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#371654 - 10/04/11 01:30 PM
Loc: American South
In Charlie Hall we set up tables for a banquet.
“This is the PBS Evening News ... The only reason the Postal Service could report in three-digit millions in the red was because it considered its saved-future-pensions funds spent.”
“The rules must be followed,” J__ says before falling into Republican silence. The tables are set in rows with burgundy table cloths draped over them. “Layoffs are the answer.”
“The savings accounts were listed in three digit billions,” I reply.
Due to the rains outside building up on the sidewalks, this is the third time I've had to clean the church barefooted, leaving my wet shoes by the door.
It becomes a quick-moving, methodical ritual when I clean all three buildings at the same time; all those lines in the Bible of preparing the place for worship, must've made sense at the time.
Shifted to a factory floor, the air heavy with dust and shavings. I'm about to punch my time card into a clock.
“We're the same team,” my lawyer quickly whispers to me as he sets his umbrella, then stirs a cup of coffee as if purposefully.
I clench my jaw. Treason, I catch myself think.
“The evidence against that is everything,” I whisper back, as I finish punching in and move quickly down the aisles of machinery and working men toward my position. “The evidence is the dust all around you.”
“There has been change,” he whispers from behind my right shoulder.
Communist, I catch myself think, as I walk faster and begin rolling up my sleeves.
“A new end result.”
“No one can see the big picture but for God, and Nature,” I reply firmly, turning around in the dark corner housing my workbench. The storm outside has become a blizzard, whispering its evidence.
“But the direction!” he cries out, as other workers leave their areas to see what is happening.
I quickly grab his arm as a rolling door is opened and the snow reflects gold onto machinery. “It's just Roosevelt,” I say to the other men, their faces hardened and adorned with burly mustaches. “Read too many newspaper stories this morning.”
They chuckle. They turn away.
At Arthur Ashe stadium in New York City, the twenty-nine year old Serena Williams gives an athletic “Hieoh!” as her opponent fails to match Williams' serve.
The referee correctly gives the point to William's opponent, Samantha Stosur, due to the aggressiveness of Serena's distracting sound.
Williams is angered.
Two years ago Williams' anger caused her to be booted from the tournament. Today she regulates while Stosur clenches her jaw, seemingly unnerved by an undeserved sense of guilt.
“Once Serena focuses her anger like this and starts playing one point at a time,” the commentator explains. “She becomes unstoppable.”
Serena's anger seems to convert into a cumbersome negativity. In a major upset, Stosur wins the women's U.S. Open.
In the first set of the U.S. Open Championship at Arthur Ashe Stadium, Rafeal Nadal's athletic prowess struggles against Novak Duckovic's intricate, toying strategies. Only Nadal's sense of urgency keeps him alive.
The second set lasts seventeen minutes, some rallies involving more than twenty-five swings as Nadal gives his loud “Heeuh” to Duckovic's cool silence.
The third set involves rallies with swings in the thirties.
Duckovic lands the ball exactly in the corners, then front court, then back, keeping Nadal on the defensive until Nadal wins the third set's tie-breaker.
“No one in tennis tries harder than Nadal,” Dick Enberg commentates. “This is as physical a battle as you'll ever see on a tennis court.”
By the fourth hour Duckovic's lower back threatens seizure regularly as Nadal's legs threaten cramps.
“This is the first time Nadal has ever shown a look of resignation.”
“The Europeans were being born, learning the sounds “Mom” and “Dad” in a certain language, with a certain accent, inflecting a certain culture and history,” I begin. “Then growing up to discover that it was all arbitrary compared to their being live flesh on land round instead of flat, surrounded by galaxies ...”
“Now that they understood there was no sunrise, but the Earth turns and revolves around the sun,” says the world history professor.
“They experienced freedom ...”
“A new sensibility,” he answers.
A comedian must learn comic, timing, twice, his own, effortless comedy, then comedy under-pressure.
“I'm a loser now,” I say to her, “Juggling bills as if I just now turned eighteen and struck out on my own.”
A joke is the ultimate summary, application, and offering of an education with its simple setup and risk-of-a-punchline.
“By the time I stepped up to the counter,” I say to her. “To tell her I couldn't pay my rent quite yet, she had already handled two others, the first fifteen-hundred dollars behind in monthly rents, the second over three-thousand dollars behind in rent. I had never been so relieved by the fact that it was a recession.”
She smiles, laughing softly, looking me in the eye purposefully for a second.
Charlie Rose interviewing Jeff Zeleny of the New York Times:
“All around I kept hearing the same thing from Democrats: How Obama seemed to be so nieve.”
It's as if Obama thinks because the truth is on his side he doesn't have to fight tooth and nail against Storytellers.
Every employee is entitled to a raise, same as every corporation must grow to survive.
The American civil war never ended because both versions of American capitalism is inherently wrong due to the horror of each extreme: slavery and apathy. While the North insists the wealthy has no responsibility for an employee's well-being and the South demands credit for their familial structure, the employee mistakes the North's version for 'liberty' – a word as abstract and universal as the word 'war'. The employee forgets that with every year gone by the amount they make reduces due to natural inflation.
Once the American worker remembers, he or she fights for America properly. Capitalism is dependent on the impossible: the wealthy and the poor genuinely caring for each other. For over a hundred years this has been known as: the American Experiment.
“There was no middle class left,” J__ says. “Just huge plantations and poor people. When that happens, sin happens. If the working class was still there – religious, Republican, Democrat, or nothing -- the Civil War would've never happened and the blacks would've been freed anyway.”
That night I negotiate with J__ over my hours and pay. For a minute our friendship seems on the line, but then I won, he relented.
“Don't you see … “ Kid says to me.
“Why are you here … “ I ask him, sleepy-eyed and yawning, surprised he has come to my house on a Saturday. Usually he parties Friday night and calls before he comes over because he wants to smoke.
He is breathless, pacing in front of the piano, whispering. “You've wandered in the desert and you've wandered in the wilderness same as every man and now you're in the Garden of Gethsemane.”
He waits for my response, still pacing, getting nothing. “You don't remember.”
“I remember enough … that night when I first smoked marijuana ...” I whisper back.
“That crime is the catalyst – You don't remember when Cain murdered Able … You'd wake numb to the bone with no idea why. You're a sinner … just like me … You're my brother now … now that I've met you, now that you've met me.”
“Did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,” I whisper back to him. “But made himself nothing, Taking the very nature of a servant, Being made in human likeness, And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled himself, And became obedient to death, Even death on a cross – back when the cross was a cursed symbol of humiliation instead of selfless sacrifice.”
He turns his face from my expression.
“Males take on their relatives' sins as if they were his own,” he says, still pacing, quickly, rhythmically, still looking down at the beige carpet. “Because that is the blood he came from, it's who he is. He can fight it, but his psyche will do it anyway, only it'll be slower. Fighting it will keep him lost, not accepting the sins will cause them to overtake him.”
“It's music – code,” I say lowly, “An ancient hymn – or spell – from before Hellenistic poetry and written word, hummed through countless years by countless generations … It's all I know … all I know to be true.”
“As I understand it,” he whispers.
“Love justice and hate evil,” I contiune.
“It will take three days.”
With a flourish, I step into the brick-walled apartment of my old, plant-loving neighbor, Mrs Marrissa.
“Want to go on an adventure today … ”
She cackles with delight.
I was going to church down the street, but she is already an off-and-on-again member of Wilton Community Church.
“The cross is such a graphic image … “ the Pastor's son, Stephen, says to me.
“The nature of a man, A spirit as eternal as God … “ the congregation sings.
“Set your spirit and heart on above,” Pastor Romes preaches. “Because you are already God's – your body and mind just haven't caught up yet.”
“Monday … “ I whisper to the man sitting beside me at Wilton Community Church's Men's Bible study. “All day I keep thinking it's Wednesday ...”
A fellow soldier is present. He is now a cop.
“When the guys come back from deployment,” I say to him as we take down the chairs and tables. “It's like they still need a structure. They become cops, firefighters … I can't remember the other one.”
“Scofflaws,” he says with a laugh.
