Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This year will be somewhat different because of my big move back to Vegas. Going home is now a drive across town as opposed to a flight across the country. Gifts no longer have to purchased with thoughts of their capacity to fit into a suitcase. The holiday will be spent at home instead of the home of others. Despite the differences, I love all that is Christmas.
Giddiness overwhelms me with the thought of finding the perfect gift for someone, I love the chance to fire up my oven and pump out cookies and treats, and cherish the opportunity to tell those in my life how much they mean to me. Twinkling lights and tinsel clad trees will always bring a tender smile to my lips. The season is rarified and special.
While this post may not be long, I wanted to take the opportunity to tell all of you that you are in my heart this Christmas. I should not wait for just one day to say so, and this year my resolution is to try to change that. Merry Christmas everyone, and to all a good night.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
Crash! CJ did not see Mia fall, he had only heard it. In the time it took for the sound to hit his ears, and for this head to turn in her direction, she was already on the ground. It had only been a small party tonight; a few friends over to celebrate nothing more than their middle class ease. Through the forest of legs, he could see the way her familiar figure lay askew, with an arm crumpled beneath her and knew that she was not alright. Nobody fell like that and did not right themselves if they were alright. Panic started at his head and began to wash down his lanky frame.
With his long legs, it only took a few strides for him to cover the distance of the room. So focused on Mia he took no notice of the rough shove he gave his paralyzed guest as they stood looking down at her, not yet being jolted to action.
He hit his knees in a skid, but took no notice of the burn that denim meeting carpet made against his skin. All of his senses were focused on Mia. His hands trembled in front of him for a moment, trying to decide how to make things right. Reaching up he brushed back a mass of her dark curls from her face and he could see her lips turning blue.
"I am not a doctor", he thought, "What am I supposed to do?" The panic was well into his chest and he noticed his heart raced as he took a full beat to realize what was happening to his beloved friend.
Mia was by no means a fragile girl. Lithe and athletic, despite her small stature, had always allowed her to keep up with most guys he knew. She played on his work softball team, was the one who introduced him to rock climbing, and rolled her eyes when he himself was hesitant to squash a bug. She was no hot house orchid. But like the mighty Samson, she had a weakness, her asthma.
He had laughed when he first heard the term, “brittle asthma”, it sounded like something old ladies living in Florida had, not something that could affect her perfect picture of health. Only now, faced with a blue lipped Mia, did he realize just how unfunny it was. Struggling back to the day they discussed death and how they had each imagined they would die, he tried to recall her words. Her narrative floated back from long ago and was quiet through the fog of panic. Concentrating he could now remember Mia assuring him she fine as long as she followed the medication regiment she took such pains to hide but was sometimes subject to severe and unexpected attacks. He had never seen her have an attack, but this must be what was happening now.
The beat over, and the need to act suddenly cleared his mind, and he knew what to do. Turning to the stunned crowd, he was angered by their inaction. Singling out a co-workers wife, who still clutched a wine glass by its delicate stem, he barked at her to call 911.
Turning his focus back to his charge, he delicately straightened out her body, clumsily tilted her chin back and lowered his head to listen. No breath to speak of as he looked down her body, which from this angle included everything normally covered by her shirt. The unexpected look at that which made her female was odd and slightly embarrassing for him. They had never been anything more than friends; in fact the best. He could tell her anything, and she had a pathological need to do the same. He knew everything about her except the touch of her hand and the taste of her lips.
His assessment of her, minus the awkward observation, told him that in fact she was not breathing. He knew that he would not need to pump her chest, he would only need to breathe for her until the ambulance arrived. Turning his head to hers, their mouths perpendicular, he put his mouth over hers and blew.
It was in that instant that everything changed. As soon as the air rushed from between his lips, a rush of thoughts that were not his own flooded into him. The cacophony of thoughts clashed together like massive waves. The alien thoughts fought with his own for dominance. It was so jarring that he almost pulled back and broke contact except the first thought that broke through the mass of confusion was so shocking that he could not move. She loves him.
In the three years that they had known each other, despite the fact that they had seen each other nearly everyday, except for the time that she had spent 10 days in Boston, it had not occurred to him that this was the truth. They had met while standing next to each other in line at a Chuck Palahniuk book signing. Both had arrived nearly four hours before the event, and after the conversation over their mutual excitement to meet their favorite author in the flesh had faded, their witty parlay lead to what they were today.
It was in this early day of their relationship, that he had sensed that she was in it for the dating experience, but his subtle overtures that she was not what he was looking for and then a not so subtle internet chat, was the last time he had considered it. She had vehemently denied it and still likes to tease him to this day for assuming, “every girl he meets wants to jump his bones”.
“How could this be?”, his own thought cut into the boggling revelation. How often had he heard her make it clear to those questioned them in a semi-joking manner that they were anything but just friends? Hadn’t she always asked and seemed genuinely interested in whichever girl he was currently dating in all earnestness? If this was so, then why make all the comments about the great ease it created between them to always know that they were just friends?
Before he could formulate an answer to any of his own questions, her emotions surged behind her mere thoughts into him, testifying of the truth. Roiling beneath her raw emotion were layers of her desire. She would take his jacket from the back seat of the car while he ran into the bank and breath in his scent deeply, trying to memorize it. She made special note of the way his fingers moved around the ear of the dog while they sat on the couch watching TV and thinking how much she wanted those fingers to touch her own skin. She would watch the subtle way his suck in the corner of his lip when contemplating an answer or the way he held his body as he walked across the room. She loved to hear the lilt in his voice he always adopted when he read to her her own blog posts aloud and could tell with a glance at his face exactly how tired he was. She was a student of all things him.
