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June 17, 2014 Fiction

The Panda Barn

Lyndsey Reese

The Panda Barn photo

I want to start this place, Bobby says. It’s called The Panda Barn, where you can go and it’ll just be rows and rows of beds, and if you were stuck in Manhattan, you could just go there and take a nap instead of taking the J train all the way home and then coming all the way back again two hours later. And there’d be pillows and new sheets every time and you’d pay by the hour and we’d set an alarm. You could hit snooze but we’d charge you $5 a pop. It would be $60 an hour. No one would pay that? Someone would pay that. Tired people with too much stuff would pay that. There would be lockers, yes. Little ones and big ones. You could get a stuffed animal if you wanted. We’d have those. We’ll work out a way to make it sanitary but very snuggly. The staff at the front desk would be dressed as pandas, in panda suits. No panda T-shirts. That’s just not what we’re about. The staff would only be allowed to eat bamboo. There would be different flavors, because we care about the emotional satisfaction of our staff. Raw bamboo’s hard on the digestive system, and I regret to say we’d have a high turnover rate. Some things can’t be helped. Some things can, but. And if we wanted it to get a little strange—we could do that if we wanted—we’d have a man stand in the corner of each room while you were sleeping, watching you sleep. He might jerk off while staring at you. You could know about it or you could not know about it. You’d pick. It depends what you’re into. The Panda Barn would be in a little space that would be up a lot of stairs, and you’d think, god, why am I climbing these stairs just for a nap, but then you’d open the doors into the barn. You’d see the greenery and the smiling panda staff and the twinkle lights hanging from the ceiling and the optional hammock pull-out selection, and you’d think, oh, I know why I’ve come here, this is why and I don’t know why it took me so long, and living in New York feels like living in someone else’s dream, a big roomy dream full of all of the people you could’ve turned into later on if you had lived better or worse, but then you’d forget everything outside—the bad lighting and strange camera angles, your half-remembered blocking and small voice. And you’d say, here, take my bag, let me put down my umbrella and slide out of these pinching shoes, and look, there’s the man in the corner, though I didn’t ask for him, and the stuffed dog, which thank goodness I did, but please—take my hand, help me here. Help me out of this damp coat, this stiff sweater, this blouse, this stained camisole, these tight chaffing jeans, this bra with its cutting straps, these braids these heavy sacks of skin these dry eyes these dense thick bones and please. Please, just lay me down down down into the leaves to sleep. 

image: Aaron Burch


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