“With the Grapes of Wrath, Steinbeck reports the image of California farmers burning fresh crop to keep the prices from bottoming while the farmland is surrounded by camps of starving Americans … “ I offer. “Capitalism naturally faces depression but not the common sense that all human beings are the same,”
“The Communists would have used military force to stop the burning, feeding the people, ensuring common sense.” says the world history professor.
“And the Socialists would have … systematically educated the people ...”
“Something to that effect,” he answers. “Though some might call it brainwashing.”
“The nucleotides of the two DNA double-helixes are usually held together with a hydrogen bond,” the biology professor says officially. “But during procreation each double-helix's ladder-rungs split in half. Each half contains twenty-three of the necessary forty-six chromosomes. Offspring is the result of two half-ladders joining together to form a ladder, another biological instruction sheet, forming new life.”
“So nature does not miraculously fill in any blanks … “ I ask. “The uniqueness of each individual is in the unique way the two half-ladders join rungs.”
“Exactly,” she says. “Uniqueness stems from the unique way your Grandmother's two halves of her DNA helix came together, and your Grandfather's and on and on before that, and on and on into the future.”
“Is it Tuesday … “ I whisper to Lizzie, sitting beside me.
“Yes,” she says with her bright-eyed smile.
“All day I've been thinking it was Thursday ...”
“Every human females' sex chromosome is XX,” the biology professor lectures as she draws symbols on the board. “One of the X's dominates the other in every cell of the female. Human males' sex chromosome is XY. The Y is an X chromosome with a leg missing. One X of the female's is her father's mother's X, the other X is her mother's X. Her DNA is the result of her fetus deciding which X to deactivate in each of her cells: her mother's X or her father's mother's X. These decisions in the embryonic stage make her unique because the final result is a complex mixture of cells some of which are ruled by the biological instructions of her mother's X, some ruled by her father's mother's X.”
“A son always inherits his mother's X chromosome and his father's Y chromosome,” the biology professor continues. “The way the two chromosomes come together gives him his uniqueness.”
“So only the son inherits from the father ...” I ask.
“Yes, the females only inherit from females. The males inherit from both, while inheriting their gender only from their father's side.”
“I mean, we're on again, off again,” Lizzie whispers suddenly, then quickly opens her bag as if for something to do. “And of course we're not having sex.”
The word problems concern Realty.
“So what is Escroe … “ I ask the professor.
He looks at me but stays silent, scratching his head.
“Does the escroe go to the previous owners or the bank … “ the professor asks.
“Do we need to know that … “ the girl with glasses says.
Later I sit with Lizzie over dinner at the pizza place a block from school and a mile from work. She is strikingly good looking. She must have changed clothes while I was in class because her hair is now up in a complicated-looking ponytail. I find myself at ease as she talks, laughs here and there, telling me everything. I worked my whole life to be the most eligible bachelor. She's the most eligible bachelorette, my having apparently won the race. I look at her, hear what she's saying.
“Science is where it's at,” J__ says over the roaring of the open windows as we ride in the truck toward a work site.
“Science is one human being communicating something important to another,” I reply. “In human language.”
“Some men walk in a room already seeing the big picture,”J__ says.
From the passenger seat I survey the wheat fields rushing by.
“Some men walk in a room, they only know the room,” J__says.
“Some people just need freedom...” I say, the wind eating my words away.
Waking, showering, and shaving, I feel relief under the still-new sky.
Usually I take a secret comfort in my unusual size. For the last three mornings it's as if the sword has been shrinking, the diamonds in hibernation, the usual morning wood gone.
This morning all was back right again.
“At least when we were young we had false hope to cling to,” Mrs. Marrissa says with a half-embarrassed chuckle, telling a story about her girlhood days on the Arkansas farm as she waits with me at the butcher's counter in her “dressed-for-the-doctor” clothes. Still listening, I acquire fresh meat for our WCC's Small Group Bible study's cookout. The television in the corner shows news from Afganistan.
“... Back in them days they were slaughtering men like cattle,“ she says, “And not just at the noose ...”
Later she looks around the apartment, at the baby grand with a quick nod, then to the tall, shiny-black Kobalt tool chest.
“All this stuff...” she says, before continuing. “My Aunt looked down at me and told me the movements of the pelvis during labor proves there is a God and men did come first. I never understood it.”
At the Bible Study Mrs. K___ explains to me how much medication she is on while she can't get off the bottle. “I got up to forty-eight pills and overdosed,” I whisper to her.
“At the emergency room the doctor told me if I didn't stop I'll eventually die in my sleep or wake blind,” she whispers back.
“In the beginning was the Word,” one classmate says as we eat lunch at a Mexican restaurant. “Teaching you what a word is.”
“Just because you know how to read doesn't mean you're not illiterate.” the other says.
“Right, right,” she says, lifting her water glass.
“You have to RECognize what it took to make those symbols, that's how I handle my child! None of this taking things for granted.”
“The body is the temple, not the person,” she replies. “Being born in the future means nothing but that it's going to be even harder to see to the other side of it all. Written history is no more relevant than all that came before. Few as there were here.”
“Flesh dies,” the other insists. “The spirit does not. Flesh is always aware of its final humiliation. It must be loved … respected; the spirit must become flesh, in the moment.”
“The mind will learn psychology,” she says as she drinks water. “Buying it as an alternative, not knowing they're turning bodies into slaves.”
“Prayer is more than speaking to God,” says the other. “It's--”
“Being consistently inspired by the Spirit.”
“Moved by the spirit.”
“How do you know this stuff ...” I ask lowly, sitting across from them in the dimly lit booth in the corner of the restaurant. .
“The Supreme Court ruled it as such,” the Survey of Mathematics professor says. “So when doing partial-loan interest word problems, we use three-hundred and sixty days for the year instead of three-hundred and sixty-five.”
“Like made-up math … “ I reply.
“Financial math,” he answers.
“Some argue one sentence covers modern history,” the professor lectures. ”White people happened.”
As I step into history class, a guy glances at my abdominal as I step past his seat to mine.
“But isn't that propoganda... “ I ask the professor. “Everything currently wrong is the winner's fault?”
I give the student a quick, angry look, causing him to look away, as if in trouble.
I didn't do it on purpose; it happened in a knee-jerk way. When he looks at me during class I am kind, resolving it, but I remember those years when I was a-sexual and would notice attractive people from both genders, that heterosexual look of hate flashed in my direction, that same look I'd flash at interested girls.
“That group can't help being good at mathematics,” the world history professor says.
“But isn't racism the ultimate form of propaganda … “ I ask.
“I'm not saying you're wrong,” says the professor.
“They held all the money during a global depression, yet wiped their hands clean of governmental affairs.”
Fall evident in the breeze blows against our short-sleeved arms.
“I'm glad I ain't in any trouble like that,” Mrs. Marrissa says, concerning the past due taxes on my Jeep, as we stroll through the now-matured bayou and pass by Billy and Miss's old apartment. “I think I'd be scared all the time.”
“I must be awfully cool, then,” I reply, ducking under the tropically-shaped leaves of a Semosa. “Juggling bills.”
She laughs. “No, you just playin' cool,” she says from in front of me. “One of them people hanging by guts and a prayer.” She laughs again. “That's what my Great-Grandpa would say: Guts and a prayer.”
The Survey of Math professor is an ex-football player. In the word problem on the board he adds up the interest charged in the thirty-year loan with the original cost of the house.
“Either the person is crazy for thinking the house will appreciate that much in thirty years,” I ask. “Or the banker is crazy for lending the homeowner that much ...”
“That's the gamble,” he answers. “Over thirty years the money value of land may have less to do with the actual property and more to do with the character of the person standing on it.”
I think about the sounds: “South,” “American,” translating monetary value according to who can keep a promise.
“So who sets the value of the houses … “ I ask. “The realty company, the tax-collectors, or the current-market … “
“How much the property sold for is the value,” says the professor of Survey of Mathematics. “That is the amount the bank is counting on being paid.”
He scratches his head.
“But what will happen,” Duncan, my classmate in history and mathematics whispers to me outside over cigarettes. “Once the majority of America is homeless? Will the banks burn down the properties, to keep the housing market afloat … “
The cold wind cuts through our clothes as we stand huddled near the corner of the Bravo building. “Certainly the Americans will rise up,” I whisper back, uncertain.
