Wash my hands. Don’t wash your hands. If I don’t wash them, I’ll catch a virus and die. You already washed them twice, they’re clean. Wash my hands. Don’t wash your hands. I can’t do this, regardless of what Dr. Sommers thinks. You can do it, and you will. I’ve been doing these things my entire life, there’s no way I can stop it in one day. Nobody’s asking you to stop it in one day, just to try, or you’ll never stop. Why do I have to stop? Because it’s unhealthy and you know it. Is it? Yes. Must wash the cereal bowl. The cereal bowl is clean. There could be microbes on the surface that will make me sick. That’s ridiculous. I know, but to be safe I’m washing it again. Don’t. Too late. I’m never going to make it through the day; it’s not even eight o’clock. You’ll make it, every moment is a new chance to better yourself. Must shower again. Don’t shower again. I have to fold and unfold my underwear three times. Put your underwear on without folding. I have to walk around the bed before putting on my pants. Put your pants on now without walking. And I suppose you want me to button my shirt all at once, not count to thirty-six between buttons? You’re getting the idea. I’m dressed. That wasn’t so difficult; nothing bad happened. Not yet, but it’s still early; I have too much time before work. Watch television. I’ll have to flip back and forth between two channels six times before choosing one. Read the paper. Do you know how many times I’ll have to wash my hands if I do that? Why don’t you leave for work now? I’ll be early, I need to arrive at 7:56 on the dot! The idea of this exercise is to break your routines. Fine, we’ll leave, and I suppose I’ll have to leave my Windex here. Yes, your car windows didn’t get that dirty overnight. I can’t believe I’m outside so early. You only need to lock the door once, not lock it and unlock it six times. I have to make sure it’s locked, somebody may break in. It’s locked, you just locked it, that’s all you need to do. One more time. No. Yes, there. You didn’t need to do that. I have to do it again. You don’t. Please. No. Can I at least check to see if I remembered my wallet? As long as you only do it once. One wallet check. Is it there? Yes. Let’s go. Maybe I should check my wallet again. It hasn’t gone anywhere in two seconds, go to the car. I’m just unlocking the door and getting inside, not walking around it twelve times. Great, you’re making progress. Wish I had my paper towels to grab the seatbelt. Use your hands, you cleaned it vigorously yesterday. I need to run the car for ten minutes. Back out now. After I adjust my mirrors. They were fine yesterday, they’ll be fine today. I need to check. Don’t. You’re right, they look fine. Told you. I’m still going to back out slowly. Fine. It’s so strange leaving at this time, all the cars on the road are different. Doesn’t matter, you’re still going to the same place. I’ll throw off the other drivers and cause an accident. No you won’t. The light is red and there’s nobody at the stop line before me: I need to stay two car lengths from the stop line. That’s why the stop line is there, to stop. I may hit somebody in the crosswalk. There’s quite a distance between the stop line and the crosswalk; besides, nobody’s crossing the street. They may come running out of nowhere. They won’t. I wish I had your confidence. You will. The light is green; I must look from right to left six times before I proceed. Just do it once, the intersecting street has a red light now. Fine: left, right. Go! I’m going! What was that? Something hit us; a car ran the red light! I told you this would happen! Pay attention, we’re being pushed onto the sidewalk. There are people there. We aren’t going to hit them. I can’t believe you anymore… if I had looked six times, I would have seen the car coming… I knew something bad was going to happen… I knew it. I must get out of the car, but the door is crumpled into the seatbelt release… I can’t escape… How could Dr. Sommers do this to me? People outside asking if I’m okay, I can’t make eye contact with them or something else bad will happen. They want me to unlock the passenger side so they can help me. No. I can’t open that door and let them in—those strangers and all their germs. Why can’t they leave me alone? Why can’t everybody leave me alone?
-- Tom Misuraca studied Writing, Publishing and Literature at Emerson College in Boston before moving to Los Angeles. Over 95 of his short stories and two novels have been published. This year his work appeared in Capsule Stories, The Crypt and Alchemy Literary Magazine. His story, Giving Up The Ghosts, was published in Constellations Journal, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize.