Iced Coffee's Circles of Hell
1. The ice floating at the top of the cup is so beautiful. It makes shapes. The cubes twist and turn with every movement of the glass, even the slightest and shortest travel from the kitchen to the computer set up on a too-small desk in a too-small room. There's no one else there, but it's crowded nonetheless. The screen awaits.
2. I reach for the cup but something catches my eye; an email, a notification, an endorsement, a harasser. All four, or several of one and none of the others. The ice hasn't melted yet. I type, my hands on a keyboard, when they want to be gripping the firm but wet glass, which is already collecting condensation in the overheating room.
3. Fuck it. I take a sip. It is heaven, but the ice rests against my teeth and when I put the glass down they ache.
4. I want a better glass than this, this homemade drivel. I type furiously at an email, answering people who don't understand technology but have money, answering people with money who can afford to hire me, answering no one at all when I pitch and pitch and pitch my so-called talent out there, hoping my opinions will stick to the walls. I wish I were at the cafe that serves cold brews in mason jars, where the coffee is so strong it's like taking a stiff drink and my mouth curls around itself with every sip.
5. The ice is melted. Now all that's left is cold coffee making a ring of tepid water that spreads towards my oversized laptop. I pick up the glass and fling it across the room, relishing the sound of it shattering against the wall, hoping a neighbor will hear, will knock on the door, will see the extent of my wrath and will scamper off, terrified.
I don't throw the glass. I can't afford to throw the glass. I take another sip, fuming, making it warmer with my very touch and breath.
6. I wonder if I should give up coffee.
7. The emails remain unreturned, unread, uncared for. The coffee is lukewarm. I reach down to my stomach, where I can get a good grip, and I squeeze my skin, my fat, tightwith all my fingernails, pushing them into the flesh until it is mortified, red, soon oozing slow blood from curved marks. I take a tissue, wipe it on the iced-coffee glass, wetting it with its continued weeping, and clean up the blood, which is less dramatic than first appeared. It's been an hour since I sat down, and the muscles in my legs scream to sprint towards the unbarred window and hurl themselves off the balcony, for no other reason than to see myself, from above, lying splayed and broken and attractive to passers-by.
8. I round up on my time-sheet. I feel guilty. I also feel better.
9. I get up, pour out the not-so-iced-coffee, and begin to make a new one with cheap instant coffee, boiling water, the coldest the tap can extract, and ice. I have betrayed the first glass. I have betrayed my finances since cheap instant coffee isn't so cheap.
This time, I use a straw.
Ilana Masad is a queer Israeli-American fiction writer and book critic. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times, McSweeney's, Joyland, StoryQuarterly, the Washington Post, the Guardian, LA Times, and more. She is the founder and host of The Other Stories, a podcast featuring new, emerging, and established fiction writers.
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