“I'm just right here,” he says kindly, his uniquely familiar voice breaking my heart, hurting my chest. “I'm just right here.”
I cannot see the details of his face, same as last time, when I first shifted to the afterlife, my eldest sibling showed me around the lighted, fuzzy realm, me asking where God was, looking around corners, excited, him suddenly acting disappointed, as if I'd said something wrong to be asking for God, the shift then breaking down and me arriving back in bed in the brick apartment, getting up, walking into the latrine, then the kitchen, amazed at how it felt, like I had been away a long time when really I had only slept the one night.
I had assumed I was not allowed to remember our relatives and especially our sisters the way they really were because he would be upset, offended. Really he knew the whole time, holding my hand each night as I slept as a toddler and a boy, me asking Grandma Morris about it and her saying it was God's hand.
I hadn't realized he would yearn my company on the other side. As a twenty-two year old I had thought he went through the trouble of reaching me in order to make sure I wasn't afraid to die overseas, as if he were worried about my character, his expression of sudden disappointment haunting me. His attitude remained a firm, serious hope for the relief I would've been affording us, for me to have died decisively-honorably in a war overseas, sexless, memory-less, numb-to-the-bone. This time I forget morality, God, Heaven and Hell and rush forward to him, my shifter spirit's arms wrapping around him in a sobbing torrent of yearning.
(3AM, Thursday, 3NOV2011)
I've found a way to acquire the same medication over-the-counter; I just have to take more. In the back of my mind I notice I've been on something, alcohol or not, straight through since September.
“She's wearing shades at night, even indoors,” I say to the guy at the register of the all-night drug store.
“Night owl,” he mutters as answer, his werewolf facial features making me envious.
“Guess weirder stuff happens around here overnight,” I reply as I slide the pills across the counter toward him.
“Yeah,” he says, eying me kindly as he rings up the pills. “The ones who are different stop by.”
Wilton Christian Academy is run by the same beings as the Wal-mart where I got my five-year pin. “Just do it,” Michelle says, the ultimate polyvore. The church I take care of has now been expanded into a school.
Shifted to a fine restaurant. Not only are Grace's friends there, sitting around a long table covered with a white-table cloth, but many also work there. Grace is popular with our Wilton peers.
Shifted to a set of townhouses surrounding two sides of a street. One is mine, the one beside it turns out to be rented by Grace. Uninvited and assuming, her and her friends walk inside mine. The second story has two restrooms not ten feet from each other, one in each corner of the foyer-like room at the top of the stairs. “So this one should be mine,” Grace says. She decorates it throughout the afternoon as her friends help her.
On the way to the restaurant where her friends are waiting to meet us for dinner, we make a stop to the outskirts of town where trailers and one-story, dilapidated houses line the streets at odd angles, as if the street had once not existed, just divvied-up land. We have to drive through a special wooden door to get there. I step out of Mrs. Marrissa's long, white Lincoln and unlock the locks on the door, then open it for Grace to drive through, then close it behind her. Inside is a long, dusty-equipment-lined street inside an enormous garage leading to an opening at the other end.
No telling what crowd Grace's into. She has a paper bag of money to drop off at a trailer but the guy is not home so we walk across to his noisy relatives' house. Upon first sight they are a family of criminals, a loud, blunt-talking woman the matriarch. Grace realizes the woman, and invariably, her son, do not realize Grace owes the money so Grace suddenly makes no mention of it and plays it off as a laughingly-friendly visit.
Drew appears. He is their heavily-built, family guard dog. As soon as he sees me he smiles with a panting tongue and races out their door to the woman's offspring's lazy annoyance. Outside in the dusk, Grace quickens her steps as we near the car. I open the back door and Drew jumps in with me. Grace acts under-pressure.
Flower, suddenly sitting in the passenger seat, rolls her eyes at our non-Christian ways and cheerily talks about her life. Her story is the usual self-promoting manipulations; I let Grace deal with her. Drew breathes heavy growls as he changes his position against me according to what window he's decided to look out.
Suddenly there is trouble, the matriarch’s son is seen in the yard of a passing house. He gives an expression of recognition and looks to be running toward his truck in order to over take us.
After Grace carefully races through the long garage, I step out to open the large, wooden doors again. Flower lets Drew out of the vehicle as I step out of the open back-door of the Lincoln but I don't realize until Grace has driven through the doorway and I've locked it back from the outside.
I am instantly mournful for Drew and inconsolably angry at Flower as Grace races away, exhaling her relief.
“Oh, stop,” Flower retorts with a sharp laugh. “He wasn't your dog anyway.”
We return to the restaurant with Flower. The young waitress is extra cordial as she leads us to a linen-dressed table, having noticed we are close siblings living long-apart. Grace's friends fill the restaurant and keep around the table. Finally, I escape from them, pretending I am hanging out at the bar in the back of the restaurant, its long, tree-trunk of a bar making me feel like my rural self. Planning to sneak back to my townhouse and move out while they are eating, I step outside the restaurant into an enormous, Christmas-decorated shopping mall, a maze I remain unable to find my way out of.
“Busy on holiday eves,” the emergency room nurse says.
I tell them triple C's, a part of House's methodical school of narcotics, because I figure they won't call the police. “If I take enough at the right time,” I tell her. “It acts as a relaxer for four days,”
All I need is access to their equipment, in order to stay alive, and their nearby presence, maybe, but then my original heartbeat comes back. I dress, find my way out; I knew not to sign anything.
Reading One Hundred Years of Solitude for two-years now, I keep getting farther, then going back, making it last, aging to a hundred years old. Seven days ago I began the last chapter and started over again. That night I shifted to Mocando silent in the dead of night as the last Aureliano stepped out of the Buendia house onto the veranda with the pots of oregano and begonias resting. I reached the last chapter again within this sleepless week as ancient secrets fell into place like puzzle pieces.
“It's like jumping seasons,” I say to her.
She absent-mindedly hums a note in place of the question.
“You're doing it faster than the other guy, maybe too fast – might have accomplished it in the wrong season.”
“Never scratch the whole thing.”
Everything about her means baby.
I like her even more due to school. All the girls and guys have boyfriends and girlfriends, then everyone meets each other and the girls and boys break up with each and hook up, like they're swapping, trading up. I would never go after a girl who already had a boyfriend. She would never go after a guy who already had a girl.
“... Like Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde,” I am telling her. “Dr. Jeckyl must know and understand Mr. Hyde, otherwise he is an innocent dunce fighting insanity … “ In the twilight of caressed skin and satisfied limbs she loves me to make up stories. “It's called the tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil,” I tell her. “The more aware you are, the braver and more purposeful you have to be about being good, but also the more adaptable you are. As you grow older you get happier and unhappier at the same time, like an old tree, witnessing as civilizations rise and fall.” Her skin is like salve to mine, her legs intimidating, like their saying: dare you.
Deep in night, as she sleeps on her back, her right forearm against her forehead, I pack methodically for no reason, same as I did to the house following deployment. I made daily trips to the landfill, the Jeep full of boxes. At night while watching bad television I minimized my wardrobe, undressing and trying on clothes as if I were deciding their worth to carry. Two hours later I hide the two suitcases – one large and leather, the other small and hard enough to sit on when upright – under the bed, then crawl under the sheets as she turns toward me, her right hand landing between my neck and chest, her eyes closed and her lips slightly open in that expression she always has when she sleeps.
“More professors have gotten a hold of the writings,” I whisper. “At first it was fun, like in the summer, when Seda and Theresa were using up all their ammo over a short story already titled: The Edit. Online, the first chapter is compiled documents, the last chapter is ludicrous fiction.” I pause, embarrassed. “Now the professors are making fools of themselves again.” I pause again, listening to the wind outside, as if that would be what wakes her up. “I'll have to figure something out.”
“But look how easy it was for him, being a bad person … “
“While the good in him danced his way to the top.”
“One would be in direct proportion to the other in such an exact way … “
“Otherwise it wouldn't have worked.”
I find myself in classroom debate.
“It's not that complicated,” I say. “You know the ending – documented even ...”
“That's what made him bad. Not because he hated Jews or because he gave the rich's money to the poor like some German French Revolution … “
“It's that he decided he didn't really believe. If he believed good was on his side, he would've kept going.”
