“What on God’s green earth is this crawling brass disaster, Ezekiel?” Brandy exclaimed as soon as she stepped through the front door. “Don’t tell me it lives here now!”
Ezekiel practically tumbled down the stairs in his haste to show off his newest acquisition. “Mom! Isn’t it awesome?”
She couldn’t help but smile at the joy and pride in his tone of voice, in spite of her own horror and disgust. It might be a statue of a pig; at least, it might once have been. Whatever it was, it had been spot welded and modified to within an inch of its life. “You went yard saling this morning, didn’t you, Ezekiel?”
He hung his head in contrition. “Yes, Mom. I know I’m not supposed to go by myself anymore, but just look!” The grin crept back to his face.”Mr. Parks over on Cherry Street found it in his attic and his wife said she wasn’t having it in her house so he didn’t even make me pay for it because nobody else wanted to touch it! I’m gonna name it Seymour.”
Brandy shook her head with resignation. “Name it whatever you want, but it stays in your room. I’m going to put these groceries up. Tacos sound good for dinner?”
Miriam swirled the swizzle stick around the naked ice cubes in her rocks glass, cigarette clamped in her teeth, mind a million miles away. The left side of her mouth twitched upward in a distant cousin of a smile as she pondered whether she’d spent more of her life on this very bar stool or out in the rest of the world.
The bar stool was the likely winner.
She squinted her eyes against the smoke curling upwards from her mouth and held her glass aloft. Greg nodded in her direction, and she set the glass back down on the bar, exactly in the ring of condensation staining the cocktail napkin. He finished swapping the pint glass in the sink and dried his hands on the towel tucked into his waistband before grasping the neck of the half-empty bottle of house bourbon.
“Only the best for my gal. How ya doin’ tonight, Mir?” he asked, talking as he poured. “Sorry I didn’t get a chance to catch up when you came in.”
The half smirk returned to her face. “It’s alright, Greg. I saw you were busy. But you know I’d rather wait a few minutes for you to pour me one than tip Joe. He’s been here a year if he’s been here a day, and he still can’t remember my name.”
Greg chuckled. “He’s been here less than three weeks, and he can’t even remember my name, Mir. Sometimes I’m not so sure he remembers his own.”
Miriam shrugged and took a slug of her bourbon, baring her teeth and hissing at the liquor’s harshness. “They all look alike to me, Greg. You’re the only one that’s been here near as long as me. You and ol’ Chuck over there,” she added, raising her glass to the mounted deer head hanging over the cash register.
“You’re probably right,” he agreed, refilling her glass again.
“Thanks, Greg. Maybe something stronger now?” she unexpectedly asked.
He reached up to the top shelf. “You betcha.”
I found this prompt today:
31. Take a small, boring moment that happened today and write as much as you can about it. Go overboard describing it, and make this boring moment exciting by describing it in intense detail with ecstatic prose. Eventually connect this small, boring detail with the grand narrative of your life, your bigger purpose and intentions.
I snake my hand out from beneath the comforting weight of my heavy comforter and grope the corner of my bedside table where my phone belongs until my fingers close around its expensive flimsiness.
Why do we pay so much money for these marvels of technology that honestly, aren’t that necessary at all? I can’t answer that question right now; I have more pressing issues on my mind. I tap and swipe, tap and swipe, until notepad opens.
The list of sandwich requests from Arby’s stares me in the face. I don’t need that anymore; I don’t remember what night we had Arby’s for dinner, but it’s not tonight–tonight I’m making chicken and dumplings. I press and hold; select all and delete.
And now the fun begins. I type furiously, thumbs softly tap-dancing across the tiny keyboard. What is this masterpiece? It’s the first outline I’ve ever attempted for NaNoWriMo. Tippity tap, tippity tap. I summarize, sentence fragment after brief sentence fragment. Details spring to mind right and left: add scene, add scene.
I’m excited; this is working out so much better than I had expected. I’m a pantser, I’ve always been a pantser. I don’t plan for NaNo–that’s crazy talk! And yet here I am planning instead of napping. It feels good. I’ll have no problem winning in twenty days or less, as is my goal this year. Maybe I’ll even finish this one!
