a guest and this woman, this purveyor of peace and quiet, this warden of empty rooms, this last line of defense between Eva herself and slitted wrists in an overflowing, lilac-scented bathtub, is finally here to play the host. She limps to a chair by one of the large windows, and pats the one directly in front. Eva sits. She looks at the old woman, who looks back. There are steps on the stairs. Laughter, like ice on ancient whiskey.
“What seems to be the problem, dear girl?”
Eva is whipped dumb by that term of endearment. It’s been a while since she’s felt dear.
“Somebody once shared a metaphor with me. A metaphor they claimed explained life.”
“Please share it with us.”
The room shifts in the reflections in the window, and Eva turns in her chair. The young man she met behind the reception counter has walked in, quiet as a nightmare in a black turtleneck, but all he does is collect the dirty cups and the half-slice of cake onto a silver tray he carries under his arm. When he leaves, Eva doesn’t turn back to the old woman.
“Life is a flat, deserted island.”
“It gets smaller and smaller by the second, and you have about eighty years or so until the ocean swallows you, toes first. You can’t stop the ocean. You can’t leave the island. You can fast forward to the bit where you drown, I think. I’ve thought of sleeping pills. Carbon monoxide. I couldn’t do a gun, I think. Nature abhors a vacuum and I abhor a mess.”
The old woman was probably young at eighty, and so she smiles again, lopsided, amused, an elementary-school teacher glint in her eye, watching as Eva tries and fails to explain whatever simple concept she must have invented decades ago.
“The only thing you can do to take your mind off your death is landscaping. Plant trees all over this hellish island. Surround yourself so you don’t see the ocean as it comes for you.”
“Are you fond of trees?”
“My proverbial forest is dead and I have lost my fucking shovel.” A scoff from behind her. She doesn’t turn to glare at the man, this time. “All I see is death and I’m tired of fighting. I just want to rest.” I just want to die, but I’m not that brave, Eva thinks, never looking away from the old woman’s fishbowl eyeglasses. “I was told you could... help.”
“Have you told anybody you’ve come?”
“No one worth telling.”
A lie, but a little one. She’s told her mother. She’s told her father. She’s told her boss and her sister and one neighbor who occasionally waters her plants. She’s assured each and every one of these people of the brilliance of this plan, a sleep cure in some picturesque half-abandoned hotel—and they’ve believed her, too. Five times she’s told the story to learn it herself, and five times she’s been praised for trying to stay alive. Eva, you’re such a go-getter. Eva, you’re such a fighter. Eva, how inspiring that you’ll steer this ship of a mind to safety or sink with it. Empty words. They wouldn’t miss her if she were to disappear. They’d carry on living.
It’s reassuring, in a way, and the old woman rests her chin on a fist in serene appraisal.
“You are to begin by leaving this room. Marcus will take you upstairs to get settled, and tomorrow morning I will hold your hand and you will sleep.”
Eva asks her the only question worth asking.
“Just like that? Just like that, you’ll hold my hand and I’ll fall asleep?” It’s likely the Vodka Red Bulls she’s improvised back home, still crackling on her teeth, are doing nothing for her already dwindling self-restraint. “How does that even—?”
The corners of the old woman’s garish lips rise along with her hands in a near-comical shrug. She offers no answer. Because she is a quack, Eva, and how on earth could she have been anything else? Leave while you can, get back in your car, borrow a shovel from the rose garden and steal your happiness if you can’t grow it yourself. To hell with this, to hell with help. To hell with asking for help. You’re stronger than this.
And yet, you’ve already come this far.
It pains her to risk such damage to the polished brass countertop in the reception, but she drops her overnight bag by the man’s elbow anyway—Marcus, that’s his name, isn’t it?— a dead weight of silk pajamas and skincare products, essentials to assure her survival during a weekend of unorthodox if apparently foolproof self-care. He doesn’t blink at her excess of zeal. He doesn’t even speak as he flips to a blank page on his bible of a logbook and notes down her name and personal information.
“Excuse me, I’m sorry,” she begins as soon as she notices the check-out date he’s scribbled onto the paper, “you got that wrong, I’m not staying a week. I’m staying a weekend.”
He spins his silver smartphone in her direction.
“Tell whoever you must; you’re staying a week.”
“Says the keeper of the keys you so desperately need. Listen, Eva, I hate to take advantage of your desperation,” he confesses, looking almost heartbroken, “but why did you have to come back when I explicitly told you not to? There are consequences to such choices, you know? I believe a week should be enough to let you learn them.”
“Are you punishing me?”
He laughs. The bastard, he laughs.
