He Is Not Oliver

My legs buzz in the after shock of adrenaline and I have to sit down to catch my breath. I close my eyes for a moment after I slowly tip into one of the two kitchen table chairs. The support is comforting and when I open my eyes, the familiarity of the open living room and kitchen slow my fluctuating heartbeat.

The stack of puzzle boxes beside the door, uniform and organized by size remind me of the hour I spent hovering over them with a ruler to make sure they were perfectly aligned. I scan the couch in the living room, bought and placed in front of the window that overlooks the apartment manager's back garden, but never sat in for fear of a lumpy and uneven cushion. I can't bring myself to look at the room anymore. I lean my head back and close my eyes again, shutting them away from the truth. I am OCD.

Why have I been denying it? It's plainly obvious. Mum used to always rant about my cleaning habits and my need to organize. Mum was trying to help me realize what I was doing to myself. What have I ever done for you, Mum, in return? I never even went to your funeral, much less visit your grave.

I make myself stand up and walk to the bathroom, an itch to be rid of something dirty creeping suspiciously in the folds of my mind. I flick on the light and stare at the reflection in the mirror, a portrait of a disheveled young man, hair wild and apron coming undone. The squelch of my shoes on the tiles of the bathroom grab my attention. Sometime in my run, I had stepped in a puddle and the dark cuffs of my pant legs are drenched along with my work shoes. I've had these shoes for such a long time that with tedious attention they've never stepped a sole in anything or were in need of cleaning aside from a monthly polish.

I bring myself to look into the mirror again, taking in the sag of my gelled hair, only this morning perfectly aligned and stiff straight. Then I notice the tear stain on my left cheek, still fresh. I don't remember crying. I don't remember crying on the way home. I don't remember crying in the storeroom. I don't remember ever crying in my past. I'm not even sure I cried for mum?

"Who are you?" I ask the reflection, watching him repeat the question back at me. The name tag on his apron, worn for years but still legible says "Oliver" so I address him as so.

"Oliver," I answer, "I'm not you."


The End

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