“He succeeded anyway – killing six million of 'God's People.' And what if he had actually succeeded in killing them all – is there a such thing as being a-hundredth-Jew.”
“Does that mean the Jew's God died ...” the girl in the corner suddenly asks. Everyone laughs, thinking she's dumb.
Human dignity starting anew.
“But look at the protagonists' choices,” the classmate says lowly but quickly.
The waiter steps up, asks our order. Her favorite Mexican restaurant is mostly empty.
“From the opposite gender's point of view … “ she continues.
The conversation leans awkward but she is quick with her order, familiar with the waiter. I order the Taco Salad.
“She knows what she's got's good,” she says, the waiter suddenly gone. “Even if it is as a gender, for awhile,”
“How does she know … “ I ask as we tackle cards alone on our side of the restaurant.
She glances at me as if, How could I not know. “Well, she had you didn't she … “
The waiter quick, lowly muttering Spanish, fills our drinks.
“It is not guilt … “ she says, suddenly looking away; me beginning on my food, looking down at the plate then back at her, her looking me in the eye, then shifting away again. “It is a kind of contract. A certain balance … to the world.” To me God and Life are humble, silent, easy even, blasphemy all around.
After Bible study last week, Mrs Marrissa, Mrs. Rose, and I, sat and talked for hours in confidence. Before leaving I share with them the anonymously written work online.
“Read it like fiction,” I say to her as Mrs. Marrissa and I step down the steps of her brick, story-book house. “It was once a novel.”
This week the Bible study hides little. It takes till the end to realize they've judged the work as if it were written selfishly.
“Homosexuality is abominable,” insists Mrs. Rose for ten minutes. “They're storytellers – lazy heterosexuals. Our successful society is now destroying itself due to its own wealth, modernism, and hedonism.”
“The world is over-populated,” I offer from my chair. “What if the homosexuals were intended.”
“It's all about attitude,” another woman says. “Some people don't have thick skin. Can't get over things.”
“It has to be understood that women are subordinate,” says Mrs. Rose.
“If women are equal than they must be lazy and lacking in character, no other explanation” says the Trickster, suddenly sitting beside me. “Like being married to a nigger,” he says jovially, too loudly, me afraid the others heard him, his smile sly and eyes bright with my sudden frights.
“He could've been a sports writer – I mean,” her husband suddenly says. He turns his head toward me across Mrs Rose's rose colored couch: “Not everyone's born to be a preacher,”
“Called by God and doesn't even know it,” says the leader of our group, Mr Wheat, across to Mrs. Rose.
“An actual church would be like a needle in a haystack,” I reply to the husband, confused. “If someone has a knack for it, they fill the voids at the other churches.”
“I don't mean there's anything wrong with our church,” he says, as if in apology to the rest of the group.
“Instead they're sitting around, studying micro-biology,” replies Mrs. Rose replies to his wife.
“Keeping some kind of personal score card,” Mr. K__ says suddenly, as if to no one, but he does that. “Boys are born around bad men and their worst nightmare is to grow up because they don't believe the male gender is inherently good.”
“Would you rather have your conscience, or the Bible … “ I ask Mr. Wheat.
“The Bible,” he answers.
“Oh … “ I reply.
I am called upon to read aloud from Hebrews, chapter twelve, where God disciplines his sons: “You have forgotten that word of encouragement that addresses you as sons,” I recite slowly, carefully keeping an eye on the Trickster who is having too much fun.
As I read Mr. K__ leans against my couch cushion, so that his head is near my shoulder. He looks down at the Bible, then up to my reading eyes, then repeats, mockingly.
“'My son,” I continue. “Do not make light of the Lord's discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, because the Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as son.”
“Hallelujah,” exclaims Mrs. K__ into sober silence.
“They'll believe anything.”
“I don't know him.”
“But he frightens me.”
“Because they don't believe in anything.”
“Because I pity him.”
“Propoganda IS controlled environments,” one girl says to the other.
“No – it's maturity,” the other says to the first.
“Know it's maturity,” is what her sounds say.
“They know what knowledge a person needs to have at a certain age.”
“I had a high-stress childhood,” one beside me is saying. “But I rarely Felt stressed. When I grew up I would notice – and be manipulated by – an inexplicable anxiety. Now I understand that high-stress environment is what my body was used to, as if that were the norm – “
“ – Plus your brain doesn't fully develop until your twenties,“ another says to her.
“Exactly. The anxiety doesn't manipulate my sense of self anymore, because I now have an adult brain to compliment adult emotions, to do with as I please.”
I overhear another grilling the other young man in our group.
“When was the last time you've had sex,” she asks me.
The table of classmates studying for the biology test gasps with delight at her question.
When I was a kid there was a purposefulness to my not being liked. I knew I was an adult; if I had friends it would only lead to my making a move on someone.
“I like being a sexual camel or a rabbit jumping all over the place, when need be,” I answer. “I always say it's been awhile.”
The way they laughed I don't think it would've mattered what I said, but when we go to smoke cigarettes they want me to come along even though I have to bum.
(Saturday, 24DEC2011, Christmas Eve)
I notice the pictures on the old man's wall. Two grandsons stand beside each other, one clench-jawed, his girlfriend at his side with a similar, insecure expression, the other smiling, exuberant, with a good-looking girl at his side.
“He's … tough,” the grandfather tells me of the younger grandson, as if he wants to say more.
“Yeah, my youngest was a boxer – into sports,” the father, Mr. K__, tells me later over cigarettes. “Hellova left hook. My eldest is a computer guy. Making good money now. They've both just graduated from college.”
“You know how I built my credit?” the younger grandson says that night, kindly looking toward me as if I were apart of the conversation. “I went to American Eagle and signed up for one of their cards. A year later I happened to have enough credit for a regular credit card, so I gave the American Eagle one up.”
“You should have kept it,” says Mr. K__, sitting beside him on the couch.
The two sons and the father interrupt each other for a few seconds.
“You don't know what you're talking about,” the younger says to his father. “Yeah – but don't have to ARgue,” the younger says as if to his brother sitting beside him, but really he says it in general. “Google it,” he says to Mr. K__.
I'd rather be absent than have to handle my father that way, even though the son had little choice, leaning into his temper, despite the father's embarrassed expression. Otherwise, the younger treats everyone genuinely well, is effortlessly kind. He keeps his eye on me but he doesn't smoke so we merely exchange understanding looks as socializing commences at the dinner party.
Upon leaving, we both shake firmly. “Good to have met you,” I say.
“And I hope to see you again sometime,” he says.
“Yes, absolutely,” I reply lowly, wary of how he makes me sad and white-knuckled same as with Willahford and Royal – live flesh with human dignity retained this whole time.
“History is the record of what people have done in the past. In this context the past can mean ten thousand years ago or yesterday. History depends on evidence of the past. What has happened but been forgotten or for which no evidence exists – which is, of course, the vast majority of what has happened – is technically not history,” – World Civilizations, Volume 1: To 1700, Fifth Edition, Philip J. Adler, Randall L. Pouwels, page nine – “Why this happened is problematic. Some believe bloody warfare erupted between competing species of hominoids; others posit a peaceable, gradual absorption by the more advanced species. A good example of these failed species is the famous Neanderthal Man, who flourished in many parts of Europe until thirty-thousand years ago and then disappeared at about the same time that Homo sapiens appeared in Europe.”
“Every civilization includes what we call a Creation Myth,” the World Civilizations professor says. “Why might that be?”
“A story that could be told to kids … “ I reply. “As close to the truth without being vulgar.”
“Maybe,” he says as other classmates join in and the story of Adam and Eve is told and referenced.
“So we're supposed to feel ashamed for breaking from the animals and putting on clothes … “ I ask. “Ashamed of our own sense of shame – our own conscience.”
“The fall of man,” he says with a twinkle in his eye, holding his hand up in parenthesis.
“Economics is a social science,” the Macroeconomics professor lectures. “Judging what society is demonstrating, thinking …
“If you can choose not to satisfy a need it is not a need. Notice how suicidals do not believe there is any more satisfaction available to them. Notice how the elderly will choose human dignity over survival …
“Money is not a resource. Time is. You are your own asset, one that invests in him or herself so as to sell to the highest bidder …
“Economics is the allocation of limited resources toward the end result of satisfaction … happiness. Every human whether the masses or the few at the top – every human is motivated the same.”
