Good morning, Breana called out sick for tonight. Will you be willing to come in at 1930 hours? Thank you, Terry
Jamie knew Breana wasn’t sick. She knew it like she knew that she had two freckles on the right side of her neck and like she knew she would eat a hard-boiled egg for breakfast because it was right now hissing inside boiling water on her stove and like she knew today was a cloudy Tuesday in San Diego and like she knew Breana wasn’t sick.
Two reasons explained Jamie’s certainty of this knowledge: First, she had worked with Breana for seven months this May and quickly learned about 90% of the words Breana spoke didn’t align with what could rightly be called the truth. If it was raining, Breana would comment about the “gorgeous sunshine.” If a passenger on Lucky Hula, the tourist trap of a boat they worked on together as it cruised the bay each night, was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, she’d remark about his sophisticated evening wear. If they were given a tray of prosciutto-wrapped asparagus to pass out to guests with a note about the “freshness of the vegetables sourced from a local farm,” Breanna would sashay across the Lucky Hula ballroom asking if this woman or that man wanted to try a burger from her tray.
“They’re made right here,” she’d coo, murmuring something about a Culinary Institute of America-trained chef who lived aboard Lucky Hula and crafted these creations himself, even though we scarcely had a kitchen and had to lug all the food onto the boat before every trip using old tomato crates from the owner’s grandma.
Guests would look at Breana, a quizzical twist in the corner of their eyes, a pucker of uncertainty furrowing their mouths, and usually give in. Smile. Gaze upon the wonder of her always-wonderful blonde hair and elegant features. She spoke with such conviction in the things that emitted from her always-red-painted lips, Breana could make anyone believe an asparagus was a dead cow, even if they weren’t sure why.
Breana’s mind seemed to have no grounding in the visible cues of reality, left untethered by some break with societal cues to float in the nebulous space between cruel lies and brilliant imagination.
Jamie also knew Breana wasn’t sick because she was sitting next to her right now, in the black-and-white tiled kitchen they shared as roommates.
“Why’d you call out sick today?” She asked Breanna, whose hair was wrapped into a messy bun on top of her head, eyes fixated on the pot of boiling water.
“Can I make pancakes in that pot when you’re done?” She asked, ignoring the question. She bit at her fingernail. “I’m sooooo hungry!”
“Then you’re not sick?”
“Jamie, how can you even ask that? Of course I’m sick! Terry didn’t let me finish my sentence but I’m sick of the job. I’m sick of traipsing around on the Lucky Hula as everyone has fun but me. Isn’t life supposed to be fun? Isn’t what we do supposed to make us feel fun and alive and not like we’re some kind of walking zombies in oversized tailcoats and weird, patent leather shoes? I mean, of course I’m sick! Aren’t you?”
A point was made, decisive, quick. And with it, a conclusion: Jamie knew Breana wasn’t sick. But as she peeled her egg and folded her uniform for 1930 hours, Jamie began to wonder if maybe she was.
This tiny story was based on a wrong text I received this morning: