For an explanation of today's snippets, see yesterday's post--
Hearing yourself think is easier in a quiet space than a noisy space. In a noisy space a thought is lost within the noise. If you are your thoughts and you can’t find your thoughts inside of you-- if the noise is so loud it drowns out the tiny voices in your mind that make up your favorite parts of yourself--than the noises become you. You are now noise and not yourself and what was special about you becomes a generic sound such as the blap blap blapping of a Harley Davidson motorcycle racing up a freeway onramp.
Noise enters through your ears and demands to take over without argument by simply asserting its intensity. Filters in the brain are over-stressed to do anything about this external assault and your quiet thoughts are scattered like curb debris and swept up into great heaps of other brain activities.
You try in your mind to scream the noise away, but your yelling in your head just makes you mad and you end up yelling at your window which is covered with blankets to keep out the noise.
“Who are you to do this to me!” you yell in your walled-in space.
“Who am I to have this done to me?” you hear as a lonely voice in the back of your echoing mind.
A hospital is a quiet-ish place full of tiny noises. If you lie here and focus, you can hear the living and the dying. You hear families scolding young children and favors asked by pleading relatives and friends. You hear progress reports and bad news given over telephones. You hear the giggly stories of nurses sitting at their desks and the mumblings of men and women who have fallen from their minds and cannot climb back inside themselves to make some sense of anything.
If you lie here and listen, you get an inkling that tragedy and comedy are inseparable conditions. It is an act of balance displayed like a circus family tree. In a hospital, the life we live can be heard by lying quietly with your feet pointing ceiling-ward and simply listening. You learn to love the sound of everybody breathing. The ‘quiet’ sound of everybody breathing.
The sound of air funneling through a hairy orifice is a glory and a miracle.
You lie here breathing like I do and you are thankful you can hear your every breath.
“Brian? No wait… What happened to Brian?”
The lights come on. I look up and see a confused looking woman, heavy like Barbra though much taller, staring at me. Under one arm is a large and heavy purse. In her other hand is a large soda in a plastic cup with a plastic lid and a plastic straw. I can hear the ice jostling about as she waves her hand around and tries to understand her own confusion.
“They told me Brian was in this room… Who are you?”
“I’m not Brian,” I tell her. I’m Walter.”
“I know you’re not Brian. Where’s Brian?”
This big woman looks agitated but not entirely unsafe. “I don’t know Brian,” I tell her. “Ask the nurses?”
“I just came from the nurses station. They said Brian would be in 354. This is 354? It says so on the door.”
“If it says so on the door, it must be 354. Or maybe the hallway is 354?”
The woman says “funny” the way a momma would-- too many smart-assed kids to deal with all the time. I like her now.
“The other guy in here is Baldeeny,” I explain.
“Yes! The big fat couch potato!”
“That’s him. Snores like a freight train.”
“Yes! Where is he? Did he finally wake up?”
“He grumbled about when they moved him. They took him down for scans, I think.”
“I see. The nurses never told me that.“ She shakes her cup and slurps it dry again. “So what’s your problem? What’re you in for, champ?”
“I was trampled by bikers.”
“On their motorcycles?”
“No. On their feet. In their boots. Someone put a toe into my brain.”
“I know. I think ouch, but my brain didn’t feel it. Did you know the brain does not feel pain?”
“I didn’t know that!”
She says this the way a momma would say this if one of her smart-assed sons came home from school with new information to share. I like her even more. She takes a big noisy gurgling sip from her plastic cup.
“You can poke the brain with your finger and it doesn’t know it is being poked“.
“Nope. I’m not kidding. My doctor says that my brain doesn’t even know part of itself is missing. There’s an ice cream scoop taken out of mine and I am not even aware that it is gone. Not really, anyways…”
“An ice cream scoop? The way you’re actin’, are you sure it wasn’t just a melon ball scoop? You don’t seem to be missing a full ice cream scoop of brain young man. Why, you’re smarter than my Brian even with the missing brain.”
This make me blush. I smile my best banana smile because I don’t know what to say.
“Well, I can’t stay, champ. I’ll have to come back. If Brian wakes, will you tell him I was by? Just tell him ‘the old girl’ stopped in to refresh his chip bowl. He’ll understand.”
“You take care, champ. And eat. You look like a skeleton.”
That was quick. A woman I never met before with a sparkle in her eye and something attractive in her bosom stepping into my life and then stepping right back out. Her wideness and her cheaply dyed hair and those false eyelashes and the way she slurped her soda down to where it gurgled without concern-- it all added up to someone I want with me while I lie here in my broken body, doting on me and talking to me, telling me something so irresistibly mundane that I can’t help but smile a banana smile and giggle like a girl at a sleep-over.
And if she is this good and this attractive, who is Baldeeny? I have killed him several times in my thoughts but who am I to imagine taking a life that is somehow affiliated with that woman?
