“Hello, Mom.”

7 AM rolls around and my alarm clock lets out an electronic buzzing sound. It sounds like what an AI might think of buzzing bees without ever having been fed a recording of them. I am already awake. I was awake when my next-door neighbors began arguing in Spanish about who the real father of little Ana is. I was awake when an old Chevy pickup with a blown-out exhaust pipe made donuts in the parking lot. I was awake while a group of teenagers smoked underneath the no-smoking sign outside the apartment complex. I was awake when my mother called and left a voice mail message, saying “I love you, call me.”

I was awake, but I simply did not move. Not until the alarm went off.

Silencing the buzzer, I swung my legs off the bed, stood up, and walked to the bathroom. I disrobed, throwing my underwear into the laundry hamper, turned on the shower, and went on with the business of scrubbing yesterday off of me. After I dressed, I drove my car to the Park-and-Ride and took the 7:30 train to downtown. I got off at the 5th and Market station and walked into Jackson & Son’s Marketing Firm. A mirror monolith of a building, Jackson & Son’s Marketing Firm towered over the other sky crappers, reflecting only dark grey concrete and a florescent bulb sky. I walked in and merged with the other workers inside one of the six elevators on the first floor. I got off on the 7th floor, clocked in with my ID, and went to my cubicle. On my desk was an envelope with only one word written on it: “Dorothy Burns.” I took the envelope off the desk and placed it in my dark brown leather handbag. It was time to work.

At 12PM, I took out my lunch box and ate the cold cob salad I made last night. My cubicle neighbor, Ruth, came over and tapped me on my shoulder.

“There’s cupcakes in the break room. You want some?” she said.

With a mouth full of Romaine lettuce and ranch dressing, I nodded.

“Okay, I’ll go grab you one,” she said.

I swallowed the masticated morsel and took a sip out of my water bottle before continuing on an Excel Spreadsheet, documenting the change in consumer engagement. My cob salad, my bottle was empty, and the lunch hour was over by the time Ruth came back, holding two chocolate cupcakes.

She handed me one and starting munching on the other as she went back to work. I looked at the cupcake. Someone with very calm hands had painstakingly wrote the words “Happy Birthday” with royal icing on the cupcake. I placed the cupcake aside and continued typing.

By 7:00 PM everyone except me and the janitorial staff remained I continued to work until my cell phone began to buzz. I picked it up and turn off the alarm. I saved my progress and sent out the last report before logging off the computer and clocking out. I remembered to place the cupcake in my empty Tupperware before exiting the building.

I repeated this morning’s commute in reverse and in the streetlight-speckled darkness. Once back at the apartment, I checked the mail. There were many cards, all with “Dorothy Burns” written on them. But no bills and no tickets. Just cards. I emptied the mailbox into my handbag and went upstairs.

I undressed and threw my cloths into the laundry hamper. I emptied my bag and prepared lunch for tomorrow. I placed the cupcake with the cards scattered on the table. I took out a glass and filled it with sherry and stood for a while looking at the cupcake and the cards.

I downed the glass of sherry in one gulp, sat down, and read each card. One from Mom, one from Big Bro, one from a classmate from college, another from a classmate form high school, one from that guy who lives two hours away, and some from people I don’t remember. After reading them, I organized the pile on the table and took out some pens and paper. I wrote a thank you note to each sender, using a thank you note template I had found on my phone, and sealed each with the same white envelope I use to send checks. I poured myself another glass of sherry and I checked my phone. There was only one message, still. I hit redial and waited for three beeps. At the third beep, my mother answered. I said, “Hello, mom.”


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