Lights popped in the edge of his vision and he was forced to break contact with her. Panting, trying to catch his own breath, he was reeling from more than lack of oxygen. His analytical nature screamed for him to take a step back and try to figure out what was going on, but knew without the respirations he was providing, there would be no Mia to question. Not even waiting for the dizziness past, he again lowered his lips down to hers.
The foreign presence was back again, and this time there was no pause before the rush of emotion flooded him. She wants to be with him. He could hear snippets of the artificial narrative she composed to him in her head as she sometimes allowed herself to believe that they someday would be together. He could feel the anger and disappointment when he somehow failed to live up to what she expected of him in their fabricated romance, of which he had no idea he was in. He could feel her heart break every time he talked to her about a girl that was not her and the great lengths she took to seem excited for him. He could feel her misery when a text would come over on his phone that brought a smile to his face. He now knew the torture she felt that the other girl, a lesser girl got to be a part of that section of his life that she was barred access to. He could hear her axiom repeated in her mind, “It is better to sit for a half portion than not to eat at all”. Her need and want began to press down over his own.
How often had she thought about spanning the distance between their hands and feeling the smooth skin there? How often had she imagined when another touched her that it was truly his caress? Why had she denied herself this? Why had she not given in to the burning desire that consumed her waking thought and nightly dreams? She does not want to ruin things. She would rather have him still in her life than not there at all. She would rather live in a pseudo-relationship that fulfilled some of her needs than to feel the bitterness of loneliness and the feeling of not being understood. She needed him, he was her emotional crutch.
A scene he knew opened up before him, only when he saw it, it was from his eyes at the back of the room, seeing Mia perched on a stool at the front of the room. This time he could see himself standing brilliantly illuminated while the rest of the crowd melted together like a charcoal drawing that has gotten wet. This was Mia’s first reading. It was his prodding that she should take her love of books and crafting her words into art to the next level. For months, he encouraged her to use her skill for more than the exhaustive blog that she created.
Finally taking his advice, she shut down her blog and put proverbial pen to paper. A year later she sat perched upon the well worn stool in the very same book shop they met in, reading a passage from her own work aloud.
"I never knew love was so torturous. Love is now the constant source of all my misery. When you are not here, the physical separation is like acid slowly eating away at the essence of me. My being slowly erodes away as each moment slips by. I am only restored when you finally rejoin me. But only so I can be subjected to even more ruinous torture.
The mere act of being with you is more agony than the longest separation. In your presence, my skin cries out for your touch as if it were cracked and chapped and you held its only relief. My chest longs to feel your weight upon it, for then, and only then would I be able to breath freely. Breathing in your scent is sweet oblivious, so thick and complete that I could hide from all else there. My essence is so intertwined with yours, that I would scarcely know myself without you. It is only with you that I feel complete, as if all parts of me are now in place. It is only then that I can feel the perfection of my love."
These words were not really from the forlorn Mr. Gunthrie to his beloved Miss Sally in regards to his unrequited love as she explained in her preface. He now knew the reason he shone so bright in this memory was because while the words were in fact about unrequited love, they were her own words from her journal, composed to him, the night she first realized she loved him, read especially to him and only him.
Something was there that she did not want him to see. Like a blur on the corner of the eye. Catching on to it, he turned his focus on it and watched as his attention seemed to dissolve the barrier that she had erected around it. Slowly dissipating until the protection around it was membrane thin. As the first pinhole burst in, her panic of discovery began to leak out. This only made him concentrate harder, for since the moment his lips had touched hers, he felt like he had some sense of control.
Encased inside her barrier was something that he never expected but at this point had no more new shock to give to the revelation. This thing that was happening to him right now, was her ability, it was coming from her. This gift was something that she was not only aware of, but was something that she had some control over. She had used this ability before, but there were limitations. She could not hide anything once she chose to share. She could only share the gift by the touch of the lips. She had to give everything on one subject. Once she had tried to share with someone how much she loved cake and instead infused them with everything she ever knew about, saw, or tasted related to it. It was overwhelming.
She had decided since she was unable to tell him how much she cared to show him instead. She wanted him to see the depth and breathe of her love for him. But she knew that her one shot at making him love her came with risks. He would see everything.
Suddenly he was overcome with the dark emotions she was trying to hide from him. He felt the jealousy in his mind for every time he had fallen into love's embrace with a woman that was not her. It was more than just the jealousy of his time, or jealousy of the intimacy that she did not get to share, but also an irrational and ugly jealousy that bred hatred for the woman that he was with. The emotion was so hot and bitter that it scared him to feel it rush through his mind. He longed to pull away before he was forced to see more.
Before he could break, he saw her sifting through all that was supposed to be private. She wanted to know him completely, to have some sort of control over her helplessness. She had felt guilty at first, only reading emails at his house when he left his email account open, or sneaking peeks at his text messages over his shoulder as he responded. Soon, this became not enough information, there were holes in the story she burned to fill. Slowly she began to stealthily observe every time he logged in, slowly piecing together his password until one day she finally figured it out. Now she had a copy of each email sent directly to her phone. Several months ago she had figured out a simple call to the cell company as CJ's "personal assistant" had enabled her to turn on the option to record his text messages on-line for a mere $2.99 surcharge. Now she read more of his text messages than her own.