“Coming after a time when populations had grown dramatically, these catastrophic events forced small groups of western Asians to adopt more intensive ways of managing their food resources: basically, this encouraged them to switch from gathering and hunting to planting and domesticating cereals like barley and wheat, which grew in wild forms in their natural environment.” – World Civilizations, Volume 1: To 1700, Fifth Edition, Philip J. Adler, Randall L. Pouwels, page eighteen – “Thus, the world's first farming settlements appeared in a section of the Near East called the Levantine Corridor, an arc of land that was endowed with especially high water tables and included much of present day Isreal, Syria, and the Euphrates River Valley,”
“Somewhat more than a millennium before Christ, a people known as the Shang or Yin lived along the Yellow River in north central China.” – The Way of Life by Lao Tzu, Signet Classic Printing, January, 2001. page one, Introduction by R. B. Blakney. Olivet College. “A possible explanation of the Yinism of the mystics would begin with the fact that matriarchy was still remembered among the Shang, (page twenty-four).”
“After the invention of writing, perhaps the most dramatic advances made by these early inhabitants of Mesopotamia were in mathematics and chronology. “ – World Civilizations, Volume 1: To 1700, Fifth Edition, Philip J. Adler, Randall L. Pouwels, page twenty-three – “[Much of our basic geometry and trigonometry, such as the three-hundred and sixty degrees of a circle stems from the Sumerians.] Sumerian math was based on units of sixty and its divisors, and this, of course, is the reason that we still measure in intervals of sixty-seconds and sixty-minutes.”
“... Seven-hundred B.C … Egypt again in decay … Invading Persians come in from today's Iran …” lectures the world history professor. “By the three-hundreds Alexander the Great has introduced Greek rule into Egypt – Cleopatra will be the year one B.C,” he says in aside to a student. “She has a baby by Ceaser – who rejects her and the boy. Then she has a baby by Marc Antony – who rejects her and the boy also.”
“You have to understand that consciousness was new to these peoples,” he lectures. “Anyone who comes from less – materialistically – is going to come across as dark. Doesn't mean that's accurate.”
“A willingness to give up resources,” lectures the Macroeconomics professor. “We are – willing to buy. This is called Demand. Demand does not mean product is available or possible to obtain. Everyone of you is willing to buy a new car. Will you trade that Sprite bottle for a new Mustang?”
“Yes,” I reply.
“Willingness to sell is what we call Supply. Both are occurring in what is called The Market … One man in Canada began with one red paper clip and traded his way up to a house. A kid in America started with a used Motorola and traded up to a Porsche Boxer … His parents made him turn it in for an Explorer.
“Money is simply a trade simplification, because this is a pure-trade economy ... What is it that most decides Value?” he says in aside to a student. “The price influencing whether or not you buy it is the final peace of the puzzle, not the first. Do not overestimate the consumer – they have their own situations, their own wants.
“There are normal goods: things we naturally buy more of when income is increased: gas, groceries … And there are inferior goods: things you would spend less on if you had more money: Ramen Noodles. The second factor: Taste and Preference. Do we always want the highest quality good ...”
Shifted to being the first human, that first sinner I've been: Adam, black and blue and just grown out of the crib, suddenly silent in the new adulthood descended.
Through the window, morning light glistens golden.
Anger unremembered, now what to do, no memory of how I got here, only music and sights and the smell of cold and cloths against my skin. Miracles of sheer primal survival unappreciated gone like a flash, and me not a word in my head, sins unconfessed, then forgotten.
Able had no idea anger existed, and Cain would've been so quick …
Night descends upon me realizing my terrible betrayal of Cain, my best inheritance, washed clean by the blood of one ancestor after another. To be a boy is to inherit all the sins of his ancestors... no mattter he is no one is absent in the boy's 'nature.' In order to be free he accepts each sin as his own, then dies before dying. 'Nothin like a bruised conscience, my third eye a knife coolly slicing through as my flesh switches from marijuana, Mondavi, and pills. For three weeks I've only slept two hours a night, credited to inebriation and the exhaustion of remembering and shifting. My rigid disciplines from God's Country are in my way. I need to either sleep or lose control. Deep in the night I make the sign of the cross and pray the word Amen, then take forty-eight. Them trying to bully the writings offline has me suspicious of something vague and unnameable, something inconceivable for me to think of on my own.
It does matter, what school one goes to. Students should go to the best school they can get into. No one knows if the local hospital's deadly reputation is due to the nurses Wilton College pops out and sends there or if it is the doctors who graduated from the only four or eight year school in the region. There has always been a purposeful perkiness to the staff at school when dealing with the students and each other, like they know they are not a real school but look at this, look at that, how maybe the school might come together. Finally, Wilton College is only good for my acquiring a GED, weed, and a year of GI Bill checks. Cain knows this as if he's always known. How is it Able agrees.
Cain takes care of it, sending an email to the president of the school, telling the truth, pleased that he won't be believed.
“And do you not find this email to sound angry?” the Dean asks.
“No,” Cain replies. “Your professors are still harassing me. Your psychology and religions professors tried to drive me crazy so I wouldn't remember what Flower already knew. Didn't work. Now you've got two history professors and a biology professor doing the same. ”
“We have to do an investigation,” the Dean replies. “Maybe you can continue here, maybe not.”
Standing over the kitchen sink, still having not slept, I am so calm I know I can watch my wrist bleed out for hours. Raging on chemicals, calm as death, Cain turns away, steps outside the apartment, drives away.
At the church, Cain says: “I need to be driven to the nearest VA.”
“Why?” Pastor Tango asks. “What do I tell them you need?”
“I don't know,” Able sighs, looking away, then back to the pastor.
“Immediately,” Cain says bluntly.
Pastor Tango grabs his keys.
The psychology-student's rapid fire questions, the pastor present, acting stunned by the clear, tragic answers.
“And sex?” he asks.
“Rarely,” I reply.
They look at me silently, wanting more.
“I was the one in my family with sexual boundaries.”
They remain silent.
“I've never said that out loud before,” Able says. “I would wake mornings more and more numb to the bone with vanishing memories.”
The pastor looks at the floor; the psychology-student scribbles on his clipboard. Both act as if I've gone over their heads.
“You don't understand,” Cain blurts out. “I had to bully my way in here. Once I'm off this stuff – he won't talk.”
The hospital is only a few miles from my Castro grandparents. Grandma answers the phone.
“None of us in the family agreed with the war, and there you were in uniform,” she explains.
While we are exchanging more pleasantries a nurse walks up to me to let me know the VA had claimed me – I was honorably discharged in November – but the only bed open in the State was in the mountains, a long drive from here. I'd be leaving in the morning.
“I've got to go, Grandma,” I say into the phone.
“If Grandpa answers the phone next time you call, just ask for me.”
#385845 - 02/15/12 12:47 AM
Re: I) Mountains
Loc: American South
The retired cop acts like his heart is breaking. He applies the handcuffs, the legs irons. “I appreciate your service,” he manages.
“I was only a common soldier.”
In his white golf shirt and black, creased pants, he bends down to click closed the ankle cuffs.
In shackles in the back of the police car, there is a chain leading from my handcuffs to the chain tight around my waist.
“The chains are merely a safety formality – so I can drive you,” the cop keeps saying.
Another chain leads from the cuffs around my ankles, connecting them. A third chain connects that chain to the one around my waist. The back of the police car is tight, with a fence of thick metal separating the front from the back.
The retired cop chooses a gas station off an exit out in the middle of nowhere. “So it's less embarrassing for you,” he says.
After filling the tank he parks the police car near the door. Upon entering and managing to the latrine the cop and I continue our banter while two employees and a customer witness in stillness.
Leaning on my rascal, upon exiting the latrine I accept one employee's arrogant gaze and judgmental lifted eyebrow. I raise and drop both eyebrows at him and smile. He drops his gaze, embarrassed.
Ward One Echo is all beige and white with a lounge, patio, nurse's station, and a square hallway with rooms along the way.
“Do you have a history of mental illness?” asks the psychologist.
“Yes,” Able replies. “But I escaped from them when I was eighteen, so I'm good.”
