To be honest things weren’t going so well even before the head started coming out of my floor. I was unemployed and universally hated. Afternoons I’d go sit in this median strip a few blocks from my apartment and write things in my notebook while cars barreled past. Sometimes I brought a guitar.
First it was just a soft patch. I figured maybe you know the floor was rotting. I didn’t know. What do I know about floors.
I thought of men I could text to ask them about this like bruise in my floor. I was a little hard up in terms of people to text because like I said.
First I texted this guy Lee. I text Lee saying there’s a soft spot in my floor and could he come over and check it out, does he know something about floors?
When he came over Lee was wearing a nice shirt and like, product in his hair. Maybe even cologne.
Lee pressed his fingers into the soft spot in my floor. Then he kind of like recoiled and said I should call my landlord. I wasn’t going to do that. I’ve lived in this apartment six years and never once have I called the landlord. One of my windows won’t open and another won’t close. The toilet appears to be eating itself. The lock on my door is broken sometimes and sometimes it’s not and sometimes I’m trapped in my apartment for days until the humidity drops and I can slide the deadbolt out again.
Lee asked if I wanted to like, watch a movie and I said no and he left and I put a towel over the soft spot in my floor.
After a few days I could no longer deny that the towel was bulging up in the middle. So I peeled it back and there was like. The top of a head. With straight brown hair. It was cresting, you know, like when they talk about the baby’s head poking out. Out of the woman. It was the same thing, but you know. My floor.
I texted this guy Chris and was like. Hey Chris.
So Chris comes over, he also seems sort of a little bit more dressed up than the last time I saw him, which to be honest I don’t even remember who Chris is. He brought pizza. So, I’m like, that’s cool. Better than Lee. Lee didn’t bring anything. When he sees the top of the head he—I mean Chris—well, you could tell he wasn’t expecting that. He brought his tools, too, I didn’t mention that. Both pizza and tools. Way better than Lee.
I asked Chris to touch it, you know, to see if it’s warm. He said he didn’t want to. I say this is why I asked him to come over. This is what I needed him for. Chris looks like he’s going to throw up or like collapse in upon himself like a dead star due to this sudden revelation of like the harrowing absurdity, futility, pain. I mean of existence. He lays the towel carefully over the head. I thought you just wanted to hang out, he says. He sounds like. Wounded. He takes the pizza with him.
So at this point I’m starting to regret that everyone hates me and how all I do all day is sit in the median, this like three-foot-wide strip of grass between six lanes of traffic, and pretend I’m writing in a notebook or pretend I’m playing guitar. Pretty soon I’ll run out of guys to text to come over and help me with the human head coming out of my floor.
The towel helps. I’m not going to sit here and tell you the towel does nothing.
The last number in my phone of a man who does not yet know me well enough to hate me is Brandon, who I probably went on some sort of date with at some point in my life. I think Brandon said we should hang out again and I was like yeah and then when he named an actual day of the week I never responded and deleted all our texts.
Brandon didn’t bring anything and he seems annoyed. I’m not sure why he came but I was glad to have him there when I lifted the towel.
You could just make out the upper edge of the eyebrows. Brandon agreed it was a man’s head. You could tell. It’s not just the size. I’m saying. You can tell.
I asked Brandon if he’d touch the top of the head to see if it was warm. Meaning, alive. Brandon said no. I said, someone has to. He said, it’s your floor. I gave him this look. He sighed and told me how when we went on a date four years ago I was really rude. I try to remember this date. We’re still sitting on the floor. The towel’s still off. The head’s there between us. I feel like I could grab Brandon’s wrist and put his hand on the head before he realized what was happening. Then we’d know.
I tell Brandon I’m sorry, even though I can’t remember this date we supposedly went on. Well, I say. I say, well, would you want to stay here with me while the head rises out of my floor? Of course I expect him to say no. Any normal person would abandon me to this horror that is after all my burden and no one else’s. Or tell me to call the landlord. Which you know. That’s off the table.
But Brandon gets this look like of utter defeat and sighs again and goes. Yeah. Okay.
So I break my median routine and stay in the apartment with Brandon all day. We mostly ignore each other. He works on his laptop because he’s a freelancer. I don’t know what kind. He told me but I guess I didn’t care. Sometimes I look over at him and wonder what fundamental and overpowering sadness there is inside of him that compels him to stay here with me while the head rises from my floor. But I’m not going to say anything, because like. What if he leaves.
We check the head every two hours. It’s rising at the rate of around one inch per day. So by 6:00 a.m. tomorrow. There’ll be the eyes.
This is like, what it’s all been building up to. We’re excited but we also feel like maybe. You know maybe it’s too late now. Maybe before, someone could have done something. Something could have been done.
The eyes are blue and like, alert. They’re blinking at what you might call normal intervals. I mean to say they’re alive. Looking at us. They seem like they’re in an okay mood. Like, not tortured, at least. That’s a relief. That answers at least one of our questions.
Now that we have the eyes we feel like we can talk to the head like it’s in this thing with us. We don’t put the towel over it now. It seems like now there’s the matter of like. Human rights. We figure it’ll be a few more days and there’ll be the mouth. And then we’ll clear some things up.
All along I’ve been hoping it’ll be like six months and then the whole man is up out of the floor. I imagine he’s wearing a suit and he’ll straighten his tie and shake my hand and walk out my door and the floor will kind of neatly seal up after him. So like I won’t have to tell my landlord after all or adjust in any small way the constituents of this miserable life that is after all my burden and no one else’s.
But days pass and it’s still just the eyes, and they’re always awake and staring at us, unless we’re standing behind the head. It isn’t rising anymore. The head. Like, it’s stuck. Or maybe that’s all there is. Maybe it’s been just the top third of a head all along.
After a few weeks we put the towel back on the head. Since then it’s been a few more months. Brandon seems to live with me. I’ve started going out to the median strip again. I don’t know. We don’t really talk. Me and Brandon. We’ve never touched each other. At first I thought he wanted to. But now I’m not really too sure.
Kate Folk‘s work has appeared in One Story and Granta, and is forthcoming in Zyzzyva. She is a fiction editor at Joyland and for the quarterly journal Your Impossible Voice. She lives in San Francisco and is working on a novel. Find her at www.katefolk.com, or on Twitter @katefolk.