He saw her systematically ruining every romantic relationship he ever tried to have, and some he had not known he had a chance at. It had started good natured, acting only upon what she thought was in his best interest. She would discourage certain types of girls from talking to him, or steering them to other friends that she considered more "suitable" matches. If the other woman would not be dissuaded, she would befriend her and work on her downfall from within. She would report back modified versions of conversations to CJ's ears, or let slip where this woman or that was spending her Saturday night and in who's company. Loose lips sink ships indeed.
Soon her well meaning protection turned into an out and out offensive. She began to deceive in both word and deed. It was only small acts at first, such as occasionally deleting text message before he had a chance to read them. Another nice option available from the webpage. She would play victim at especially crucial times in newly forming relationships to force him to chose her, or use the coveted "we" a touch too often for comfort with the new woman to force her to show C.J. the jealousy he so greatly despised, drop condom wrappers into open purses at auspicious times so he would suspect she was less than true, and even made one girlfriend appear to be a kleptomaniac by systematically stealing objects from his house every time the unfortunate soul was over.
While each one of those sabotage campaigns only served to sink a failing ship, it was the destruction of his love for Katie that struck so hard a fissure began to form. He had met Katie earlier that year while sitting at the bar in his favorite sushi restaurant. Due to Mia's utter hatred of all things fish, he hardly ever indulged in his love of the tiny, bite-sized food. Returning from dropping Mia off at the airport for her Boston trip, he made a beeline for Sushi Zushi. Both being solo diners and fortuitously sitting next to each other, he and Katie quickly decided sharing rolls and company made for a far better experience.
For those ten days they lit the world on fire. Inseparable except for work, and even then a few sick days were used, the two were deeply entangled upon Mia's return. He reined in his own excitement upon Mia's first night home. She arrived flushed with excitement to tell of her adventures as an actual author being called for a meeting by a publishing house. After they agreed to publish her book, she stayed for an intense eight day vivisection of her creation and then reassembled it into a sellable product. Finishing her hour monologue in which he counted not a single breath, she finally turned the conversation to him.
With his own enthusiasm bubbling over, he painted his own version of their 10 days apart, bright and vivid. Describing Katie in such loving detail that the words raked their pointed edged down her soul until nothing was left. So caught up in the telling of the story, he never had in inkling of what it had done to her. Now, he had a chilling vision of her literal desire to physically hurt not just this girl but any girl who was able to penetrate this close to his heart. The irrational thought process now coursed him that illustrated the resolve she made that night to completely control him.
He had never known what had caused Katie to disappear several months after injecting Mia into the situation. It had taken him weeks upon weeks to come to terms her sudden departure and finally say it had nothing to do with him. Now, seeing it happen through Mia's eyes he knew with a sure knowledge that this was the truth.
Unable to handle the thought of CJ and Katie close, touching, loving each other, Mia enacted a campaign of terror. Careful to allow Katie to know she was the culprit without ever giving her direct proof, Katie was subjected to unauthorized charges on her credit card to outlandish websites, car length key scratches, a corn snake in shower, an autodialer that would call repeatedly until picked up scheduled to call home or work, depending on where Katie was, a cancelled flight that was only discovered when she tried to check in and since the airline stated Katie herself cancelled it was charged to rebook, but all of this Katie was determined to endure. And endure she did until a tiny webcam's grainy recording of CJ and Katie together was emailed to her boss, mother, and half of her real estate client list. Mia could not have asked for a better outcome than Katie's ghost like exit from CJ's life.
Utterly horrified at the violation, his own thoughts fought to surface on center stage, to be analyzed for the full ramifications they represented. Despite his effort, there was still more that came crashing over him like a wave in the sea. He wondered how there could any more, how there could be anything worse.
He focused on the last bit of darkness, the last corner with information she was attempting to hold back from him. Directing his concentration, he then saw tonight's tragedy was no twist of fate. Her asthma attack was no accident, that she had caused this asthma attack. Slipping into the bathroom, she held the delicate handkerchief laced with an allergen over her nose and inhaled deeply, knowing what it would do to her. Knowing of no other way to have their lips meet for an extended period, this was her last ditch effort to snare him.
She gambled everything, including her life to get what she wanted. She knew if he could just feel what she felt that they would be together. The only thing was that if he got far enough to realize she did this to herself, that she used her ability in an attempt to superimpose her feelings over his, that he would hate her. She would ruin the beautiful facade that they had.
No breathe followed. Finally saddled with the full knowledge of what Mia really was, not the facade he had come to love and cherish, he could not do it. He could not put his mouth upon hers again. He could not feel the hate and blackness seep into him anymore. His audience stood still as trees, unaware of the unspoken drama that had passed between them, but still did nothing to prevent his cessation of respiration. He looked down at her, and with glossed eyes, watched her lips fade from the rosy pink he had restored to them, to the dusky blue of cyanosis. He watched and did nothing to stop it.
"CJ?", croaked a voice behind him, timidly attempting to call him back to action after the tension of his inaction crested among the observers. Still not roused, he turned his head to the door as the EMTs arrived. Brushing him aside, they worked rapidly with bags and tubes, and mechanically took over the traitorous artificial breathing. They loaded her up and began to wheel her away. The last thought that she had blown across to him now was the only thought pulsing through his muddled mind. She had known. She had known he would hate her for what she did. That the hate would black out the white hot light of her love. She had known he would hate her, and she was right.
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
That familiar feeling is creeping back in. The wheels of the plane make a horrendous screech as they slam up back down to Earth. Terra Firma. The feeling has been hovering on the edge of my consciousness since I awoke in a different time zone, in a different country, in a different world it almost feels like. If I had to assign words to this feeling, it would most closely resemble apprehension or perhaps even sadness, but neither word can really encapsulate the emotion associated with returning home.