He looks up from his clipboard, as if surprised.
“Do you have experience with childhood-sexual-abuse-victims?”
“Yes,” he answers.
“I remembered the incidents all the way, even the most traumatic instances, so I'm good now, right?”
John is forty-years-old, boisterous for a recluse, grateful for the conversation as we play cards in the day-room of the VA's stabilization ward.
“The real crazies are lying,” he says. “While the doctors try to understand them. If the docs aren't honest people themselves, they'll never pick up on the fact that the patient is lying.”
“They diagnose you instead,” Daniel says. “Trying to box you up.”
Daniel is an ornery old man inside a thirty-two year old body. Bipolar with a tendency toward chronic depression he was admitted yesterday. “I am in the beginning stages of the a divorce,” he says. He used to work in computer software but his mental illness made working unsustainable. “I'm on disability through the Air Force,” he explains. “She finally got tired of my depression – it's like I'm low and can't get back up toward manic – like I usually do. I have three daughters. Didn't know what else to do.”
“Spike disorder,” Reyn, my roommate, says. “Frontal lobe dementia. Turns out my dad has it. A Marine. When he retired in 2003, I joined the Army and deployed ...”
He is my size and frame with short, brown hair and a twenty-four-year-old-stoner's happy-but-sedated-expression.
“Eighteen months from the end of 2003 to 2005. We were two days from shipping home and got extended. I started showing symptoms upon getting home.”
He leans back into the chair by his bed, exhaling. “They got me on all kinds of drugs. At the S__ burg VA, man, they'll take you off totally and start you on a different regimen, like they're trying to get you to lose your mind.”
He has a wife he's been with for nine years. The first time he was hospitalized he threw a rock through a windshield. This time he saw two African American men step into his house.
“I was watching my kids playing at my feet in the living room,” he explains. “Then went nuts when I saw them. Then my wife – who was in the kitchen – and my kids – who were playing in their bedroom – come out of nowhere and I'm like, how did you do that?
“... Beta blockers,” Reyn says later. “Keeps you from remembering your dreams – all those combat nightmares … it's funny how in real life there's not so much blood but this red mist that shoots out of the head when it's shot ... nothing like the movies ... Sometimes I'll get up and perform a whole fight in my sleep.”
“What's your genealogy, man?” Mike asks.
He is Bromsden, stands like Bromsden; I call him Bromsden and we laugh, though my personality is more like Bromsden in the novel, his more like Nickolson in the movie.
We talk about Kesey and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest as we walk laps along the ward's one hallway, shaped like a square.
“Do the hokie-pokie,” one attendant says as we pass the nurse's station.
“That's what it's all about,” answers the other, as if it were all so simple.
They prescribe me Quetiapine because I still haven't slept.
“Prozoan,” Johns says. “Beta blockers, up to 30 mg. Don't let them prescribe that to you if you want to remember your dreams.”
“They'll stop working after awhile anyway,” Mike says.
“Quetiapine?” Reyn says. “They start everyone out on that stuff. “I swear they must have some sort of endorsement.”
Notice little 'blanks' occurring in my thinking when I am speaking to someone. It's embarrassing.
I have the jitters. When playing cards, the card is visibly vibrating as I place.
I keep making dumb mistakes, like I'm trusting my mind too much. I'm learning a new, more forced ability to reason one moment to the next.
… more of that increase-in-physical-awareness feeling … Baby Suggs keeps saying “Love your hands.”
“When I was manic, I was at my most happiest,” Daniel says to me. “The smallest detail around me was God speaking directly to me – symbolically saying the kindest, most uplifting things.”
“Were you on anything … “
“Never. I didn't even know I was bipolar or had depressions.”
'Could see the truth inherent in admitting all the bad thoughts along the way. Seems understandable, even comfortably normal. Still, they added up, detail by detail.
Shifted to the inside of a steam engine train racing through American frontier. In the latrine I notice my glasses. I hate to wear glasses, but these fit my face perfectly. I walk through the boxcars, excited to meet up with my loved ones so they can see my glasses straight from God.
Shifted to a recurring dream. The Oscars are being held in Wildwood Church, located miles into the forest. Ray, who I haven't seen in so long, suddenly asks me if I will give him a ride. I jump up from the pew in the back, as if, of course.
“I was molested by a babysitter,” Daniel says as we walk laps. “It happened twice. It messed me up because even though I was little I was obsessed with girls to the point where every choice I made concerning myself and who I was, was based on getting girls. I didn't grow up into myself or become myself naturally – plus I felt like a perve for being sexual-ized so early.”
“I was having sex dreams about girls in my kindergarten class,” I reply lowly. “It scared me. I almost drowned myself in a pond but then chose to repress instead as long as all was hashed out by the time I was twenty-five.”
Though the last dosage of Quetiapine wore off hours ago, rarely do the shows playing on the television in the background not sound like bad actors running lines.
“We use our whole brain all at once, all the time,” Sarah says, walking laps beside me as she lectures on what it's like to have schizophrenia. “While most people only use a small section that then connects to the other parts of the brain as needed.” She is tall, slinky, blemish-less, with milky-white skin and light red hair – an Irish goddess.
“Schizophrenia begins for some people very young,” she says in her auto tones. “You realize you're more sane than the adults and peers around you. You then continue to look for the big picture, only seeing the world in that way, always, constantly looking at the whole-world-picture.
“Right now psychologists believe schizophrenia is caused by an overly-controlling mother. I have a hard time with that because I am a mother. They used to say the same thing about autism, which used to be called infantile schizophrenia. Some crucial moment where the mother failed and a bond was catastrophically severed. Now they do not consider autism a psychological condition.”
That's why he held my hand, I catch myself think.
“I used to travel Europe regularly,” she is saying. “The fashions there are years ahead of us. I'll see the latest thing in an American high end store and recognize it from years ago.”
“Hold a candle up to the sun ...” Mike is saying beside me as I continue to walk laps.
I counted the one-foot tiles and figured out that thirty-eight laps equals a mile.
“Notice how you, the candle, cannot be seen unless you are separated from God – unless you move the candle away from the sun's bright light …
“People who have borderline disorder have the ability to cut off their emotions – for whatever reason,” he is saying. “And afterward have to cause physical pain to themselves in order to bring themselves back …”
I can pull from other spirits if I am trusting. I notice my posture straightening, walking with Mike.
“Once the revelation occurs,” one therapist says to the other as we pass by the nurse's station. “That guides them through, one revelation after another, all the way out of trauma and into reality.”
“From the presses of pain,” Mike says proudly. “Comes the mind's best wine.”
I like how he possess that spur of the moment initiative to speak with authority and handle others squarely.
I notice I am effortlessly tall as I stand in line for meds.
The VA is only a few miles from Uncle Saul Castro and Aunt Karen, the young, 'cool,' aunt and uncle of my childhood. The VA encouraged me to contact them, but by the time they arrived I had already handled my logistics so the contact was unnecessary.
Upon arriving they do not realize how much I already know. As they sit down I realize who they are, her that same friendless woman who talks of her artwork, spirituality, and real estate license as if she were a teacher or great example; him with that effective sense of humor laden in everything he says, same as Billy, Willahford, and Royal, making one assume his popularity but really he lacks close friendships. He and Karen met each other and claimed it was love at first sight when really they recognized they could take advantage of each other. I wonder how the Castro curse has been avoided by me while landing so squarely on my closest friends. Meanwhile Uncle Saul and Aunt Karen's speech drips with the all-knowing Grace's storytelling.
“You're both exactly the same,” I say to them in the private meeting room. Handling them this way ensures they are Grace and Flower's eternally.
“Bluff,” Boyd told me once. I had forgotten I already knew that, learned it deep in the groves of God's Country. I lean on my actor, fully committed, same as I did when I was a boy in the presence of liars and my imagination was more magical, the sense of danger more in-charge.
(0600) 50mg Quetiapine
(1100) 50mg Quetiapine
(1630) 50mg Quetiapine
(2030) 300mg Quetiapine
“I was once in an orange jumpsuit, too,” says Briar, our boisterously confident evening attendant, in aside to another patient. “When a soldier comes through that door into Ward One Echo, he or she is in a state of destroyed.”
