Public Paranoia

The foyer is empty before anyone is out, early-morning campus. The floor tiles smell dusty, in a custodial, public school way underscoring the surreality of this normally bustling foyer that is right now empty and hollow. Empty and hollow and echoes reverberate from maybe down the hall or from the second floor, but the foyer here is big and bright and wide and completely empty, but there’s a table along the far wall (trophy case memorabilia behind it) with two black coffee cambros on them. The table here isolated along the sweeping rear wall, it comes to dominate the view of this barren landscape – like panning the New Mexico desert and the camera stops and zooms in on this house, suburban 3 bedroom with green grass, white picket fence in desolate expanse – here is this table, out of place and isolated along the wall of this empty, unused foyer. I am standing in front of the table, holding a cup in one hand, other hand in my coat pocket. There is another person here, a lizard that has crept across my peripheral to stand beside me, reaching for a Styrofoam cup.

Where did this come from? – I ask.

I don’t know.

Free coffee and no strings attached? – I ask. I can rotate at my waist when I speak without moving my head.

Makes my morning better – says this other, filling himself a cup.

We’re very trusting, you know – I tell him. He looks at me, topping his cup off. I say – We don’t know why this is here. For all we know we’re a couple of flies taking the bait, creeping over to the Venus Fly Trap.

This other person is stirring his coffee, his lips flat.

Someone could have put diuretics in it – I say. It could have Horny Goat Weed, or Acid. For all you know, some nut-job just now came and added a heavy dose of glyphosate. Do you know what glyphosate does to the central nervous system in large doses? You would never even know someone had slipped it into the coffee – there’s no one here keeping an eye on it.

We pause, holding our coffees and looking at the coffee Cambros. This other person, he says to me – Remember the Anthrax scare? Just like baby powder, you could stir it right in. We probably wouldn’t be taking this coffee if it were 2001.

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