That same miracle, that same one ton of steel breaking with gravity and whisking me away with hopes of adventure and a suspension of reality is now the same drudgery that now brings me back to banality. I left with hopes of adventures I did not read in a book or hear about from friends or watch in surreal colors on television. For ten marvelous, awe-inspiring days I lived that dream, but now I must return to my hopeless hamlet and leave behind that ephemeral joy.
Those days in Brazil held so many first for me. It was my first time experience the oppressiveness of humidity. At this moment I can almost feel the thin sheen of sweat that constant covers your entire body while you are doing nothing more than lounging in the evening air at a street side cafe. The moisture in the air was so thick that it collected in a fog across the hotel windows until in the heat of the day broke the fog into beads of sweat that raced each other down the panes.
It was the first time I experienced fruits named things exotic things like caju, jaca, and maracuja. Although they did not sound as exotic rolling out of my American mouth as they did from the dark skinned rag-tag kids that stopped by the hotel to sell them to the foreigners every morning. As I bit off slabs of their flesh, rolled the unfamiliar textures across my tongue, and wiped their juices away as they escaped out the corner of my lips, I marveled that they grew from the same ground as the mundane fruit I was accustomed to.
It was the first time I camped in the open air, trying to truly become aware of the nature around me. I slept with nothing between me and the canopy of interwoven leaves; the jungle singing its song all around me. I looked down at the now bluish bite on underside of my left wrist that was proof that there was not even the canvas of a tent between me and the raw nature I was looking for. Noticing the bite gave me the urge to scratch the swollen bump that was twice what it was a day ago, but I resisted.
For ten days I felt like I had shook off the invisible blanket of gray that covered everything in my life. For ten days colors were brighter, life was louder, and my consciousness has been awakened. I felt everything from breathing to moving was new and exciting. But looking out the tiny gray portal of the plane, I can feel the blanket falling over my eyes and settling on my shoulders.
Soon the plane was leaving the landing strip and slowly making its way to the gate. The artificial, recycled air was suddenly sweeter and warmer as the pumps pulled in air from outside the plane. The arid smell of the dry dirt of the desert rushed in and began to stealing the moisture from inside my nose. The sensation rushes from my nose to the back of my throat where it triggers a cough.
I sputter and then cough into my hands. I can feel the portly guy sitting in the middle seat, who’s bulk had slowly been invading my space for the last 14 hours give me a contemptuous glance over his shoulder without moving his head. As if the audacity it took to cough while in his vicinity was an unforgivable sin. Out of shear spite I coughed harder to give him something to stare at.
Suddenly there a familiar copper taste rushed into my mouth. Perhaps I put just a touch more effort into that than I should have. When I pull back my hands, I can see they were covered with a mucusy red mess that startles me. I had tasted the blood as soon as it left the back of my throat, but this blood was the deep crimson of blood that was old and exposed to air. My confusion gave way to sudden embarrassment when I realized that my fat friend was now openly staring at me.
Agoged, I close my palms and pull at the corner of my jacket that is sitting just inside the open zipper of my backpack and quickly wipe away the evidence of my drama gone awry. Looking back up, Mr. 14B had already hopped into the aisle. Suddenly overcome with overwhelming exhaustion, I just sat for a moment to, not only allow him to make his escape, but also to muster enough energy to make my way home.
Standing on the four linoleum squares that made up my entry way to my expansive 712 square feet apartment, I can not help but notice how deathly quite it is. Before I left I had power down everything that normally whirls, buzzes, and hums in preparation for my absence. In shafts of the orangey, early evening sunlight filtered the through the dead air, dust particles float down to find places on my furniture that I will then surely fail to dust for several months. Everything here testified of the feeling I could not put words to. It is quite as a tomb, and devoid of life.
There is no cat to call to, no plant to rush to and quench its parched soil. Instead, I sag down into the couch, even more weary than I was at the airport. I am sure my travel worn feeling was from actual travel. I collect enough strength to chortle at my own wit. Assessing how the rest of my evening would play out, I wonder why I am not hungry. I have not eaten since San Paolo. The smells of greasy hamburgers and fried sides during my lay over in Miami did nothing to stimulate my appetite. Bedraggled, I decide it is time to just call it a day. I take only myself, no bags, into the bedroom where I fall into bed without removing an stitch of clothing, a smear of makeup, or either contact. Sleep claims me quickly and completely.
Trying to rouse myself from slumber makes me feel like Lazarus waking from the dead. Opening my eyelids feels like a near impossible task, so I leave them shut for a moment and assess the rest of my body. My limbs are heavy and it takes a concentrated effort to move them. The sheet I must have found in the night and thrown over me suddenly feels like a death shroud. I must get it off of me immediately. Slowly, with exaggerated jerking motions, I coax my sand filled legs into kicking the sheet off. Now slightly winded and still exhausted, I wonder idly how much sleep I have gotten, for my body is surely testifying it was minimal. Prying open oysters is easier than peeling back my lids to start the day. I turn my head towards the clock. The large, red numbers are blurry and danced about wavily. Squinting, I can now make out the numbers.
"No!" I hissed out. I had slept 12 hours. I usually cannot make it four because the urge to void will not let me slumber longer.
Pushing up off the bed, I stagger a little bit as my legs are slow to respond. It takes a couple of pumps before the muscle memory required to stand erect and move returns to them. I make my way to the toilet, turn and sit. And there I sat, and sat, and sat. Finally a trickle begin. The acrid smell assaults my nostrils before the sound of the urine hitting the water reaches my ears. Peering down, I could see the stream was a cloudy and dark amber in color.