“The old girl,” I say aloud. I have to remember that for when Baldeeny wakes.
“Hey Baldeeny,” I’ll say, “the old girl was here to see you.”
She picked me up in her enormous arms and held me in her enormous bosom as I fell limp and let her have her way with me. I was pulled into layers and layers of her, the fat of her breasts and the fat of her belly sucking me in as my feet dangled down somewhere near her creaky knees.
It was unfair of her to break me down this way. I was young and small and defenseless against this kind of huggery.
“They didn’t pick me.” I sobbed into her fatty neck. “They didn’t want me on their team…”
I said team like something dying. Team was not a word to me but an agonizing animal. Team cried its dying cry just behind the first few rows of evil forest trees that I could only skirt with the powerful will I carried hidden in my cache of superpowers. This word team went on far too long and then I gasped for a breath and just sobbed and sobbed.
“You take Walter!” One boy had demanded.
“We don’t want Walter, You guys have to take him!”
“We don’t want him! We don’t want him!” they all chanted. “Eww!”
“It’ll be alright, Walter“, the old girl had said. “You can be on my very special team.” She pat me on the middle of my back while she grunted and struggled with me. I was much larger than an infant though she tried to carry me like one. She put me down.
No, I slid down. What I remember was that she had brutal buttons that grabbed at my face as she let loose her hands and I slipped toward the ground. Buttons that snagged at my nostrils and raked at my eyebrows. These buttons threatened to tear my skin while her dress was made of cheap and coarse material that burned and burned. Still sobbing, I was mighty glad to feel my feet hit down and to pull my face away from her rough clothing.
I backed away from her on that school playground and tried to rub the pain away.
She just stared at me like an old girl, her body stooped massively forward and to one side while she rubbed at the small of her very large back.
“You’ll be alright, Walter,” she tried cooing. “You’re much better than all of those other nasty boys. Mark my word.”
That was Betty, I remember. After that day, I was forever afraid of Betty and her buttons.
I waded through the black glossy leather and got to the bar without incident. My skinniness kept me from bumping shoulders with broader and meaner men. When you are thin, you can be more breeze than bulldozer moving through a forest of ill-tempered males. You can walk through crowds with only slight twists and turns and get to where you’re going without having to defend against your shoulders knocking hard to other men’s shoulders. There is no ego-boxing when you’re skinny. It’s more about the apologetics, the way you don‘t carry yourself and let yourself get buffeted around.
Being thin at a bar makes it harder to get noticed by busy bartenders though, and you have to puff yourself up as much as possible to get that drink you came for.
And wave lots of money around.
“You’re new here,” the bartender said to me while leaning toward me after a swift wipe with a rag. “What’re you drinking?”
“Vodka martini,” I told him. “Shaken, not stirred.”
He left and I stood there proudly. I should have put my money away but I just remained there, my cash splayed out like a deck of cards in an upraised hand. Some woman I had never seen before shouldered up next to me and took a twenty from the arc and kissed me on my forehead.
“Thank you, sweetie,” she said to me in a fake southern drawl.
I liked the scent of her. I liked the fact that I could look down her top and see where her bra was clipped at her sternum, the little pink bow that resided there like a girlie secret I was privy to.
I didn’t mind her taking the twenty. After all, she was going to buy herself a drink with it. Had I seen her before she came up next to me, I would have bought her a drink anyways. In fact, I would have bought her several drinks which would have costs me more than twenty. So I didn’t mind trading twenty dollars for a sniff and a kiss. Plus she let me look down her top which she may not have done had I not let her take the money.
I made her happy which made me happy and for a moment, right there in that bar, we were happy together.
She was a regular girl which meant she was probably too good for me. She had other eyes on her as she wriggled around, bigger eyes on unpinched faces on shoulders that were wide and far too proud. For a moment though, she was standing at the bar right next to me, fully aware that I could see down her top, gently breathing in and out and occasionally turning her tongue sideways between her bright and shiny lips.
“Can I kiss your mouth?” she asked me, then she smiled.
I nodded. My drink hadn’t arrived and I had time to kill. They were shaking my martini, after all.
She kissed my lips!
I felt the tug on my money hand but I didn’t care. Her lips were on my lips and she took her tongue and lashed it gently in and out of me. A hand of hers went behind me and gently squeezed me on my ass. I tried to dive into her but she pulled away deftly. Clutching far too many bills than I could afford, she kissed the tip of her finger and touched me on my nose.
“See ya cowboy,” she said in that fake southern drawl. “You’ve been far too kind to me, and I thank ya.”
When my drink came, I barely had enough cash left to cover it.
But that didn’t stop me for several weeks after that. Until my money ran out and I had no way to sign those checks and send them off.
I never did learn her name, though. But she liked me well enough.