But she needs this, she does, they both know it, for the lilac-scented bathtub stands elusive, attractive, oh so tempting in the horizon, and if a week is what it’ll take to pull her away from its charming promises (warmth and peace and never another fight, never another argument, just comfort she’ll never have to wake from), then so be it.
She spins the smartphone back to him.
“I can use my own phone, thank you. A week, then.”
“You’re a wonderful listener, Eva.”
She wants to excise her name off his lips, it sounds so weak when he says it.
He takes her bag and pulls a key from the cabinet, puts it away, pulls another, decides it will do. He leads her to the elevator, where he settles with his back to the mirror, silver smartphone in hand, swiping down, swiping down, swiping down, a bored man and his entertainment, so close yet so far, how Shakespearean, and do you swipe your thumb as us, sir?
“Are you tired of living, Eva? Is that it?” he asks.
“I’m not sure.”
“Are you tired of having nothing to look forward to, then? Now that you have lost, allow me to quote you, your fucking shovel?”
“I think so.”
“If, say, you still had your fucking shovel, what would you plant? A nicer job? Better friends? A loving family, a perfect significant other?”
She’s already got all of those. What she lacks is collaborative brain chemistry. What she lacks is a neurotransmitter cocktail that will keep up with her instead of letting her down, pushing her on to bed in the mornings, pulling her towards an insomniac ceiling at night.
“What would you plant?” she asks.
“Oh, I’m no gardener. I’d dig for gold.”
“Steal from whoever’s buried it, then.”
“As one does.”
They step out onto a smaller lobby, up on the third floor.
“Please wait a moment as I prepare your room. I will also require your car keys in order to move your car to a safe parking spot. Occasional vandalism, you see.”
The town looks too dead for vandals. Perhaps that is exactly the problem.
While he disappears down the hallway, Eva considers sending a photo of the elevator to her thousand closest friends, along with a message crafted to elicit jealousy from even the coolest of them. But then, she’ll be asleep and unable to check the responses, the hearts posted in hypotense delight. What’s the point?
What’s the point of all this, anyway? It is unlikely the solution lies in the problem, unlikely she will be able to hard reset a body that’s proven time and time again to be anything but a machine—less reliable, less trustworthy. She could go and enjoy the pool, yes, that’s an idea, and drown herself in it. Wander the garden in a picnic dress and a rope for a necklace, look out for adequately placed branches to hang from.
“You will be visited at eight in the morning. Payment will be discussed after you’ve completed your procedure.” He awaits the car keys with an open palm, then exchanges them for the room key, like he would wedding rings with an undeserving spouse-to-be.
Eva spends the night in the bathtub, and doesn’t die. The sun rises. It’s eight-zero-zero when she lies down to sleep, but she isn’t visited until later in the morning, though how much later, it’s hard to say. The clocks can’t be trusted and she’s turned off her phone, emailed her boss, posted “I’ll be back soon” warnings on her every social media profile, tidied her inner life as much as humanly possible to prepare for what’s to come.
The old woman attempts a stealthy entrance, but her cane gives her away.
“Good morning, Eva.”
“I have a question.”
“I hope to have the answer.”
“Won’t you ask me why I’m here? Are you satisfied just knocking people out with your magic hands without knowing what brings them?”
The old woman seems to giggle at the question, but it’s such a soft sound Eva cannot be sure her sleep-deprived brain didn’t build it out of background noise and the creaking of the mattress under her prone body.
“To be frank, my dear, it’s easier if I don’t know. I will watch over you as you sleep through the storm, but I’d rather not know what the storm brings. When you wake up a week from now, it will be as if nothing has happened in your life at all. You won’t have aged a moment, because I have stolen a week’s worth of precious moments and gifted them to you, so you may rest your head and find your way.” The old woman tucks a strand of hair behind her ear, affectionate, motherly almost. “That is my gift to you, but if it’s something else you seek, I will be happy to recommend alternatives.”
“Marcus said I was unworthy.”
“Marcus is old and bitter and you’d do well to ignore him.”
Funny thing to hear about a man who doesn’t look a day over thirty, from a woman who claims she can steal a week’s worth of precious moments.
“Will you stay? Or come back to wake me in a week?”
“The latter, unless I forget.” The old woman smiles as she pinches her gloves off of her fingers, as if amnesia is the funniest of the few jokes she can still remember. “Fear not, you’d just carry on sleeping. There are worse fates.”
Like being found floating in a lilac-scented bathtub, with a manicure to match.
“I’d close my eyes, if I were you,” the old woman recommends. “You won’t be able to, later.”