The panic sat in my chest for a full beat before I began to make the connections that seemed so obvious now. Doing a quick self assessment, no appetite, body aches, blurred vision, the odd urine...I am sick. This is just my luck. As I ponder my luck that I am not working today when the image of my blood covered hands from yesterday flashes across my mind. Of course I am sick. It seemed so obvious now.
A couple of hours l came to the conclusion I was sick and I am now in a nearly vacant waiting room trying to decide between “People” and “Newsweek” to read. Sly I look around before passing up "Newsweek", and pick up “People”. I sit down and my muscles seem stiff and non-compliant. I have a sinking suspicion this was going to be more than just a cold.
Trying to focus on the spreads of glossy photos and bold words becomes an impossible task. My vision seems to worse than it was this morning looking for the alarm clock. I shut the magazine in frustration and let it fall between my knees. I tilt my head back, leaning it against the wall and let the exhaustion wash over me.
It is minutes later that the nurse calls me back. Embarrassment flushes at how I have to rock back and forth to get to my feet, and even more so when I turn and see the darkened spot on the wall where my head had been. With a quick glance around, I am ensure I am the only one who notices and shuffle after the pert nurse into the back part of the office.
The climb onto the table is torture. The paper crinkles beneath me as I try to reposition myself so I am centered and there is no chance of a fall off the excessively high table. The nurse busied herself filling out the blank sheet on the front of my chart.
“Reason for visit today”, she chirped out without her eyes ever leaving the paper.
My list of symptoms tumble out of my mouth. I follow each with a short pause to allow her to record them. She scratched them on to the paper with a false, painted on look of sympathy.
After writing far more on the paper than just my symptoms, she exchanges the chart for a rolling machine with a blue front display. She slides a tiny, latex sleeve with a glowing red light over my finger, and then begin to encircle my arm with the the blood pressure cuff, she starts the cuff’s anaconda squeeze and turns to pull out a thermometer. Sticking the probe under my tongue without any attempt at eye contact, she goes back to her scribbling.
Beep, beep, beeeeep. The nurse peels her eyes away from the scribbling and inspects the front of the machine as she nits her brow in a cute, practiced way.
“Problem?”, I mumble out the side of my mouth, trying not to not drop the thermometer.
“This stupid thing, we just got it and already it has decided to quit on us.” Punching some buttons, the cuff begins to inflate again. The hum of the small compressor continues on and on. Real frustration bursts across her face and for the first time since I walked into the room, she has checked into the situation. She reaches up to remove the now flaccid cuff from my arm, and the white coated, grey bearded doctor walks in.
The nurse, flustered, turns to face him and said, “I am so sorry Dr. Stevens, I know you are running behind but this stupid vital sign machine is not working. It says her heart rate is 36, her temperature is to low to read and the blood pressure cuff just inflates and never takes a reading.” She furiously begins to punch more buttons on the display.
“No matter, we can get them after the exam. Can I see the chart?” he says as his eyes scan the room for the elusive chart.
Glad for the chance to escape reprimand, the nurse pushes the defunct machine into the corner of the exam room, hands over the chart, and hastily beat a retreat towards the door.
Afflicted by the same inability to look me in the eye, he addresses me as his eyes scan over the paper.
“So we have been feeling a little under the weather have we?”, he lilts.
Silently I thought, “We have not been under the weather, you were not there when ‘we’ vomited in the parking lot? No, you were not”. I thought it but did not say it. Instead, I politely tell him about fetid urine, the random bloody incident on the plane, today’s vomiting without the forewarning of nausea, the weakness that made me feel like the walking dead.
“Vomiting, weakness, a bloody nose, and the urine.” He rattles off as he turns towards the counter behind him and grabs a pad. His pen scratched across the script and he tears it off with a practiced swipe. He hands it to me as he said, “I am sure that you just have a bladder infection. Fill this and call my nurse in a week if you don’t feel better.
Before I can look up from the prescription in my hand, he is out the door. The whole exchange took less than three minutes. I am unsure if I should be mad that he did not live up to the paternal figure TV always assured me doctors were or to be relieved that he is so good that he did not even have to examine me to know what was wrong. Mad wins the struggle.
Pulling myself off the table is an extraordinary effort. One foot hit the ground and there is no second leg to catch me. I windmill and bang my forearm on the edge of the counter. Mad before, I am now seething. I drag myself to the car and make a draining drive to the pharmacy, then home where I fall into my sheets fully clothed.
The room is so bright. Opening my eyes, I blink rapidly, trying to save my screaming retinas from the pain. Squinting I look up at the ceiling. How long have I be laying here? What is that horrendous smell? The pervasive smell is a sour smell that reminded me vaguely of the way my trunk used to smell after a flank steak escaped a grocery bag and went green before discovery. I quickly decide the smell somehow emanating from me. Even if the smell was not me, I am sure I need to bathe since I have not showered since Brazil.
I shuffle into the bathroom and it takes a few moments for me to flip the shower on since my hand is having trouble closing properly around the knob. I slowly undress. Ugh, the smell must be in my clothes, for when I began to undress, the smell got stronger. Perhaps when I vomited yesterday, I got some on me and just did not realize it. I want the clothes as far away from me, while I showered, as possible. Crossing the bathroom, I put them in the corner.
Heading back to the shower, I catch my reflection in the mirror. I am ghastly. I am so pale. Where has my sun kissed skin from the warm Brazilian sun gone? I can not believe the cadaverous face staring back at me from the mirror was mine.
