Crumpled paper

My fingers tap on the pull-out slab of wood at my desk. Each grain in the worn, coffee-stained oak is more mundane than the last. My pencil makes its way about a piece of dirt-streaked lined paper. I am pained by how mundane this experience is. Musty air permeates. Mundane.

A knock at the door. A soft voice, somewhere between a murmur and a mutter:

“Arjun?”

I should probably get up. I should probably answer the door. I don’t.

“Can you edit my paper?”

I rise to thunderous applause. My chair is left swiveling in the wake of my single, smooth motion, a hearty “swoosh” announcing the smoothness of said motion. Walls fall away as I spread my arms in anticipation. The door sighs in relief as it rotates on its hinges, revealing to me the pristine half-ream of clean printer paper.

“I printed it out for you.”

We gaze at each other — not as superior and inferior, but rather as giver and receiver, messenger and recipient, quarterback and person who receives the ball. The pages spiral down toward my fingers, fringes fluttering frenetically, a localized instance of chaos against a calm canvas.

Contact —

Thousands scream their delight as I slice out a comma. Shock as I daringly form a new independent clause. Awe as I extinguish an extra space between “cheap” and “candles.” Fear as I hover over an unfamiliar literary mechanism. “Can he do it?” they whisper. “He’s a copy editor; his résumé highlights his ‘precision’ and ‘attention to detail,’ ” others say reassuringly. Nevertheless, I detect an overall ambience of unease. I also detect the vocalization of an em dash, which is a bit off-putting. Can’t quite put my finger on why.

I stare at the page, increasingly aware of the mounting pressure. Furtively glancing side to side, I attempt to logically deduce a solution, anxiously scouring my memories for a precedent. Panic seeps its way into my workspace, my pen trembling (when did I pick up a pen?), walls closing in, room silent. I lean back in my chair, lips pursed and brow furrowed in frustration.

Hours pass. I lean forward, look at the paper, and shake my head. It’s time to ask for help.

Two strides separate me and the window. I rise up once more and float through, then up, up, the grime and moisture of Durant Avenue falling away until —

I pose my question to the void before me.

There is a pause, reminiscent of the wait time associated with an internet server’s response.

I receive an answer from the void before me.

I rush back down, my room snapping back into place. I triumphantly make my mark on the paper as my surroundings erupt into wild adulation — fireworks, confetti, teary eyes, throats gone coarse — I rise a third time and sign autographs, pose for pictures, grin widely. I give a slight smirk and chuckle.

A knock at the door.

“You done? It’s been, like, two hours, man.”

“Oh yeah, my bad.” Thoroughly flustered, I fumble with the paper, crumpling an edge (crap), dragging the tip of my pen over half a page (crap), wondering whether a parallel structure works out well (crap). I yank my door open to find my bemused floormate looking vigorously perturbed. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone actually tap their toes in impatience, but this seems an apt enough time. I proffer the pages in a jerky motion, a sheepish smile forcing its way across my lips before I pull the door shut.

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