Sunday, February 12, 2023 – 7:37:01 AM

I fell asleep at work, intentionally, thinking it would be acceptable or that I could at least get away with it. At a desk on what I thought was an otherwise unoccupied floor (16?) I found a chair that bent back nearly 180°. It felt perfect, though I kept one eye open for security guards. The computer screen showed a steady, monotonous din of interracial pornography, some of which started to feed images into my unconscious sleep before themselves going dark.

Unaware I was only dreaming I generously floated through this comforting, warm space. Desks and chairs below surrounded a central garden-like area with raccoons, a few small trees, and an artificial waterfall. The dream within a dream did not last long but I don’t remember ever experiencing one before.

I woke to instructions being barked out at me by a security guard, who directed me to a new, fresh tree that had grown in the garden area. I and one other person (where did he come from?) found waiting for each of us a stack of paperwork. Mine included a fine for $460, several large bandages affixed to a piece of rigid cardboard with a paper clip, and several area guides and pamphlets for what to do and where to go in lower Manhattan. The other person’s penalty pack cost him $600, a fine he gleefully accepted in the way a gambler savors a 4-figure loss at the casino. This was not his first time paying a penalty for sleeping at the office. He thought it was awesome, wage garnishment and the possibility of criminal contempt for trespassing a government facility.

I woke up poorer than when I slept, and to the mockery of many who knew the loopholes in successfully living at the office, rent free, by sleeping inside the telephone. I never understood this fabrication, but the others believed it strongly enough that they never left their desks, which were not desks as normally conceived but something resembling a small encampment, with semi-circular couches and constantly running water that served as a small maelstrom of distraction to the forces of surveillance and enforcement. The artistically formed scoop of water, each one uniquely formed, rendered all threats moot. Once you found the crack in the air, or in your flesh, the water flowed. Once that happened you nestled your body and ancillary substances into the dial tone, never again moving or bothering with flight.

I attempted to vacate the premises but found no way out. Windows opened on to the outdoor spaces advertised in the pamphlets and leaflets included with my $460 penalty, but I found no access. The bandages, which I caustically remarked upon to the person whose $600 penalty brought such joy, had all fallen away. I had no injury but couldn’t help ask why bandages were included in a penalty pack. I assumed they were included as a preëmptive gesture. They would be used to seal and heal the wounds I was expected to inflict upon myself in response to this penalty. Indeed, my inability to find escape from the premises was deliberate. The company of others was calculated to prevent me from attempting or successfully achieving self-harm.

As the mockery of many faded into the little rivers of encampment I watched the $600 person meet and greet the others, shaking hands as the people facelessly swallowed his body. I felt my head grow taller, the neck suddenly pencil thin, its narrowness choking me until I deployed emergency techniques I’d learned on the job, breathing through my fingertips and taking off my shoes to breathe through my feet. This successfully allowed me to regain fullness in the neck and return to normal breathing, but it was close. Seconds more of this and I would have suffocated.