Slowly I raise my left arm to touch my face and when I do, I receive a shock that pales in comparison to the one I just had noticing my pastiness. Bringing my arm up into my field of vision, I can see that the entire area from my previously nickel sized bite to my elbow was a deep blue that is bordering on black. The color streaks down my arm, illuminating the arteries and veins that resided right under my skin.
Horrified I look back to the mirror and the back of my arm comes into view. My God, what was happening? The entire back of my forearm looks like something out of a horror movie. The area that I struck on the counter yesterday at the doctor’s office has now split along the long line made by the counter. The pale skin has peeled back, revealing the structures underneath. Only they no longer look like skin or connective tissue or muscle. Instead of the warm pink glow you expect your innards to be, they are only a shade or two lighter than blue that covers the other side of my arm.
Unbelieving of what the mirror is showing me, I bring my arm up so my eyes can confirm what I thought I was seeing. As soon as my arm comes close to my face, I realize for the first time, the putrid smell is coming from me. The smell is now so strong in my nostrils that it can no longer be confused with anything else. It was the smell of death.
Pure panic flashes across me. I do not know what to do. The smell continues to recycle and send the same smell of putrefaction to my brain every time I draw a breath. All I want is for the smell to be off of me.
The shower runs behind me, so I move into it and snap the door closed behind me. A deep sob escapes past my lips and I douse all the shampoo that would come out of the bottle with a gigantic squeeze down my front. My right arm still functions, so I furiously begin to spread the sea foam green slippery mess around my body. Tears mix with the water from the shower head and around my feet I can see the entire floor of the shower become a slimy green mess.
Another wave of panic crashes over me, and I lean to grab the bottle again, to empty the rest of the contents unto myself. Leaning over, the slick alkaloidic mess covering the shower floor squishes between my toes and I pitch forward. Putting my hands out in front of me to catch myself did nothing. Covered in slick, green soap, both of my hands slam against the glass of the shower door and shoot out in opposite directions. The last thing I see, is my head meeting the glass.
Waking up, I somehow know I am different. I have a general awareness of my body, but I cannot call what I am experiencing feeling. Feeling is like a movie, bright and tells a story; flickering information, more at times, less at other. This, instead, is like a picture. Flat, static, and conveying only two dimensional information. The water is still running over my feet, and although I know it must now be running cold, it does not chill me as cold water should. The only thing that I must now focus on is my brain saying I have to move, I must get up, I must get off of this floor.
While I struggle to put my decision of movement into action, a sound like gravel hits my ears. There is crunching and popping as I stand. With my feet finally beneath me, I look down and notice that the sound was not gravel at all, but the thousand glittering bit of glass that was once the shower door, spread across the floor like beads of morning dew. After I am able to stand up, I look down further and I can see my naked body is now the repository for hundreds upon hundreds more. Each sticks out at different angles, but none of them causing the bright droplets of blood one would expect to be to escaping from around each point.
I try to pull my arms up to brush some of the glass off of me, but instead find it almost impossible to bend them at the elbows, like a metal rod has replaced my, my, my...I could not think what they are called. Arm bones is right, but there is a different word, other words that I want, but could not bring forward. Trying to pull the obscure word out of my brain, is like trying to swim through murky waters. The word is not important, but I want to see how badly the glass has infected my once smooth skin. I drag each foot forward, my arms still extended, and walk over to the mirror.
The first thing I notice is not the thousand points of light the glass shards create in the florescent glow of the bathroom light, or the pale blue hue my skin had taken on, or my swollen and bloated belly. It is the gaping wound on my arm, and how it was not festering, or oozing exudate, or attempting to scab over as a wound trying to heal would. Instead, it is cold and dead. I examine it with detachment because it is impossible to feel that the dead thing is even a part of me. Had you severed it at the shoulder and handed it to me, it would be no different to me than the condition it is in now. Despite the way my legs feel, numb and oddly heavy, I know that they were yet the dead flesh of my arm. I can feel the total death starting to spread down from the shoulder to my chest wall and across my back. Soon my entire body will no longer be in the process of dying, it will be completely enveloped.
It is in this moment, contemplating the moment of total cellular death, that I sense the natural conclusion to this train of thought. Looking at myself is not easy, as a thin film of milkiness now clouds my vision, but what I can see are all the things that make this outrageous thought even a remote reality. Had it not been so horrible, I would feel the need to guffaw at how ridiculous the thought gnawing at the edge of my brain was.
The word zombie keeps trying to surface into my conscious mind, but no, that is ludicrous. I don't understand how this could have happened, but no other conclusion made sense. Although, did this even really make sense? Zombies were fodder for sci-fi books and second rate movies, not something you worry about like cancer or heart disease. Yet, could there be any other conclusion?
My mind feels like it was trying to come to a conclusion while sinking in a puddle of nectar thick liquid. Standing there, I cannot seem to muster enough mental clarity work through the problem. Stalled in thought and stark naked for longer than I care to admit, I decide that while I may have one foot in the grave that I am not totally there yet. Unable to think of any other course of action, I decide I must get back to Dr. Stevens' office.
It could have been minuets or hours that passed as I struggled to clothe myself. I was unaware of anything other than how difficult the process was. I decided to forgo the attempt to brush my hair or apply makeup as to not startle all those I was sure to come into contact with on the way over. I did not even try to remove the tiny points of glass sticking out all over my front and simply pulled a simple wrap dress around myself. I paired it with a house slippers, out of sheer need, for they were already on the floor.