Eva obeys. For someone so proud of her fighting spirit, she’s all too willing to roll over and play dead, after all. Fingertips touch her temple, brush her hair back with so much kindness her chest aches. It feels heavy, unfair to have the privilege to play dead when there’s so much fighting to do, so much preying, so much hunting. But it’s getting so warm. The pillow is so soft, the mattress so comfortable. She is in her best pajamas, her arms daintily crossed over her stomach. She is drifting. She is floating, floating, but also sinking to the bottom of her awareness, ankle tied to a proverbial brick. No, no, ankle tied to a—
“Go to sleep, child.”
Wait, no, let me finish this, sinking to the bottom, ankle tied to a—
No, stop it, let me think.
“Go to sleep now.”
Don’t you dare tell me what to do.
This nap is unlike other naps. She is aware, acutely aware of her elbows on the astronomically high thread count sheets. She hears the old woman as she limps out of the room and locks the door. She cannot, as promised, open her eyes, move her eyes, use her eyes. Only her chest moves, in and out, in and out. Splashes in the pool, outside. Birds, a car.
Why is she so damn awake? Why is it that she can feel the temperature in the room as it rises and falls, not quite in time with her breathing but almost? Why is it that she can hear the door open, later, later, as someone pads close to the bed and pulls a blanket to her chin, smooths down her covers, checks on her pulse? Why is it that try as she might, she cannot will her heart to beat faster, hey listen, I’m awake, something’s off, don’t leave me alone with my thoughts, please do something. But the person doesn’t. Her pulse still thump thump thumps, undaunted. Oh, if only it would stop.
The windows must have been closed, the light changes so little on the outside of her eyelids. It’s been... perhaps a day. There are smells. Flowers, food. Sounds, too. Carts in the hallway, little metal wheels jamming on the carpet. Delicate hands knocking on doors, but never on hers. The town is always empty and the hotel is always full. Both are quiet. She longs to crack her knuckles. She might need to fight soon.
“Good morning, Eva.”
The split-second rattle of the blinds, opening into searing sunlight, is sharp enough to bathe her eyelids in crimson light. She can smell Marcus from the bed, sense him as a dog senses a snake. Has it been a week already?
Marcus paces, shuffles papers she knows nothing about. There’s white noise, then music, then white noise, then music, then voices, then the weather, then music. He’s turned the radio on.
“I tried to warn you, Eva. Some of us will never know peace for as long as we live. Years ago she would have recognized you as a lost cause,” he let out a sigh, “but she’s getting sloppy, senile really.”
“I can tell you’re awake because I was, too. I was awake as I slept... how funny that sounds... I was awake as I slept through most of the 80s, then the 90s. She’d leave the radio on to ground me, but that was back when she cared.”
And then the music stops, and the news begin, and Eva understands.
It’s still Monday.
What a small kindness, the radio. It keeps her updated on the calendar, on the clock, on the news, on the social media sensations, all the hashtags she could have posted on, all the self-portraiture trends. Her plants must be dead by now, she never did tell the neighbor she’d be staying a week. Her chest grows heavier. Whatever burden this is, she wants it out more than she wants out. She longs to control this sinking ballroom of a body again, but she’s as trapped as she’ll ever be in a cocoon of bedsheets and wool blankets, but no sleep, oh no, no sleep, only the running commentary of a madman for company.
He comes in every day, tells tales as tall as some radio mast (in Warsaw, was it?) he speaks so fondly of. Recalls how he first heard about the discovery of the Titanic, how Chernobyl went boom (a solemn affair, if his tone is anything to go by), how he woke up shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall and refused to sleep again until he’d seen its absence for himself, how a cold war grew lukewarm. Memories for the history books, from a young man who, in his sixty-something years on earth, has seen more than he’s lived.
And yet she misses him when he’s not around. She’s read about demons sitting on women’s chests, choking the life out of their sleeping forms—this is what it must be like. By Wednesday she’s burrowed so deeply into herself it’s hard to see the surface. By Thursday there’s no longer a point in striving to see it. By Friday she must be as good as dead, and considers dying no more.
“Say she passed away today, Eva, can you imagine?” Marcus asks, somewhere to her left, a disturbance in the endless quiet. “You’d have no choice but to lie there, frozen in time and space, no age and no agency to upset you ever again.” A clinking of china as he sips from a cup of tea. She can smell it from the bed, vanilla and chocolate, harmless. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, yet I’m quite sure you’d blame me.”
If Eva could spit on his shoes, she would.
