When I woke up in the morning, there was an egg.
It was a little bigger than my head. Large by traditional egg standards, but smaller than I would’ve expected, which was a little emasculating in a female, egg-laying sort of way. There were tiny bursts of color exploding on its surface. Cerulean, amethyst, honeysuckle, lime. I nudged the egg with a pillow and it rolled lazily onto its side, nestled gently between comforter and sheet.
“I cannot come into work today,” I told my boss. I had not gone into work since Jay died three weeks ago, but I kept calling anyway. I imagined my voice pale and weirdly pleasant on his answering machine.
The egg sat there all morning, and when I came home from my walk later that day, it sat there all afternoon. Night rolled around and the egg still had not budged, so I decided to just give it the bedroom.
“Egg,” I said to the egg. “This shit’s all yours.”
The egg and I went on like this for a while—it existing, and I existing along with it. Sometimes I would ask the egg for opinions on outfits. Was this hoodie hobo or hobo-chic, did these culottes give me that sexy accountant vibe or just normal accountant vibe? When friends called to check up on me I would tell them what the egg and I did that day, what we planned to do this weekend, our thoughts on the weather. Mostly my friends were silent. I talked and they’d respond occasionally in kind. They’d laugh when I laughed, sigh when I sighed, and when I had to get off the phone for a second to go tell the egg something, they’d cover the receiver to give me privacy.
“Take care of yourself, Emma,” they always said before hanging up.
At night, I’d talk to the egg from across the hallway. I asked it what it wanted to do with its life and if being an egg made it difficult to have ambition. I asked it if it was filled with fluid like the other eggs that I knew. I asked what it was like to breathe liquid instead of air. Did it hurt? Did it understand that it was drowning?
Was it scared?
About two weeks after the egg showed up, I noticed its color splotches were beginning to fade. A few days later it developed a smell. I worried the egg might find a trip to the vet degrading, so I made an appointment with my regular doctor instead.
“Unhealthy pallor, general lethargy, slight . . . flatulence issues,” I told the receptionist when she prompted me for symptoms. She said they might be able to squeeze me in if I hurried right over.
I hung up the phone and rushed around the apartment. My sexy accountant culottes were in the wash, and I’d been wearing my current hoodie for six days already. There was a mostly finished poncho sitting on the couch from when the egg and I signed up for an online knitwear course, so I threw it over my shoulders and started to build a nest of pillowcases in my backpack.
Once the nest was finished I went to pick the egg, but when my fingertips made contact the shell began to shatter, little spider web fissures inching along its curved spine. Tiny flakes popped off its surface one by one onto the bed sheets. And then, slowly at first, water trickled from the holes. More poured out—a stream, a gush, then a river, and soon the wetness licked at my feet, running under the arches, curling between my toes. But when I went to patch the holes with pillowcases—to stop the flow—the water broke from unseen fissures and galloped down my legs instead.
It filled the bathroom first, enveloping the bathtub, lifting the hairs I wouldn’t extract from the drain, saturating the towel I hadn’t brought myself to wash. Then it moved to the kitchen. Old newspapers floated on the surface of the water for a moment, black and white text running over images, staining and distorting visions of places and their people before the pages sank. One side slowly submerging, then the other.
The liquid rushed through the entire apartment. Desks, dressers, tables, and lamps sent out ripples that turned into rapids that grew into white water and lifted me off my feet. I rose quickly, my knitwear poncho surprisingly buoyant, and the egg bobbled up after me.
We churned quietly above the bedroom for a moment, the egg and I, before the top of my head hit the ceiling. Where there used to be air there was only liquid. Water spilled down my throat, filled my lungs, slid across my ribcage, and coursed through my fingertips. I imagined my brain floating around in my skull, bobbing gently back and forth like a little gray ship anchored at bay.
I took hold of the egg and pressed down tight, one side slowly breaking apart, then the other.
“Egg,” I said to the egg, water running in rivulets down my lips. “It’s you or me, motherfucker.”
Front page image by katerha.