After the ordeal of getting dressed, while wondering what could be have been harder when I suddenly had my answer. The same lose of time occurred, moments turned to minutes as I stand at the front door, arms extended out in front of me, trying to figure out how to get through it. Making decisions is becoming harder and harder. I finally am able to make a grip with my one good hand, and swing the door in. The swing inward come quicker than I expect and rebounded back as it ricochets off the side of my face. I stand startled; not because it hit me for my reactions are such that there would have been no way to avoid it, but because I am still not accustomed to the lack of sensation.
I maneuver myself around the door and emerge onto my porch. Stepping out into the sunlight, the world seems wrong. My apartment door still looks out onto the street with duplexes lining the other side, but it is like someone turned down the volume on the entire scene. Matte and muted, the entire world seems to meld together. No one thing stands out against the wash of blandness.
Then movement comes across my vision and in an instant, it is all I can concentrate on. It is a jogger. He bounces up and down, his shirtless body glistening with sweat. Watching him takes over my entire being. All that is in me is drawn to him and his smooth motion. I watch him bound down the sidewalk, and then there is suddenly something else. Below the movement I can sense something, something magnetic, something so inviting. I can sense, what was this I am sensing, his heart, his warmth, how alive he is? I am not sure, but I feel so drawn to it. All I want is to be as close to him as I can.
Spurred by the unfamiliar draw, I start my shuffle towards him. Letting one stiff foot fall in front of the other, I try to push my stiff legs faster to reach his warm skin before it is gone. But he is simply too fast. Finally reaching the sidewalk, I crane my neck in an attempt to spot the warm blip on my otherwise dulled radar, but he is gone. I swing my neck and head together in the other direction in hopes I just have not spotted him, but instead I miss the edge of the curb and unable to stop the fall, I fall face flat in the street.
As I lay prostrate on street, I begin to try to roll myself over. Abrupt and unexpected, I again feel that same heat that could only come from the living. A family from across the street saw my fall and the average looking man detached himself from his small brood and is now kneeling beside me. He places one glowingly warm hand on me and it radiates his heat down to the dead flesh below him.
It is like the rest of the world melted away, and I could focus on nothing else except the warm, pink glow of his skin. He dipped his head down to try and better assess the damage I had done on the pavement. His neck was was close. So close I could almost hear his heart beat within. There was something inside of him I wanted. The desire to reach out for it, to taste whatever that was is so strong. I cannot say why I did it, but I lean into him and before can process what I am about to do, I bit down. It first thing I feel is amazement because unlike anything else, I can actually feel the warmth of it. Warm, then hot liquid rushes into my mouth, over my chin, and down my neck. I revel in the salty taste of it, but it is still not exactly what I want.
My delight is interrupted when the man reels back from me. His left hand flutters up to the crimson fountain I have opened on his neck, eyes so wide that his irises are rimmed all around with white. He is unmistakably terrified of me. A hint of regret touches me as I look up and can see the bright stream escaping from between his fingers as he tries to staunch the flow. It make a puddle on his shirt that grows and grows, washing down his front wasted and untasted. The hot sheet of blood down my chin began to cool and return the skin beneath it to the dead, unfeeling mass it was before.
My distress at the lose of such experience is eclipsed as the matriarch of the brood came rushing forward to see what was happening. She leans close to me and asked, "Are you hurt too?", mistaking the blood down my chin for my own. She is close, so very close. I can feel the pulse below her skin, and want to again taste the salty goodness, to again feel something. All I have to do is lean into her, and with a single bite, the blood gushed forth. It is more than my mouth could hold. I open my jaw wider to try to capture more of the fluid, trying to decide why the taste is good but still not quite right. What am I missing?
Without a thought, I released the writhing woman, and reached around her to pull the small girl hiding there to me to see if I can figure out the taste. Kicking and screaming, I pull her to me and again bit at the neck. In her struggle to get away, instead of biting across the taunt muscle between the throat and head like I did her parents, I get a half mouth full of hair, a warm gush of blood and then the most marvelous taste I can ever remember. It is faint but gushes into me and starts a fire within.
What is this? Pulling the small body away from me, I refocused and bit her across the back of the neck again. There it is, the taste is like magic. What was so different? Putting my fingers into the gaping hole, I peel back the skin and part of her skull like it I am peeling an orange. Below the surface I can now see a pink, quivering mass that must surely be the source of the intoxicating smell wafting up at me. Leaning in, I take a bite. Joy rushes into me; it is like a feeling of completion. I look down closer to see what I had eaten that finally spoke to my hunger. My jaw stops mid-chew. Looking down at the limp figure in my hands, I can see the frill at the bottom of her dress and two patent leather shoes swing as her legs sway with my movement. I become cognizant of the fact that it was an actual person, a human being just like I once was and the material in my mouth was her brain. I immediately drop her to the ground and back away as the horror of my actions settle into my addled mind.
I watch as she falls limply to the ground. The half of skull that I had dislodged make a sickening smack as it flops back into place. With the warm blood all down my front starting to cool, I am trying to come to grips with what I have just done, but cannot. I have to get away. I have to get away now. I turn and begin to shuffle down the street, I have to hide from this. I have to hide from the horrible things that I had just done.
How could this be? What kind of monster just murders three innocent people in the street? That is what I am, a monster. The blood smeared down the front of my dress, and becoming tacky across my arms sickens me. I am not a ruthless killer. I feel the urge to cry but my eyes will not respond. This upsets me even more. What have I become?
