Aram Mrjoian

My head often feels filled with concrete. This is not to say congested. If anything, I am rarely sick. My fiancée supercharges my immune system with daily verdant smoothies. Abundant spinach provides the vibrant green color, but the leaves do little in regard to flavor. The smoothies instead taste like apples and yogurt. Their dairy-like texture clings to the caverns of my gums. Despite the healthy diet, the center of my head regularly seems to solidify. The grit and goop congeal into a brick of concrete behind my eyeballs. I often wonder about the cause. Does it have to do with my sedentary desk job? My tendency to wear clothes inappropriate for the weather? The lake-effect wind funneling into the caverns of my face? I stare off at random corners of rooms when I try to think of words. In our apartment, I flop across the area rug when my head feels heavy, as if it has anchored my body in place. My limbs float away outward from my skull. Sometimes I think the ceiling fan looks like a man with a tall flattop making a snow angel, but the white paint on the ceiling is not soft enough to actually resemble snow. It is more like a layer of dried, graying yogurt. If we had a dog, these are the moments she would come lick my face, while I lay on the floor and mirror the fan man, but we are still in school, our finances inert, so for the time being we treat our houseplants like pets instead, because they are all we can afford. Their names are Goldie and Planty. Goldie is not a snake plant, though the Polish florist down the street assured me otherwise upon point of purchase. We later bought a snake plant, which died and was replaced with Planty. You're not supposed to be able to kill snake plants, but we drowned the damn thing. We fretted too much over its survival, fawned it to fatality. I guess the platitudinous moral here is that everything dies eventually. Whenever I rise from the rug, my back cracks at several vertebrae. I can’t rest for long because there are always more things to be done around the apartment: coffee to brew, lunches to prepare, emails to send, surfaces to wipe down, books to read, books to donate, dust to scoot from furniture to the floor. Sometimes I forget my keys to the apartment and get locked out, in which case I camp in the stairwell and study. I worry about the amount of recycling we create. There are so many bottles and bins. We started buying biodegradable dish soap to be friendlier to the environment, but the fake smell of pears has been disappointing. The aroma is unpleasant; boiled and sweet. The blinds must be perpetually opened and closed, depending on the time of day. I wonder how often the neighbors across the courtyard see me traipsing about in my underwear as I attempt to shake the wax out of my ears. I bob my head from side to side in hopes it will assuage the weightiness clogged in the canals. Anything to lighten the load. Each morning, I check the time and temperature in the bottom right corner of the local news as I prepare to walk to the train. Before I leave, Goldie and Planty are each given a cup of tap water, placed in the sun, and occasionally sprinkled with a spoonful of damp leftover coffee grounds from the filter. Given our hectic schedules, they have lived longer than we could imagine, especially considering the lack of air conditioning and our general forgetfulness. Somehow, they keep living. Each morning, I kiss my fiancée on the way out the door and glance back at the houseplants. Those two are survivors, I think, and we won’t let them drown anytime soon.