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Don’t Worry About the Government, or, How I Got Fired from the FBI by E.L. Pembroke



It was November again and unseasonably warm the day I decided to take the T. I was in a play then, a four-year play on consequences and when they do and don’t take shape. There was definitely an audience, by which I mean I was being watched. I had started to notice things on the way to work: red lights blinking from black masses of wire above revolving doors, scaffolding and skyscrapers as improbable as an Escher painting with bridges and rungs climbing to nowhere, ten NYPD officers guarding an unfinished fence, the columns of the New York Stock Exchange draped with two flags, one for America and one for Twitter.


I wondered in those days if I was having a nervous breakdown but actually I was just asleep, all the time. It was hard to dream on Wall Street, with phantom shrieks coming up from the cobblestones, sounding sometimes like joyous intoxication and sometimes like someone being eviscerated. When I was lonely for company I would watch the windows of the Duane Reade in the building across the street. If I angled the shades just right I couldn’t see anything but the make-up section, so I would lie awake and count cosmetics brands and listen to Talking Heads on a loop until the night turned over.


One morning there was a man up on the scaffolding, washing graffiti from the golden letters. How do you do, sir, I asked him, and what could you tell me about the infrastructure? What sort of screws, what sort of mechanism? Cheap glue, he said. Looks shiny from the outside but crumbles if you hit it with the right shit. Soon the rain would be enough to take it down. So I researched different types of acids, and let me tell you, you’d be surprised what kind of acids you can buy off of Craigslist. I gathered my acid and I measured my angles from the rooftop deck of my building and I said, just you wait. Don’t be petty. Just you wait.


The day I decided to take the T, skyscrapers were streaked charcoal into space and the man on the corner looked different, or maybe it was a different man. Instead of So Sad and Broke he had a sign that began “CERN scientists accidentally…” and I was walking so I didn’t see the rest, but what is there that I couldn’t make up? Aliens, mind control experiments, energy vortexes…I should know. On Broadway food trucks flashed HOT HOT HOT! and suits moved through Zuccotti Park and mannequins crowded storefront windows, their limbs off-kilter, and I crossed bricks in the sidewalk commemorating U.S.-backed military coups, trying not to step on the countries. The man behind me might have said something, don’t hurry so much, stay right there, but perhaps he was talking to himself.


I counted the places my fingerprints were on file and wondered where my blood and urine have gone, all the times someone “checked in” on my “health,” my body a vessel with its contents dispersed. I thought about the T. How it would make a perfect shelf in my white studio, how I wouldn’t need lamps anymore, it would glow so bright. How I could drape scarves over the arms and stack books on the top, maybe a decorative candle or something. I didn’t care about the trial, not anymore. I took an oath to my country, land of the petty. I would keep it, tonight.


I waited until the protestors went home and then I went up to the roof with my pressure washer full of acid and I shrieked a shriek to bring down the skyscrapers as I pelted that T with hydrochloric acid and watched the T turn to a black corroded hunk and drop down to the cobblestones below. The ten policemen from the fence came running and I heard sirens in the distance and thought to myself who are they going to send after me, the FBI?


They sent me to an employee counseling program but all I wanted to do was talk about the T, how it hadn’t held up under pressure. I got fired and had to move out of the neighborhood but I’m happy enough, thinking about the Rump building where I used to live, and the T all crumbled up in the gutter.


E.L. Pembroke (she/her) is in hiding


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