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Pudding Air

"What's the scariest thing you can think of?"


"Hellooooo, Petra. In a daze much? I said, what's the scariest thing you can think of?"

Petra looks at her friend. Her happy, fit, well-liked friend Jess, and says the right thing.

"I try very hard to not think about scary stuff."

"Oh, you're no fun," Jess says while replacing a pair of black Converse she'd been considering buying from the Salvation Army they've been haunting for the past hour. She eyes a pair of hideous green Crocs and makes her way towards them. Jess likes ironic shoes. Jess likes color.

Petra, dressed in a plain black t-shirt and black jeans, the only pair she owns that she actually wears, raises her left foot to her right hand to attempt to casually slip on a vintage black penny loafer and falls straight back, hitting her upper back on a sit-up bench marked $17 unfortunately situated behind her.

"Petra! Jess yells way too loud from across the aisle. "What the fuck!? Are you okay?"

"Yeah. I'm okay. I don't know how that happened." Petra shakes her head and smiles up at her friend, who's offering down a hand to pull her back to her feet. She can tell by the way Jess is looking at her that her face is doing something weird. She feels heat beneath her skin and her eyes are starting to water. Not water like she's gonna cry, but water out of frustration. Out of being in an uncomfortable state for all fucking day. She just wants to go home and be alone.

"You probably just need something to eat," Jess says. "I could eat myself. Oh! Tacos! Wanna go to Taco FUCKING Bell!?!?!" Jess is vibrating at this point and Petra wonders if she could ever find herself being that excited about beans. Or about anything really. She winks at Jess to indicate that she's come up with a good plan. She tallies up the remaining hours in her head. Ten minutes to drive to Taco Bell. Five minutes to wait in line and order. Another five till the food is ready. 9,999 hours till they're done eating because Jess treats every meal like it's some big event to be drawn out for as long as possible. So much talking. So so much talking. But it's almost done. Eating means a little less talking, which is good, and then Petra can fake an upset stomach, or some other vague excuse, and ask to be driven home. She wonders why she left home in the first place. She wonders this a lot.


During the short ride to Taco Bell Petra answers Jess' question in her head. Sometimes Petra freaks herself out on purpose and there are actually a lot of scary things she can think about, at any time of the day or night. They're usually the first thoughts to come to her mind when left idle. The last time she had a girlfriend, and would - on rare occasion - let that girlfriend sleep over, she'd often lay with her head facing away from the girl and think about how terrifying it would be to look over at her and she her face transposed with that of a demon. She'd imagine what it would feel like, how her stomach would drop, to turn her head in real life, right there in the comfort of her room, and see a fucked up demon face breaking into an evil grin. When she's thought about that too many times to where it's not as scary as it once was, she alternates with thinking about petting her cat for a long time until it falls asleep, and then picking it up and whacking its head against the wall. She dwells on the moment when the cat's eyes would focus on her just long enough to know that she had done this to it. Its friend. Its only real friend in life. Sometimes she also thinks about staying at her parent's house for Christmas and waking up in the morning and not being able to find her mom anywhere. She searches the house and finally realizes she's probably using the bathroom in the finished basement for a little bit of privacy during her, you know, morning essentials. She walks down the basement steps and sees the bathroom door ajar, catching just a bit of the back of her mom's head through the crack. She reaches the door, opens it, and sees her mom eating her own poop while crying. Just hands full of her own shit, which she's shoveling into her gaping mouth, tears streaming into the open hole as well. She's got a blank look in her eyes and ...


"Huh? Oh, sorry. I was daydreaming," Petra says. Trying to slow her heartbeat.

"Well we're here. Let's go in. I'm literally starving now. I didn't know how hungry I was until I brought up eating. Isn't it funny how that happens? Like when how you have to pee and then have to REALLY pee the closer you get to a toilet?"

"Yeah, haha. That IS funny," Petra says, flipping down the passenger side mirror to check her face before they go in. No demon face. That's good. She wonders what her eyes look like to other people.

"Do you mind ordering for us?" Jess says, handing Petra a folded twenty. "I have to pee so bad. OMG. It's because I was JUST talking about having to pee so bad. Isn't the brain weird?"

"Yeah, the brain is the weirdest. What do you want?"

"Whatever is their new weird novelty thing," Jess says, skip-running to the women's restroom.

Petra gets positioned in line and prepares herself for one of her least favorite activities. Even more so than talking on the phone, she fucking HATES ordering food at restaurants. There's just something about it. Like you're hungry, and you have to tell some stranger about it, and describe to them what you want to eat. It's just not okay.

"Next customer please!"

Petra walks up to the front, trying hard to walk like a normal person, even though at this point her inner battery is so low she feels like she's gonna bend back and then float away, like when you're holding a tote bag in the wind and it gets sucked to the side, or sucked behind you. It feels like she's walking through pudding air.

"Hi!" She says way too cheerfully. "May I please have the cheesy gordita meal with a diet Coke, and your new Mountain Dew Cat Shit Crunch?"

For a minute the teenage girl at the register doesn't know what to make of what she just heard. She asks for clarification.

"I'm sorry, did you say the Mountain Dew ..."

"Yes, that's right," Petra says. "The Mountain Dew Cat Shit Crunch. Oh, and a side of your dead dad's fucking putrid pubes. For here."

"Petra, did you order me something fun?" Jess is behind her now, and she can't tell if she heard what just happened and is trying to pretend that she didn't, or if her timing is just that good.

"Yup. I did. You got that order of a cheesy crunch wrap with a side of cinnamon crisps, didn't you?" She asks the cashier, giving her a way too wide smile.

"Uh, yeah. Here's your number. Your order will be ready shortly.

"Oh! Let's sit by the window so we can people watch," Jess says, pulling Petra's shirtsleeve to the back of the eatery.


Petra sits down and looks out the window. She'll be home soon and after this long ass day she doesn't plan on leaving the house again for a week. She thinks If someone were to look at her, look into her eyes after being home alone all day, every day, for that long ... they'd know. They'd feel it. She often worries that they can feel it all the time. She can sure as shit feel it. It's so exhausting. The whole blending thing.