Winter 2024 • Vol. XLVI No. 1 FictionDecember 5, 2023 |

Prolonged Exposure

I couldn’t figure out how to be miserable in a way that would persuade someone to intervene. I started the descent into hell every morning at seven: one hundred eighteen concrete stairs too deep to take two at a time, dotted with blackened lumps of gum, and graffitied beginning at step sixty-seven. For twenty minutes, I walked downhill, past the Ritz, past Chinatown, past two corner Starbucks. I passed a flower shop just before arriving at my office — one last, choking glimpse of decency before elevators sucked me up toward glass walls, wood veneer, and an impenetrable glossiness. Being good at my job didn’t help. Or at least I was good enough, I learned, newly privy to the open secrets of corporate inertia. Land an entry-level position, sit at your desk long enough, and eventually you’ll find yourself in a corner office. Nothing felt more like alienation than watching the endless parade of promotions: marketing VPs, sales directors, CFOs; towering globs of mediocrity

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Photo of Lacey Jones

Lacey Jones thinks and writes about despair, repair, and secular aesthetics. She is a PhD candidate in English and religious studies and an assistant editor at The Yale Review. Currently she is at work on an essay collection.

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