“You're normal,” Briar says to me later. “But not average.”
“It was like my father felt baby boys were animals that had to be tamed,” I say to Daniel as we walk laps. “While my mother relied on her authority rather than our love for her – with relish.”
“He was tantruming,” an RN says to an attendant as we pass by. “So I got down on the floor and tantrumed, too.”
The attendant laughs.
“He was like, is that what I really look like?”
That certain physical-self-awareness showed up again, here and there.
I've learned the attendants ways well enough to reach over their counter while it is unmanned. In my file the daily entries describe me as 'disheveled.'
That night, after showering, I stand alone in the latrine wondering about it. I do a workout of pushups and situps every morning, walk for miles in the afternoons. I wash and dry my one white t-shirt, each night. They have me where a pair of polyester pajama bottoms as part of their color system. With my bald head I look like some kind of monk.
The young attorney provided for me looks like a gumshoe: old-style tennis shoes, the kind made of canvas laced past the ankle and a half-circle of white rubber over the toes. He wears a blue suit with a red bow tie. “This is just formality,” he says. “When you get out of here there will be no legal actions concerning you.”
The effortlessness of June 1st, 2004 is on the other side of anxiety. It's like the anxiety lifts through the individual's own introverted efforts, then he turns around.
While playing basketball with Daniel – there is no backboard – I could feel our energies silently communicating as I win at Horse.
A new patient, Kirsten, a young girl who weeps into her food, turns out to be good at basketball. A Marine athletically built but small, she leans forward when she walks, jutting her neck and face forward, her eyes always in a lost expression, her lips held in a gape.
She wins at All Around the World.
I escape from the rehab facility back to Wilton College except everything is bizarre and different. Somehow I am brought back to the rehab facility where a beautiful woman gives me a massage while I have no clothes. My phallus is so hard I feel compelled to do something, anything with it. When I look down he looks like a soldier standing tall wearing nothing but his kevlar.
Everything I do has my name on it, I catch myself think as I play basketball with Mike and Daniel.
“I keep noticing how badly I need to get laid,” I say to David as we watch television.
“Technically that's a very good sign,” he says. “Your stay here must be working.”
(0900 – 1100)
I perform a series of psychological tests administered by a psychology P.h.D candidate … Ink blot tests, setting up blocks to match designs, figuring out three-piece puzzles, and a series of memory games.
“You handled yourself very well,” he says at the end.
Sarah, Daniel, and I walk laps discussing our meds. All of us are on an anti psychotic and a mood stablizer. Mine and Sarah's anti-psychotics are actually sedatives, while Daniel's is Ambilify, which is an upper. Though I am only on two drugs, they have others to counteract side-effects.
“Addicts are looking for only two things,” Briar is saying to a patient as we pass by. “Euphoria or numbness.”
(0600) 50 mg Quetiapine; 300 mg Lithium
(1100) 50 mg Quetiapine
(1630) 50 mg Quetiapine
(2000) 300 mg Quetiapine; 300 mg Lithium.
“Somehow I've lost who I am,” Kirsten wails in the phone, her head in her hands as she sits in a chair against a wall
Not five minutes later she energetically walks laps with me, smiles at my jokes.
After a few laps she gets on the phone again, crying, sitting curled up in the corner of the hallway.
“Stand sideways,” the blonde-haired attendant says. He is my age with hair down to his jawbone and two rings in his right ear lobe. “Let the football just sit in your palm. Then kind of flick it off your finger tips for the spin.”
Sometimes he'll show me things with the basketball. He seems to choose our units' outdoor-times according to when I've just taken a dose of Quetiapine.
“Now that Kirsten's discharged,” I say to Daniel as we walk our two miles of laps. “We've got nobody to play cards with. Just old men.”
“Actually, that's pretty normal,” Daniel replies in his deadpan way. “You're the first time anyone's been here near my age.”
“What about females … “ I ask him.
“They're pretty random,” he says as a new-one-our-age, Sharon, walks by.
“You're getting so good at that,” says Mrs. Phylla, an attendant. “And with no backboard.”
I work in a circle, making each two-pointer, then begin the circle of three-pointers.
“Somehow I'm going to learn to dribble,” I reply.
“Throw it like a baseball,” Briar says. “Except you're releasing higher up.”
He adjusts the football in my palm.
“Hold it toward the back of the ball, then throw it with force, trusting it to spin.”
I adjust my footing, standing sideways about to throw to my left with my right hand.
“You're position should allow you to hold the ball away from you vertically with one hand without it slipping out of your palm.”
I make the throw across the court.
“THERE! You go ...”
(while eating chow)
Lately my hands continue to surprise me with how big they are, like some miracle of flesh.
(watching the Super Bowl)
“I don't understand how they went from a twelve point score to fifteen … “ I ask Daniel.
“There's touchdowns and field goals,” he replies. “And there's the two-point conversion. The fourth way is called a safety. If you're tackled in your own end zone, the tacklers get two points.”
Walking laps, I pass the same office window several times. Sharon sits against the window, while Dr. Hotel, the ward's psychologist, sits at the desk in front of her. Upon Sharon being excused, I am called in.
He is a large, over-weight man in his fifties. He exhales slowly, heavily, before speaking.
“Please don't use drugs,” he says, suddenly friendly. “Please, please, please. You know I knew a few acquaintances of Hunter Thompson's. He accomplished great things but he wasn't exactly a hero.” He pauses. “You overdosed – because your heart stopped beating, then beat erratically, then stopped again. Apparently you once safely drove yourself to the emergency room in this state.” He pauses again. “If you've got some streak in you that wants to reckon with death, remember, please, prolonged experiences with mortal danger either desensitizes you or drives you insane, more often than not.”
Upon stepping out and resuming laps, Sharon joins me and cheerily asks what was up.
“Begging me not to use,” I answer.
She is short and petite, energetic and quick with a zinger. She's the life of our party.
“He just kept begging me not to date anyone in this ward. He just kept going on and on.”
“And what about childhood?” Mrs Sierra asks during my interview for the twenty-eight day program in another ward of the hospital.
“I had a father who wasn't grown before acquiring a wife and kids. I had a mother and two sisters who played some mental game that did them all in. They twisted boys into something less than the animals and twisted sex into something harrowing.”
“When you left that place, were you diagnosed with PTSD?”
“No, of course not.”
Shifted to a church sanctuary where monsters step out of the woodwork and walls. An eighteen-year-old girl I've never met insists she is my companion and sticks by me, seemingly unafraid of the mounting danger all around as we navigate the interior of the church buildings. Her father is also after us, appalled that a poet of my rank – spell caster – is his daughter's chosen one. I assume my safety, assuming all will work out in the end as I quickly lead us through the halls and outdoor-alleyways while holding her hand. I shift back and the same nightmare-like-emotions descend upon me as when I was eighteen and nineteen.
(On white board:) As a person thinks, so they become.
“Why did you move back to Wilton?” Dr. Foxtrot, the ward psychiatrist, asks.
“We're thinking of a more long-term facility,” Dr. Hotel, sitting across from her, finishes.
“I'm familiar with Wilton,” says Dr. Farris. “There’s nothing there.”
“But people with their bibles. The Bible is an answer to schizophrenia,” I say to no one. They look at me quizzically. “A necessary structure for the fearful.”
“We're advising you to move up here,” Dr. Hotel says. “There is a beautiful long-term rehab facility here, called Rustic. The dormitories are log cabins nestled in the mountains.”
“I joined for the college money,” William says as our group plays cards. He is twenty-three, hit by four IEDs, and now so cocky he can't even control himself, not to mention fit into a civilian work force.
“Only thing I told the recruiter was: I want to JUMP out of planes,” says Sharon. “Make that happen.”
“It's called the 4H club,” Daniel later explains concerning the city we're in. “Hippies, Homos, Hicks, and Hobos.”
“I heard if you see a ring around the moon,” Sharon says she places a nine of clubs. “It's going to snow. The stars in it are how many days until it snows.”
“They're raising the rents, the property values,” says Daniel continues. “Rich people love it here; they're pushing the lower classes off this land.”
“Meanwhile the downtown gets seedier and seedier,” she says, placing a three of diamonds. “As more and more homeless collect.”
