Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Mother, The Nurse and The Lady in White

This is the opening chapter to the memoir. It has just been selected to appear in Cactus Heart Press's Issue #4 Thanks for reading, one and all!

I clung to the shore, but Morpheus held me fast in his undertow. If I could but open my eyes his hold would loosen. My lids were heavy, my body not wanting to leave the warm wet blanket of permanent sleep as a thousand snakes slid out of the water and lingered on my skin, preparing their strike. We twisted and turned in the tropical bath; a dance for the gods. I saw my feet like two small detached pillars planted miles away. She rose up between them, larger than the universe itself. She wore white. Her face was the sun. Her hair, delicate fingers plucking beads of light out of the darkness. Her eyes saw every yesterday, her smile assured tomorrow’s arrival. 

     “Wake up!” A lush, liquid, resonant voice no mortal could conceive.

     “But I cannot.”

     “Wake up”

     “What if I don’t wish to wake up?”

     “You must.”

     “The world is ugly.”

     “The world is beautiful.”

     “It’s a mockery.”

     “It’s art.”

     “I am not art. I am nothing”

     “You can be anything. Open your eyes.”

     “I refuse.”

     “Not this time.”

     The shore of my death dream suddenly shrank into a vacuum. The snakes shot like lightning into the unseen distance. I bolted out of bed. Oxygen hit me like a knockout punch. I found my feet and struggled through my doorway, feeling walls, finding the hall 
that spun around and around, mocking my journey. I found the shape of Dad sitting there, stealing a moment of solitude before the workday began. He leapt from his chair:

     “What is wrong with you?”

His voice was drawn out in stringy, syrupy threads that echoed from some far away place.:

      “Jay! (jay-jay-jay)What (t-t-t-t)  have you done (ne-ne-ne-ne)?”

      “Oh, e-e-e-t-t-th-h-e-e-er…fa-a-a-t-t-t-ther…for-r-r-g-gi-i--i-f-f-f-o-r-r-g-g-o-o-t-t-t-f-o-o-r-r-g-g-g-e-t-t-f-f-fu-u-u-u---smok-k-k-n-n-n-e-e-ed-d-a-a-a-s-s-smo-o-o-k-a-a-a,-s-s-h-sh-sh-shi-i-t-t-t -I’m-m-m- gon-n-n-n-n-na-a-a-a…"

     “Jay! (ay-ay-ay)” He gripped my shoulders, shaking me frantically.

     “ 33 + 3 x@ x 7 x 7= &*#$=r=r=4=*?"                                                                  

     Dad darted for his car keys and threw on a jacket:

     "Follow (ow-ow) Me! (me-me)"

     “Huhh? 7? 9x $? Wha-a-a-t--i-i-i-s-s-s-wa-a-a….”

      I landed in his car somehow.

      Hospital. Back Door.

     “Drink this! You have to drink this!”

     The doctor cried frantically, his voice bouncing like a hard rubber ball off of the cold walls of the last stop room. A red plastic cup forced my mouth open and rancid liquid chalk rushed down my throat like a tidal wave. I want bubblegum flavor for my death 
watch, not standard issue overdose goop! 

     A sky full of eyes shot down on me like stars in my dark night. The aliens were probing and prodding, talking in gravely gabble, consonants and vowels colliding. 

      “Vomit! You must vomit now!”

     But you just told me to drink! Which is it? You make no sense, alien doctor! 

     The strangers conferred: “He’s not throwing up.”

      “No, indeed, he’s not!”

      “He must throw up. He simply must!”

      “Yes, yes, of course!”

     A bright light. A thousand watt invasion. Was it the light of man’s creation or the sun of a new world? Had the angel lost her fight with Morpheus? 

     The tired hands of time: tick…tick…click…clunk. Stop. Sleep.
     24 hours...
     “You’re back!”

Chirped the chipper young nurse, bouncing like a butterfly around my room, drawing the shades, cruelly inviting the sunlight to join me. I stole a glance. My world had stopped spinning.

     “Should I not be back?”

     She leaned in close to whisper serious words that made her uneasy:

      “We didn’t expect you to be joining us again.”

     She raised one eyebrow and tilted her head in a soft scolding, motherly sort of way:

      "We're going to have to put you on careful watch."

      “Watch what? Watch me run out the door in my backless gown? I had too much fun, fuck off! I can walk, I can talk! I'm fine!”

      Closer still, deeper whisper:

     “You tried to die. There was enough…well…(look around the room, gather your secrets) enough stuff in you to take down ten men.”