I finish up my pseudo-outline; that was a lot of typing on my poor little phone, but I’m used to it. My finger slides up to press the lock button, and I lay my phone back on the table where I got it from in the first place.
I pull the cover back up over my shoulder and snuggle in as my hand returns from the table, sliding softly beneath my pillow, and I nap.
I look around the circle of faces, but no one in the group was remotely familiar to me. The doctors tried to shove it all under the rug of amnesia after my accident, but somehow, I know better. This is more than just a bump on my head. A lot more.
And they won’t listen. Such gloriously educated and highly respected medical professionals, and they just won’t listen to me. Because I’m nobody.
I’m nobody, who are you? Are you nobody too?
Every now and then a whisper rings true, a faint tickle on my temporal lobe. It’s like the prophetic dark clouds hovering over me, eagerly awaiting the right moment to release their rain droplets. And then it’s gone, like nothing ever happened. Like the only things I’ve ever known are the things that I can remember now.
These precious few.
Sometimes when I close my eyes there’s a shack in the woods. I don’t know if I lived there or not, if I built it or not, if it’s real or not. Sometimes when I close my eyes it’s all darkness, and I have to open them again and turn on all the lights or else I’ll scream and scream and scream.
Silence. I forgot that I was in group therapy right now. They must be waiting for me to talk. I hate it when it’s my turn. I don’t have anything to say. I don’t remember if we’re still doing introductions. Did I already say my name today? Not that it matters anyway, not in a group for a bunch of people with brain damage.
I stand up.
“Kristy Patterson, 26, car accident.”
I sit down.
They’re still looking at me. We must be past the introductions and on to some topic or other.
“I don’t remember what we’re talking about.”
This is the only place I can say that and nobody makes me think about why I don’t remember. Nobody wants to know what I was doing with the few brain cells that still work instead of paying attention to whatever it is I’m supposed to be paying attention to. It’s the little things that comfort me. The few secrets I have left.
I guard them with my life.
Somebody’s talking, trying to catch me up on the conversation, but I’ve already tuned them out again, closed my eyes to explore the cabin. It’s there this time, not the darkness. I open the door and enter.
It’s like I’ve stepped onto a movie set. Bearskin rug in front of a roaring fire in the stone fireplace. Ancient plaid couch covered in handmade quilts. The smell of hot cocoa creeps softly into my nostrils, and I inhale deeply. I’m home.
Someone’s shaking me. I open my eyes to a stranger’s hand on my shoulder. I brush it off forcefully, and he stumbles back a bit, not expecting me to react as I have. What kind of a person just touches somebody else and shakes them when they’re obviously busy?
I stand up and make a fist. He starts to say something to me, so I punch him in the face. Serves him right, touching my shoulder without considering how I might react. I could be missing the part of my brain that’s in charge of impulse control.
It was a good hit, if I do say so myself. He staggers back a step and reaches up to wipe the blood from his mouth where I’ve split his lip on his row of straight white teeth. I don’t need teeth like that telling me what to do.
I sit down and close my eyes again. Just for a second, just to finish exploring the living room of that little house on the prairie. In the woods. But the door’s locked this time, so I open my eyes again.
I should know better by now. I really should. Every time, it’s the same damn thing. I do remember things since I woke up here just like everyone else does, you know. And here they are, just like every other time I hit somebody.
Two techs, a man and a woman, rush in the group room, the man holding a syringe. It feels like only seconds have passed since I punched that jerk in the mouth, but his shirt is a bloody Rorschach now. I could have sworn that he wasn’t bleeding badly enough for that. Maybe this time someone will press charges and I’ll finally have my ticket out of the hospital and into the world, even if it is jail.
But no dice. I pull my shirtsleeve up for the syringe and follow the woman to the same room I always go to. The man follows me, but they should know by now that I’m not going anywhere I’m not supposed to go.
I just wish people wouldn’t touch me. If he hadn’t touched me, his shirt would still be just fine and dandy. Swear.
I curl up on my side in my bed and pull the blanket up as the world begins to slow down and the colors begin to swirl together.
When I close my eyes, it’s the screaming darkness, but I’m too drugged to escape it.
The scream echoes in my head forever, and I can’t wake myself up.