Williams' wife arrives in order to be present with him during rounds – when each patient steps into the ward's conference room and reports to the treatment team. She keeps checking me out while I walk laps, stolen looks I'm not supposed to catch.
“She doesn't love him,” Sharon tells me. “Pregnant with his baby and talking to him like he ain't nothing.”
The woman is sweet, older, short, sharply dressed underneath the white, Egyptian cotton bathrobe she always wears. “Been doin' this a long time,” she says as we wait in line for rounds. “I was in Denver, Colorado at a long-term mental facility – it was awful.”
She leans back against the wall and sighs. “They just medicated the veterans. Men would be laying down in the hallways, the stairway, outside all over the grass. Sleeping men everywhere.”
“This facility must be pretty great,” I reply.
“No. All of them are like this now. With the war, they shut that place down, changed the standards. These places are excellent now.”
She has the shakes. “I'll go three, maybe four years sober,” she says. “Then fall off the wagon and start from scratch again. These shakes are the alcohol affecting me neurologically – common with withdrawals.”
“What was the catalyst for getting you here,” I ask her.
“I started to feel my liver hurting.”
“What's this trend in the ward where everyone's got some autobiography in the works,” I ask the treatment team. “What is that … “
“There's an author named Ira Progoff – highly respected psychologist,” Dr. Hotel says. “Who wrote a book called At a Journal Workshop. That should answer all your questions.”
“Still, it didn't work,” I reply. “The writings keep going on and on – nothing actually changes. I knew something was wrong with me and writing it down was the best I could do for it.”
“Still, it helps the patient put their thoughts in order,” interjects the social worker.
“What worked was getting me as calm as possible and starting from there. From that point all my issues seemed so silly.”
I've let go of the idea of my having a tangible – enough – identity that I can see it. Instead all I'm aware of is my choosing to be a good person, moment to moment, thought to thought. The rest, only others can see. This letting go has been slowly happening on its own these past few days.
Shifted from nightmares … hard to remember.
(on white board:) The heart has reasons that reason cannot know – Pascal.
Shifted to being deployed with Moser. He is so happy to see me. He had become a cop in the civilian war and can't wait to show me his badge.
After some sort of morning meeting of Moser's coworkers I walk with him to chow, where we stand in line.
“Chuck,” he says. “This is like, the greatest day.”
(on white board)
Thoughts manifest into words, and words manifest into deeds, deeds turn into habit, and habit hardens into character, so watch the thought and its ways with care, and let it spring forth with love for all beings. – Buddhist quote.
My psychological tests have been rolled up.
“You scored exceptionally high all around,” Dr. Hotel says as if this were a mounting problem for him. “That's why I wanted to do this instead of one of my underlings.” He looks through the paperwork as if he doesn't know where to start. “Someone with your brain is SUPPOSED to be in school. Its functions actually improve with scholastic use. Also, this brain type is especially susceptible to damage from drug and alcohol abuse.” He almost seems angry, pausing for measure. “I don't understand how it is that you haven't killed or damaged any brain cells, the alcohol alone should have shrunk certain areas.” He pauses again, as if to let it sink in. “The colleges here are some of the best in the state. You ARE to take advantage.”
She has read the short stories.
“Never take your relatives into account when you write,” she says. “They'll always having something nasty to say; it's just a game they've been playing for twenty-nine-years – messing with you for sport.”
“I didn't sleep with House,” I whisper to her through the phone line. “That was the whole point. He trusted me not to.”
“I understand … It's like you're trying to write the perfect novel,” she replies. “Instead of just telling the story.”
(0600) 50 mg Quetiapine; 300 mg Lithium
(1100) 50 mg Quetiapine
(1630) 50 mg Quetiapine
(2030) 300 mg Quetiapine; 600 mg Lithium
Dr. Foxtrot and Dr. Hotel are of two minds – Dr. Hotel, the psychologist, insists, even demands, I get myself to college henceforth, while Dr. Foxtrot, the psychiatrist, fears such pressure and promotes the CWT program of the VA's, which gives veterans temporary jobs in the VA, while keeping a close, even doting, eye on them. “It's a year long job,” she says. “Paying tax-free minimum wage.”
The two throw their weight around, careful not to actually argue with each other, as I stand in front of the conference table, having presented myself for rounds.
“No one has ever been on CWT a year, or even close to a year,” Missy, a young attendant, whispered to me once in private. “It has always led to a permanent job.”
Both the doctors and the social worker want me to live at the rehab program. “After you perform your initial three months, you will be given a per-diem bed in the veteran's cabins,” the social worker explains. “You wake every morning in rehab, then go to school or work, then go to sleep each night in rehab. You can do this for two years without spending any of your own money. After that, you can continue on there for a small monthly fee – four-hundred and twenty dollars, I think.”
I work for an ornery, gray haired man in an underground shaft loud and thick with dust from distant explosions. Sometimes I work as a miner, other times I am his acquirer. In the middle of the three rooms in the shaft, I receive instructions from him, sitting at his plugged-in laptop behind his paper-cluttered desk. I am to acquire two dogs.
At the house in God's Country, the gigantic pecan trees still stand strong over the yard. Inside the silent house, the furniture is covered in white sheets, the air stale. I find Susie Q, what's left of her tail wagging. I remember how she jumped into my lap and had her pups. I take two of them.
“I need two German Shepherds,” I say to the lab-coat wearing woman at the counter in Wilton. She takes the pups as trade. “What happens to them?” I ask her as if confidentially, implying euthanasia.
“Sir, this store front is empty and sterile,” she says.
At the underground shaft, my boss acts as if I am late, his wrinkled face contorting. The German Shepherds are large, hardy; the workers are pleased. Back at the white, sterile storefront I am to think quickly. By Susie's expression she wants me to trade her for the pups. I would, except I am aware of the euthanasia, which I cannot do to her.
“If she could see her pups,” I say to the same blonde woman manning the counter as before. “She is the mother.”
She silently agrees, and Susie, the pups, and I visit in the farthest corner where I sit on the floor thinking, watching the woman in my peripheral. Suddenly I see Dawn's car pull into the drive thru of the restaurant across the street. I place one puppy into the right front pocket of my coat, then place the other into the left as I move to scoop up Susie. The woman nears me, stopping my motion.
“Sir?” she says over and over. “Sir?”
She places a hand on my shoulder and I back hand her face, sending her to the ground. Grabbing Susie, I race out, crossing the four lane traffic at the expense of blasting horns, finally darting into the backseat of Mom's green Oldsmobile.
Looking abstractly out the windshield, she wears a slight smile, like she is thinking to herself. I gather she is on her way to see Mrs. Linda, her friend and protector during the Marissa case, because Wilton looks that time period. I empty my pockets of life forms; they curl up with Susie on the passenger back seat floor mat. I sit in the middle, straddling the carpeted green hump in the floor at my feet, as she drives through stop lights. We approach Marissa's neighborhood. “It's sad,” I say. “The neighborhood looks the same twenty years later. Still poor, and the houses like they have huge cracks in them.”
The dusk is gray, the inside of the Oldsmobile slate blue. She seems preoccupied with her smile. I forgot how used to me she is, how important each friend is to her, how wide and limitless her hope while her loneliness had taken on a life of its own.
“Mom,” I say quietly, leaning forward toward the space between the front seats. “Are you going to become a school teacher ...”
“Are you?” she answers.
We listen to the hum of the car for several seconds before I speak again. “I've never met a happy school teacher.”
The small town of Butler is obsessed with its football team and its coach. His energetic civies-wearing drill-sergeant zeroes in on me as if the day we met had been Day One. The team plays on horseback in a huge field flat like a football field and unmarked like a golf course, surrounded by NASCAR-size bleachers. “You best believe in God,” Coach says to me as congratulations for making the team. “You'll need Him.”
Mom comes to visit. We eat breakfast in a diner Mom-and Pop-owned, with a counter manned by older women with once-were-hip-hairstyles who are sometimes sweet, sometimes cold, depending on whether you are a local or not. In my PT uniform I eat biscuits and gravy and eggs mixed into grits and bacon and pancakes with syrup over sausage links because every bone in my body hurts and I have to get going again, not to mention learning to ride a horse. Silent, she sips coffee, looking out to the sunrise.