- Curse the alarm. I mean really curse it. Curse at it as your fist slams into the shrieking metal bells atop the heart-shaped clock. Curse again at the pain now shooting through your hand.
- Hold onto the walls for support as you work your way toward the bathroom for a shower. Feel ten, maybe twenty, years older than you are. The water will streak lukewarm down your body. Slowly, let the tiled walls come into focus. Let your muscles relax and your hands fall to your side.
- Stare in the mirror through the fog. Pinch the folds of your stomach and sigh. Make a mental note to find some way to exercise.
- Wrap a towel around you. Walk back to your room down the hall in loopy strides and bump into the corner. Curse.
- Slam the door to your room. Glance at the clock. Curse.
- Gather the pieces of your authentic dirndl uniform for your shift as a waitress. Lay them out on your bed, smoothing the wrinkles from their overnight stay on your floor. Check for scorpions as your mother’s voice reminds you about that one time her sister was stung in the crotch. She was a tornado, too.
- Picture yourself on stage as you put on yet another costume. Remember the adrenaline pumping louder than the orchestra’s bass drum inside your ears. Remember how your skull pulsed as your dizzy mind wrapped itself in knots, nerve fibers tangled, until you could no longer hear your cue. But you knew it by instinct, by heart. Remember this is still possible.
- Hum as you get lost in your memories.
- Glance at the clock again. Curse at the clock again. Fuck. Fuck you. Fuck off.
- Tie on the lace apron and smooth it out beneath your bust. Tie the black server’s apron over it, wrinkling the lace again. Stick the checkbook in the right side pocket and six pens, in rainbow order, in the left.
- Look for more pens. Your coworkers keep stealing them. Shuffle through the papers on your desk. Final papers from exams you took months ago. Short stories. Essays you’ll never finish. Score two more stray pens.
- Glance at the purple leatherette folder propped up in the opposite corner of your desk. Turn away to fix your hair in the mirror.
- Fail to avoid thinking about the diploma tucked inside the folder. Remember the last stage you crossed, years after you’d given up theatre. Remember how the university later shipped the philosophy degree via snail mail. Remember how you played pretend anyway, holding the empty box and smiling about a thing that didn’t exist inside.
- Remember about the promises you made to yourself as the graduation photographer stuck his camera lens in your face and you winced in the worst professional photograph ever taken.
- Remember how you couldn’t find work and had to move back to the desert with your parents. A temporary situation, you told yourself.
- Laugh as you start applying cover-up. Purse your lips in the mirror to stretch your already flushed cheeks.
- Smear on enough lipstick to satisfy a showgirl. Smear on enough lipstick to remember being a showgirl. Smear on enough lipstick to forget you still are a showgirl.
Kat Knuth is a library specialist and writer based in Englewood, Colorado. She graduated with a BA from Northwestern University, majoring in philosophy and minoring in cross-genre creative writing, and has an MFA in Creative Writing from Chatham University, concentrating in fiction and nonfiction prose. She taught creative writing classes at the Allegheny County Jail as part of Chatham’s Words Without Walls program and currently works in the library at her local county jail. Her work has been featured in Chicken Soup for the Girl’s Soul and Entre Los Dos.
Show Kat some love via PayPal at kmbknuth(at)gmail(dot)com.