By Nick Gregorio
When you’re on what I’m on everything’s electric. Little sparks of blue light from your fingertips, the palms of your hands, the ropes connecting your eyeballs to your brain. I could graze the stem of my desk lamp with my finger right now, watch the energy arc from my skin into the metal like zat, zat, zat.
They didn’t list this as one of the side effects.
They were right about the nausea, the spins, the lethargy. But not this. Not the minor superpowers.
I say minor because in a world without superpowers the littlest ones are the most fantastic. And I’ve got them. And they’re wonderful.
My husband, when he asks how I’m feeling I can say words like Great now. Like Tremendous. Like Stupendous.
But I don’t. It would be too much. It would feel like lying. Not because those words would be untrue, but because no one goes from hair-tearing, laugh-crying, wall-punching fits to Fantastic in the span of a couple weeks without coming off as a different kind of crazy.
So I say, “Good.”
Then I smile without teeth and turn back to the television and pay more attention to the electric pulse behind my bellybutton, on the tips of my nipples, arcing across the hairs on the back of my neck.
Before, my husband would watch me. I could see him in the corner of my eye thinking, taking mental notes, analyzing. He knew when I was dipping below baseline or rocketing above it. He always said I’d had—he called it an aura. And depending on my trajectory I’d react accordingly.
I’d turn, show my teeth, ask him what the fuck he was looking at, tell him to read his fucking book, say he should swivel his head around and fuck right off.
I’d smile, climb into his lap and put my tongue down his throat, unzip his pants and tell him to stand, take off my clothes and ask him what he was waiting for.
Now he watches me sizzle electric blue. I don’t even watch him from my periphery because I can feel it in my eyes, the energy. Cool, glowing sapphires. Their reflection in the glass of the fireplace doors, in the momentary black of the television screen before commercial breaks, in the dog’s eyes when he wags his tail and yips at me looking like a camera flash went off in his face.
But everything has a price.
You can’t feel like you can jump into an electrical socket in Philadelphia and zap yourself to the top of the Empire State Building without side effects to the side effects. But a world that sounds like it’s been wrapped in cotton is worth the space between your feet and the floor—that opposing polarity that allows more gliding than walking. The airiness where worry and doubt and pressure and panic used to be is worth the crackling static distance between your body and the mattress that can lull you to sleep. Sleep without the heat in your mouth and the taste of iron in the morning.
Sometimes my husband says my name, asks a question.
But the liquid white light in the overhead supermarket fluorescent blubs isn’t as pure as what’s going on with me.
Most nights he tells me about his day.
But the digital numbers in the cable box feel artificial compared to me.
When he says Julie louder and louder in our kitchen I say, “Hmm?”
And he says, “Do you want me to make lemon chicken tonight?”
I smile, no teeth, say, “It doesn’t matter.”
He says, “I figured I’d make it. You haven’t asked for it in a while.”
Looking at the floor, the shadow I’m leaving on the laminate tile as my energy keeps me from feeling the cold under my bare feet, I say, “Whatever you want.”
He puts his hands on my shoulders, says, “But what do you want?”
I kiss him.
The static shock from my lips makes him jerk his head away.
I say, “It doesn’t matter.”
We eat together, go to movies together, walk the dog together. In the mornings we work around each other in the bathroom. At work we text each other. With what I’m on, with the powers I’ve got, I can fit myself back into our little universe. And I’m happy.
Even when he asks me if I would consider a lesser dosage I’m happy. With a smile and my new blue eyes, I say, “I don’t want to be what I was.”
He tells me he loved me then as much as he loves me now. But I’m different.
I zap myself to the splotch of spackle still visible through the new paint.
I change the lighting in the room, bathe it in x-rays, and phase to each spot my fist went through, the holes he was able to patch up better.
I jump into the chandelier, flash out of his alarm clock into our bedroom and point out the new windows. The shatterproof ones.
I dive through the cable wire, blink into the kitchen through the microwave, and show my husband my wrecked knuckles. The places where my hair hasn’t grown back all the way just yet. The cracked fingernails that will never heal right.
He’s on the verge of tears and my head’s cocked to the side and I’m smiling.
My palm on his cheek, I say, “I’m better now. Not better-better, but better than I was.”
He’s crying now.
I try to show him, channel the energy through my fingertips, let him feel what I do even if it’s for a second.
But, my skin on his, there’s nothing. No pulse, no electric arc, no vibration. Just wet fingers.
Pulling my hand away, the energy returns. I feel it in my palms, my fingertips, my bellybutton, my nipples, my new blue eyes.
But when I touch his face again, try to make him experience this—the wonder of it—again, there’s nothing.
“I’m better now,” I say. “I’d show you if I could.”
I’d grip him tight, convert our bodies into lighting and use the power lines. I’d take us to the Golden Gate Bridge and the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben and Edinburgh Castle. We’d live outside time and space as comingled energies, and I’d show him what’s been done for me, how much better I am. We’d skip up through the sky, cloud to cloud on water droplets. Bounce across the satellites in orbit, disperse ourselves into the atmosphere as light—a phenomena for history books.
But instead, in our kitchen, I watch him cry.
And no matter what I try, I can’t show him how this feels.
How I feel.
Nick Gregorio lives, writes, and teaches just outside of Philadelphia. His fiction has appeared in Crack the Spine, Hypertrophic Literary, Maudlin House and more. He is a contributing writer and assistant editor for the arts and culture blog, Spectrum Culture, and currently serves as fiction editor for Driftwood Press. He earned his MFA from Arcadia University in May 2015 and has fiction forthcoming in Zeit|Haus and Corvus Review. For more, please visit: nickgregorio.com
Art: “Excessive virality” by Elle Warren
Elle Warren is a poet, photographer and artist from Cape Town. She uses anything and everything she can turn into art. In her spare time she pays the bills doing academic things, which also involves a lot of writing of a different kind. Her work has been published in Enclave, Entropy, Itch, and Roekeloos.