Dani Shapiro

“Sort pills. Write note to family. Fold blanket. I am alone. Alone in a dark, unfamiliar room filled with piles and piles of stuff, reminiscent of a neglected storage locker. I know researchers are observing me from behind one-way glass—that this is an experiment in empathy, that we are, in fact, on the sprawling campus of a pharmaceutical company in New Jersey, that I can rip off the headphones at any moment and return to my present life, my real life—but this offers me no comfort. I can barely see through the goggles. My feet hurt. Every step is agony, the sharp plastic spikes digging into my soles. Sort pills. Write note to family. Fold blanket. I try to make out the shapes around me. I see an ironing board, a stack of sweaters. A ball of twine. My determination to cross items off any to-do list—always a strong suit of mine—feels slippery. Suddenly, I am a child playing hide-and-seek in the dark. Counting. Eyes squeezed shut. Terrified. Wondering if anyone will ever find me. Blanket. Pills. Note. I keep repeating the words like a prayer so I can remember them through the terrible din. The inside of my head is a needle against a scratched record, skipping, skipping. I feel my way around a cluttered table. A pill case! I try to pick it up. I barely feel it in the palm of my hand. After several tries, I get it open. Then I begin to sort the pills as best I can. Most of them spill to the floor, and I am suddenly, irrationally furious. I move around the table, supporting myself on my hands to take the pressure off my feet. I push an iron out of the way, a magazine, a wooden hanger. The notebook. I find the notebook. My gloved fingers won’t close around a pencil, so I hold it the way a child would, in my fist. By now it all feels nearly futile. I’m on the verge of tears. What is the last task? Through the static, I remember: the blanket. I have to fold it. By now I’m dizzy, depleted. What difference can it possibly make? Who cares? I do a shitty job of folding the blanket and then—then I just sit down in a chair and wait for M. to rescue me. —”

Dani Shapiro, Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage
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Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage Hourglass: Time, Memory, Marriage by Dani Shapiro
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