I am staring at the white, pristine ceiling.

The predawn light was soft, murky still, indigo in the washed-out white of the room, immaculate, spotless. I lay immobile. I take it all, I love the cleanliness of it. Sound. A steady pinging of emptiness—clean.

Have I slept? No?

The clock is ticking on the bedside table. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.


Beside me my boyfriend was standing, shuffling his feet on the carpeted flooring—with all those neat little patterns—grumbling under his breath, as usual. I watched him. His bare back that last night I clawed in ecstasy, or revulsion, or both. Perhaps fear.

He said he was going to leave me if I don't get over my fear. Why? His girls are everywhere. Trains. Parks. Malls. School. Everywhere. So dirty. I have to clean them out. Everybody—everywhere—everyone is following him. I must protect him. I just want him to look at me.

Me. Me. Me. Aren't I clean? They're not.


He pads away, almost stumbling in the cool darkness, muttering low in his throat that sounded guttural, almost primal. Was it because…?

Never mind, I say. The clock ticked. My skin was glowing, almost sizzling in anticipation. The sounds of the engines of early risers darted to and fro—

—arriving, disappearing—


Sharp sound of the shower opening. Steam on the bathroom curtain—his manly silhouette plastered against the white. Everything was white. Common and clean. I smile inwardly at the thought. Everything is clean—taken care of. My loins ache thinking about it. Neatness. My man is neat. I love him.

All the girls love him.

I felt my hand spasm involuntarily. Why? He is beautiful, like an angel. Clean in all respects, like white. Like my room. He is plain, like my room, like all my belongings and things and—

Was it because of his face?

Was it?

Why? Why? Whywhywhywhywhy

A loud roar from a passing motorcycle drowned my thoughts. I am lost. What was I thinking? I love him so much.

No one is going to take him away. Not nobody, with their grubby hands and filthy looks. He deserves me.

I rise from the bed, the covers pooling down at my waist, baring my bosom. I look around. Oh, there it is. I take it, crusted over. Where is this from? I ask myself. Never mind, I shrug. I take it. I'll just have to clean it—strange, I never forget to tidy up. I titter. I'm getting old. Oh no, he won't love me if he sees me having those unclean wrinkles.

I hate them. I resolve to take it off my face some day. But not now. I have just cleaned up something important.

I swing my legs off the bed.


I gaze longingly at the shower door, ajar, spilling forth a nice slice of light inside.

Tock. Tick-tock-tick-tock-tock. Squeaking of the shower handle. Drip. Drip-drip.

Dripping. Like last night.

Still dark. Good. I stand, almost wobbling. Why is he quiet? I ask myself worriedly. What happened? I feel my heartbeat racing.

Why? Why is he quiet?


I grip it tighter. I must save him.

I walk purposefully to the bathroom door. Thud-thud-thud. My heartbeat is outpacing my feet. Why? Isn't he clean? Why is he quiet?

I cleaned him, didn't I? So why?

His face. Cleaned his—face? Was his face dirty last night?

Can't remember. I must reach him. I'm gripping something—

I slam open the door.

Tick. Tock. Tiiiiiiccckkk—

"GRAAAAGGGHHLLLL…!" he says—or tries to say, clawing at his peeled-off face, bulging eyes—the skull peeking out, what a nice view!—and savaged voicebox, all dripping red. Raw and red, clean from the imperfections of the skin.

I laugh in relief. I was so worried. Worried sick!

"Oh," I say, and I gesture with the knife I'm holding with my hand. Stained—dirty. I'll clean it up later. "You should be careful if there's dirt on your face, sweetie."

I smile as I reach for him. "So I cleaned it for you."