I am at work. I am one of many. We answer fan mail for the songstress Taylor Swift. We pour over each letter and write back the legion of unabated admirers. Some days it feels truly, utterly endless. Miss Swift makes it a priority to visit us once every two months, even when she is on tour. She is kind. She is sweet. She is angelic.
I am still at work, typing. We follow a rubric for the responses. They must adhere to a strict criteria. Every once in a while, something is unaccounted for, which we then report to our supervisors. I am still typing.
After work, I go home. I live with my mother. She is 78 years old now. She makes us soup and then retires early. I stay up listening to Miss Swift’s songs to get a better feel of her voice for tomorrow’s letters. I do this each night.
In the morning, I arrive at work early, store my leftover soup in the fridge for lunch. The container has my name on it to ensure nobody eats it, drinks it? Eats it, I decide; to ensure nobody eats it by mistake.
I go to my desk and read through the stack for the day. It’s a big one. It is thick and towering. I can feel my head buzz already. I work my way through them. I read them all, highlighting facts I could use to give a more personal response, and I annotate in the margins ideas for those responses. Then I take a break and get a cup of coffee, after which, I write a draft response for each, then I edit those, then I have lunch.
After lunch, I return and reread my responses and edit further. It’s almost 4:30 PM. I get up and use the bathroom. I pee. I leave without washing my hands. Then, I submit my letters.
They are read through by another team and sent out. It’s 5:00 now. I am sitting, waiting for the OK. Judy, no, Tracy, no, Trudy. Trudy comes out and says I’m good to go. I leave.
When I get back home, mother is watching the television set, which is odd. I ask her why she is watching it. She says she likes the screen. I suggest she turn it on. She asks what I mean by this. I demonstrate. She is very impressed and says she didn’t know about this. I find this odd, I’ve seen her use the television before, but I pay it no mind and drink…eat; I eat my soup, then I listen to my music for the night on my Ipod Shuffle 2005.
It is day, I have slept with the music on all night. My ears hurt. I take out the white intrusive buds and feel relief. I get dressed in a hurry and do not shower. I drive to work and park far away because I know parking will be full by now. I run out and enter the office. I go to my desk and find a note that says, “come see me when you are here.”
I assume it is from Tracy. Trudy, sorry. I go to her office quickly. She is sitting behind a desk, swiveling in her chair. She is looking down at papers and she does not notice me. I am worried about disturbing her. What if it’s important? what she’s doing. I clear my throat after one minute.
She, finally, looks up. She greets me with a smile and asks me to sit down. I find I am already sitting down before I notice. She says something which I don’t hear and I ask her to repeat it. She does but I don’t hear it again. Then I read her lips. I am the quest at this? I am the quest? What quest? And at what for that matter?
She hands me a stack of envelopes and then points to two more boxes that I am supposed to drag out. I take them all. I drag and lift and carry everything. I sit at my desk and run through them. I read and read, and read. I write and write, and write. I edit and edit, and edit.
I drink coffee, black coffee; three, four cups an hour.
I read more and more, and more. I write more and more, and more. I hear the songs in the back of my head. I see visions of Miss Swift. Then, I am done for the day. It was a marathon of a day. I finished my quest, I believe.
But, the next day, I am given another three boxes and another loose stack. I begin, again. I read and read, but then, suddenly, I am being escorted out. The men taking me out hand me a card. They explain I must visit him if I am to come back to work. They say three weeks. Three weeks until what? Until I come back? Three weeks until I have to visit the “him” on the card. They leave before I could ask. I am in my car. I am at home. I am on the phone. I do not notice these things. I’m slipping through these things.
I’m in a beige room. There is Christmas music playing. Is it Christmas? It feels odd listening to music that is not by Miss Swift.
I see magazines on the table. I pick one up. It’s slippery and new. I like the way it feels. My name is called by a voice. I don’t see anyone, just a disembodied voice. I, somehow, know to walk to a door. I knock on it and hear a voice that sounds familiar.
The woman looks familiar. She looks like Miss Swift but in glasses. She has a laptop in front of her which she is clicking on furiously. She holds a hand up with her index finger pointing upwards. Suddenly, I am sipping on hot tea.
She tells me to stop barking those lyrics. Limericks? I drink, drink? Eat. I eat more tea.
She asks if I’m feeling any better. I say yes. She thinks I’m lying, I can tell. She asks me some more questions and now I’m on my way out. She says one moment and stops me. She looks at me from shoes to hair. Then, she smiles and goes to her desk taking out my Ipod Shuffle 2005. She hands it to me and says one hour and then stop.
I thank her and leave. When I arrive home, my mother has the soup on the stove. She, also, surprisingly I had never noticed, looks a lot like Miss Swift but in a tattered and stained robe. She smiles and sits me down. She is acting too nice. She sees an ear bud hanging from the jacket pocket and asks for it. I’m not sure why but I resist. Then I find myself in the back of a van. My arms are constricted. Two men in white sit next to me. They are watching me, curiously and intently. I smile and offer my hand to shake but I cannot.
They ask me to stop singing. I do.