“I really did try to warn you, Eva. The first time, I refused to help, I begged you not to fight me and still you did. The second time, I extended your stay hoping you would sense the threat and flee. I think I tried hard enough. God, I don’t think I’ve tried this hard at anything since the 80s. That’s when my lover dumped me for a baby-faced French model and I realized there were perks to eternal you—”
But by then his voice has settled into the tone he uses for his far-fetched fairytales, and Eva has drifted into a green pasture, torn in two by a white fence. One sheep, two sheep, three sheep...
...five hundred twelve sheep...
“I guess, in the end, what I mean is we may be lost causes to the magic of this place, dear Eva, but there are silver linings.”
The old woman strokes her hair, touches a damp cloth to her forehead. She feels this before she is supposed to, she knows. It’s like returning from a blaze of a fever, nothing but sweat and self-awareness and accidental acupuncture as pinpricks take over her body. Wakefulness hurts, and she won’t blame herself for wanting to go back under. The old woman massages her hands, starting with her fingertips, pausing at her wrists. Her legs, too, are guided through motions they may have already forgotten. When she is allowed to sit up, aided by a discreet nurse, the old woman gives her a glass of water. She empties it, the old woman refills it from the delicate carafe on the bedside table, she empties it again, the old woman adjusts her pillows. Full of answers, she seems.
“Is it done?”
“My half of the bargain, yes. Yours, I cannot say—”
“I know he was here. While I slept, I know he—”
“—but I hope you will return to visit us soon, dear Eva.”
She dares to pick up the old woman’s hand, encased as it is in soft, rubbery leather gloves.
“Please, help me understand, what— what happened?”
All she gets is that unnerving, quiet, elsewhere smile again, and a playful squeeze of her knee. Eva understands this must mean they are, once again, in on a shared secret—but she never quite gets to enjoy her half, and the old woman leaves nothing behind when she escapes the bedroom as an actress would a stage.
Eva showers. The nurse—she is familiar, after all, just lacking the striped yellow bikini from their first meeting—awaits in the room with a breakfast cart, from which Eva merely picks a cup of coffee and a green apple.
When she packs her bag, she takes care to tuck her phone at the very bottom.
When she meets Marcus again, he is stepping out of her car and handing her the keys in the hazy morning sun.
“Good morning, Eva.”
She wrenches the keys from his hand.
“I’m not paying you people a cent,” she warns, stuffing her bag into the passenger seat before climbing in. “And I’m leaving a negative review on every single website that’s ever even mentioned this place.”
He smiles, guarded and polite, a picture-perfect dealer of hospitality.
“I understand. It’s rather unpleasant, really, when you go to bed to escape your failures but fail even at that. I am similarly afflicted, as I have told you—and for this reason, I wouldn’t dream of asking for your money. You have, after all, already paid with your time.”
Eva is distracted as a middle-aged man in a blue suit stops just outside the gates. He never puts away his phone and she recognizes the signs—he is confirming the address, as she did when she first arrived, wondering if it’s possible for this mausoleum, with its swimming pool and its rose garden and its stuffed lions, to enclose any of the rewards he’s been promised. The same she’s been promised. The same she isn’t yet sure she’s been able to claim.
“I’m sorry, what was that?” Paid with your time? What?
“Did you not want to die, a week ago? Yet you still live, so it seems clear to me we must have done something to keep you from your goal. Please accept my apologies in the name of the hotel, Miss, and know that we shall not waste any more of your time. You’re free to go.”
“I’m free to go and... die, you mean?”
“After you’ve written your negative reviews, of course.”
The man in the blue suit finally decides to cross the threshold, phone clutched to his chest like he means to defibrillate himself, and as he climbs the gravel road in his shiny office shoes, it’s as if Marcus no longer registers Eva’s presence, only that of the approaching stranger, whom he evaluates and sizes up even from this distance. Will he find rest here? Is he worthy? Eva wonders, too, as she slams the door and settles into the driver seat and fastens her seatbelt and her nails... her nails, a little overgrown now, are still the color of hydrangeas, but no longer the color of suicide bathtubs.
“What if I don’t want to?”
“I do not see why you would not want to leave negative reviews if our service has disappointed you, Miss. It is your right as a customer to speak your mind, and our duty as hosts to live by your words.”
“That is not what—”
But he is already walking down the driveway to meet the new guest, and if there’s a lesson to be learned from his words, he doesn’t stick around to speak it.
Eva starts the car. The man in the blue suit nods as she drives past, as if attempting to establish some sort of rapport between his own pre-procedure turmoil and whatever kind of post-procedure success story he takes her for. Summer is still peaking in this once-sophisticated spa town, and when she bites into the very last cookie she purchased from the only corner store, a week and a half ago back when sleep seemed like the only sane option, she tastes chocolate and orange and anger at this monumental waste of time.
And yet, she still lives.