      “But…but wait a sec…”

      My throbbing skull held me to my pillow. My words struggled against a sticky tongue.

     “We’ll check in on you. You just rest.”

      I caught the clipboard with a newborn eye as she leaned in: 1600 mgs. Attempted Suicide. Manic Depressive.

     My dealer had given me eight enchantment pills. They were for life, not death! Why did anyone dope himself? He’d handed them off quickly on a forgotten corner, always in a hurry, always doing business: 

     “Here you go. You earned it, soldier. (runner, seller, fall 
guy, fool.) Just like bein’ drunk! But Be damn careful with them!”  

     He said to never take more than four. I started at three of course, waited an hour, no glow. Four, nothing. Five, six and seven, same. What is this crap? No wonder it was free! Eight was the magic number, gathering the other seven and coursing quietly through me while I slept; commanding every blood vessel, steering me into deep, dark, uncharted waters.

     I’d went to the city fair and eaten too much candy. It was suicide by simple self-amusement, but they’d never believe me. They thought I was a ghost. I was indeed dying to the world they knew. I was indeed trying to break through the surface of things.

     They let me have a guitar in my room, but I could imagine their whispers, which they later admitted to:

     “I think he has drugs inside of it. His friend brought it in, right past our desk.“

One young nurse to another.

     “Right past our desk?“

     “He was walking rather quickly.”  

The sudden awareness of their own naïveté would redden their brows.

     “Go to his room and have a peek.” 

     “No, you do it!”

The pair likely listened briefly to the broken bird beating the strings, stretching his wings, struggling to sing:

     “Well, perhaps it will help him. If he’s taking drugs we’ll know.”

     “It’s shift change anyhow soon. Just make a note of it.”

     “Sure. (What form is that?)"

     Across the street to Occupational Therapy I walked daily with the chain gang. We’d construct cute trinkets and hear pretty praises. We’d throw bows on baskets and fashion candy dishes from wooden craft kits. It was the first day of school, every day, for us, the souls who’d wandered beyond the barriers of life. We, the candy dish crew, had fallen, all but forgotten by the wayside, tripping and rolling away from the human race. We were handed hobbies as consolation prizes. Is there a diversion factory somewhere that specializes in basswood cutouts, ribbons and blueprints for those who can’t quite finish the marathon? Does our cause feed families?

     "Off to work, Dear. See you at five. Cuttin’ soap holders today; can’t wait!"

      The world turned in our absence as we sat in the safe insulation of our stumbling blocks. Our biggest worry was keeping non-toxic glue out of our fingernails and making the tough decision between jelly beans and ju-jubes that would fill our creations. I was fond of both, and always torn. I never shared. The true mark of a man is how much candy he’s willing to part with. Shame on me.

     I saw you there, Mother, in your padded foam cubicle, not far from the padded cells, scribbling life sentences with educated guesses. You decided who was crazy and who was just lazy. Did they give you my file? I was your specialty. I can hardly blame you for paying me no mind as I walked down your office halls to the candy dish factory, inching back away from death. You live on the surface of things. I could never expect you to jump into my icy water; you would surely perish. Surely you found me in one of your books, I know I’m there in black and white. But you knew if you reached out your hand, I might pull you in.

     You tried. You braved your way to the fourth floor of the hospital; the floor where death lives, where I was given back my marbles by the great Mystery, where I was to succumb, according to all logic.You sat with me in silence, drawn there by a flickering 
instinct, searching, but knowing not what your instinct had called you to find. Ghosts crowded the room. You saw them. Was your father among them? You stayed as long as you could. It was a brave attempt, sticking your foot into the icy water through a soft spot in your world. 

     Dad was there too, almost daily, with candy bars and magazines. It seems that death brought you both closer to life for a time.

     They were baffled by me. They were sure it was impossible that oxygen ran through me and that I could pronounce the most intricate of words. I’d told them about the Lady in White, and they nodded and smiled. Helluva drug, eh kid? I can see you nodding and smiling too: 
     "Angels live on Christmas trees! Don’t be silly! Call your shrink!"

     We are tied to the Infinite; the Great Equation that numbers dare not approach, the great I Am, the great You Aren't, the One who could crush us to dust with his baby toe but who kneels right beside us as we chase our days.

    I woke up from death; I close my case. It was years before I  remotely respected the magnitude of the whole mess; some lessons are stretched across many miles, like fine wine, time being the only true mark of quality. It is that journey, Mother, that has led me back here to you.

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