I shuffled at top speed until I catch a whiff of a scent so delectable that it blots out all other thoughts. No bakery ever had an aroma like this. The smell calls to me, beckoning me, no commanding me to follow. I veer courses to follow the alluring odor. It is coming from an open garage, who's recesses are too dark to see from the driveway. Crossing the threshold, I can now see a lone man, bent over a lawn mower, with his back to me.
I am half way across the garage before he becomes aware of me. He turns to me and politely asks, "Can I help you?".
"I don't know", I think, "can you?", but from my mouth only spews a mumble that sounds like a wounded duck. He is squinting as I come closer because I am so back-lit from the sun streaming through the open garage door. So close. He begins to stand and turn toward me in one fluid motion. I can feel my need rise in me. Quicker than I though I was still capable of, I cover the distance between us and fill my mouth with the soft flesh of his neck. The bite satisfied my want to feel the warmth again, but does not satisfy the need pulsing just below the surface. Releasing my jaw, he sinks to the oil slicked garage floor.
Kneeling before me, head bowed as if in prayer, the crown of his head is all I can see. My instinct moves through me like lightening and before thoughts can register, I am sending him back to his God. My teeth melt into his flesh, yielding so easily to that which is so unlike those I had mere days ago. I bite down and the sound of crunching of bone fills my ears. Pulling back I have a mouth full of skull, hair, and bone. The warm sheet of his blood moving down my front intrigues me only momentarily, for I know a joy for beyond that of the warmth.
My eyes fall upon the exposed pink mass, quivering delectably just above the rim of his exposed skull. I open my mouth to let the the crown of his head fall out to make room for the only thing I could ever want again. I only have a vague gnawing feeling that I should not be indulging in such a feast before I bend over and take the most intoxicating bite of anything that has ever been in my mouth. It is so good that all objections melt away behind the buzz of joy now rising in my chest. I pull my face away, so I could move to a new spot, I bite again. Bliss fills my entire stiff and decaying being. How could I have gone my entire life and not known a taste like this? It is a satisfaction that no mortal experience had ever given me.
Before I could take my third bite, a scream tears through the air. Homicidus interruptus. I search for the source of the sound, and from the side door leading from the house a teenage boy's warmth draws my attention. He stands in the jamb, fear painted on his face at the reality of what I am doing. He backs away. A surge of my old self roils to the surface of my conscious thought, and I feel the need to console him, to tell him what happened to me to make me do such a thing. I need him to understand about the rapture encased in each thin skull shell around me, to know I understand why he is upset. Backing up, he stumbles over the lip that stands between the house and the garage. He slams hard into the tiled floor of the house because instead of using his arms to brace himself, they are extended out toward me. I should help him up. Letting the man slump and fall sideways, I close the gap between the teenager and I in a couple of long, shuffling steps.
His thin frame is quaking as he struggles to scuttle backwards into the house, but the door has swung back toward him and is now barring his way. He suddenly reminds me of a bird trapped in a net, struggling in blind panic to the point that he was incapable of rational thought. I advance on him with no other intention than to help him to his feet. Leaning forward, all thoughts of regret or assistance, or need for explanation are gone when I feel the pull of the warm liquid below his skin. Opening my mouth is automatic, I must feel the warm rush again. Nothing else in that moment matters. Free flowing crimson rushes into my mouth, down my throat, infusing me with life and purpose. The rush was even shorter than last time, why cannot I not hold on to that feeling? I then remember that like the man, and the girl before, this boy holds that which I want most. I know I have to taste the joy that only his brain can give me.
I never did feel the approach. I am so consumed with finding the teenage boy's brain, that I never am aware that a second, huskier boy had descend upon me. It is not until the baseball bat strikes across the back of my head, reeling it forward, that I am cognizant that anyone else is present.
I drop the frightened bird in my arms, where he slumps holding both hands over the geyser on his neck and round to see who has assaulted me. Turning to face my assailant, I can see the fact I am a woman shocks him and the bat dips from the ready in his hands. In the split moment that he drops his guard and I lunge with sheer reflex and close my jaw around his upraised forearm like the predator I now am. With my jaw locked on his arm, the fire in his eyes returns, and I know this makes me fair game.
He struggles to free his arm from my grasp. He shakes me violently from one side and then to the other, but my jaw is immovable against the strength of just his one arm. It was only when the thin layer of skin clamped between my treacherous teeth tears at a ragged, odd angle, that he becomes free from my grasp.
A beat passes as I try to decide if this new kind of flesh in my mouth is something I want. Before the thought is even half formed in my mind, the bat slams across the side of my head. The sheer force of the blow knocks me sideways. A crack rings out as the other side of my head hits the concrete floor of the garage. Again I note the lack of pain and am still amazed by it, all that comes through is an odd sensation as my head bounced once again and comes again smacking down into the now damp with gore concrete.
When my head settles, it is in such a way that my chin is skyward and I can see him. He is so young, too young to be chosen for this task. He is standing over me, arm bleeding, with the bloodied bat held high over his head. I open my mouth to speak the thanks in my heart for what he is about to do, but it is already too late, for the bat is already in full swing. The wood of the bat is the last thing I see before vision in my left eye is winks out. All that is there now is the dark tunnel vision in my right eye.
I struggle and am able to lift my head to look up at him through that eye. I can see the fury etched into his face. I suddenly feel sad for I know that fury is because of the monster I am, and not because he has a clue of the monster I have made him.
The last thing I see is the bat, covered in my own festering gore make its way down towards me, and in this moment I do not think of my mother, or all the plans I had for my life. All I can think about is how I regret not getting to taste that sweetest of tastes for one last time. I am only sad I will never get to taste his brain.