Saturday, July 21, 2007

Twenty-three







"I am twenty-years-old yesterday," I say aloud.

Nobody answers.

I'm in a narrow room with white walls and thin white venetian-blinds and between the blind-slats are thin white sun-beams. There are two empty beds and my bed which is soft and comfortable and which I lay in comfortably and unmovingly because I'm not moving and won't move and will not be moved.

It's very quiet.

There's a television but the television's distant and gray. The remote-control sits on a thick white-plastic table next to my bed but I ignore the table and I ignore the remote-control so that these objects don't exist.

"I could talk," I say. "But I don't have anything to say."

There's a door. The door opens. It's Merna. Merna's crying.

"Are you okay?" I ask. "What happened?"

"I called the police."

"You'll be okay," I say. "We'll watch television." I don't know why I say this. "Turn on the television and we'll watch it. There'll be lots to watch and we'll watch together and we can watch and be the watchers. Like the news and sitcoms. Like The People's Court and commercials for bar-soap and maybe The Travel Channel."

"What will you say?"
"You'll watch with me, right?"

"When the police come you'll have to say something. So they can write a report."

"I'll watch you Merna. I can watch you, can't I?"

"Who were they? What'd they want?"

"Pretty Merna."

"I'll fucking stab something."

I hum for a while and stare at the ceiling.

"Don't you want to say something? Aren't you concerned about the police-report? Accuracy? You should make notes or something."

I shake my head.

"Aren't you angry?"

"No, Merna. I'm not and never have been angry."

There's a silence.

"No reason to be angry," I say. "No reason to be anything ever at all."

Others enter the room through the door and the others are gray men and women and the gray men and women sit along the far wall near the television and a tiny brown potted-fern. The gray men and women talk quietly to each other and in little black notepads they produce from large pants-pockets, the gray men and women write long and hasty notations. I listen for the whispers but the whispers are quiet and low and covered by cupped-hands so I lay back in my soft and comfortable bed and think about Merna who has walked into the white hallway and who now paces in front of the still-open door and talks into her cell-phone. I look at my hand and my hand's cold.

"Excuse me," I say.

"Yes," a woman says. She cups her hand over her mouth and whispers something to her colleagues. When she receives an answer, she says, "Can I be of assistance?"

"Yes," I say. "You can."

"How may we be of assistance?" another woman asks.

"We want to be helpful," a man says.

"Do you need anything," a different man asks. "We can fluff pillows or bring new blankets or turn on the television. We could bring you a soda or something. Do you like Pepsi-cola?"

I consider these options. "I don't want any of that," I say.

"Well, what do you want?" the first woman asks.

"You must want something," a man says.

"Does she want money or what?" the woman says. "Everybody wants a little money."

I don't answer.

"Money to buy things," the woman says. "You could buy chocolate-cake or ice-cream."

"How about a beach-ball?" the man says to the woman.

"Would you like a beach-ball?" the woman asks.

The man watches his hands. "People can toss a beach-ball from person to person like as a game. It's fun. You could toss a beach-ball with your sister and think about the beach and the ocean and sitting on the beach and tossing beach-balls and watching the limitless ocean. You'd like that, wouldn't you?"

"The ocean?" I shake my head. "I don't know," I say.

"She doesn't know," a man says.

"She doesn't know," a woman says. "What does she know? What does a person know?"

"What do you know?" the other woman says.

Merna's outside the door and speaking into her cell-phone and I want suddenly to be Merna's cell-phone and for Merna to speak into me and 'to be an object,' I think, 'is probably the most satisfying occupation.'

"She didn't answer," a man says. He makes a note.

"Why didn't you answer?" a woman asks. "Did you understand the question? You speak English, don't you?"

I nod.

"She speaks English!"

"Yes."

"She does."

"Ask her something."

"Yes, ask her something."

"Why are you here?"

"Where's here?" I ask.

The men and women look at other men and women. "This is a hospital."

"I'm tired," I say. "I'm here because I'm tired and because I am twenty-years-old yesterday."

The gray men and women make many notes and for a while there's only the sound of note-taking. Merna reenters the room and sits lightly at the end of my soft and comfortable bed.

"Noah's coming later," Merna says. "Grandma and Noah'll come together."

I don't answer. I touch Merna with my foot and Merna's body's soft and solid and very nearby so I rest my foot against the body and imagine the body as my body and so that every body's one body and connected somehow and quiet.

"Do you speak English?" a man asks Merna.

"Yes, please. Do you?" a woman asks.

"Yes," Merna says.

"She speaks English!" a woman says.

"Tell us about her," a man says.

"Please," the other man says.

"What does she know?" the woman asks.

"Neither of us know anything ever at all," Merna says.

"Yes," I say. "That's exactly it."





There's a doctor. The doctor holds a silver clipboard. The doctor's face's narrow and wrinkled and the wrinkles are extensive and interconnecting and I imagine tracing the wrinkles with my pinky-finger but my pinky-finger's too large and even in my brain I fail.

"How are we today?" the doctor asks. "Hmm," the doctor says. The doctor's red-painted fingernails tap the clipboard. "We'll fix you up," the doctor says.

"I'm okay," I say. "I probably don't need to be fixed. Probably."

"Yes," the doctor says. "I see." The doctor makes a notation. "I have something to tell you: pancreatic-cancer's really terrible." The doctor watches me. "Adenocarcinoma. Ninety-nine-percent of victims die within five years, painfully. Jaundice, blood clots, depression." The doctor chuckles. "Good thing you were only attacked."

"Hmm," I say.

"That's from my humor-model. I'm a part-time humorologist. What do you think?"

I don't answer.

"Emotional tension, then release. That's the theory. But you're not laughing…I don't know. Doesn't always work, I guess."

"Can I go today?"

"Defenstration?"

"What?"

The doctor makes a note. "You can go whenever you want."

I consider this. "Where should I go?"

"Wherever you want."

"Where do people go?"

"Home, theme-parks, Mexico."

"Hmm."

"Video-game arcades, Mount Rainier, inside submarines."

"Where would you go if you could go somewhere?" I watch the doctor.

"I'd disappear."

"Disappear?"

"I'd disappear everyday and change and be a new person in a new somewhere." The doctor sets her clipboard down. "You know, with costumes and stuff."





I'm in the backseat of Noah's car which is cold and soft and lined everywhere with brown leather. Noah's driving. Merna sits in the front-passenger-seat. My step-grand-mother sleeps softly beside me. The sky's bright and cold and the sun warms me through the car-window so I lean my face against the car-window and feel the car-window and the car-window's cold and hard.

Noah parks in the driveway.

"Thank you," I say. "Thank you for the ride."

"You're welcome."

"Let's go inside," Merna says.

"Okay." I wake my step-grand-mother. "Did you finish the funeral?" I ask Merna.

"What do you mean?"

We're standing on the front-porch. Merna unlocks the door and opens the door and we go inside.

"For grandpa."

"No," Merna says. "He's still in bed. Didn't want to move him."

"Oh."

"We should make some calls."

"Who do we call?"

"I don't know, the police, funeral parlors, somebody."

Noah sits on the kitchen-counter. My step-grand-mother walks to the family-room-couch and lays her body on the couch and slowly closes her eyes.

"What do we do with the body?" I ask. "Noah, you must know."

"I don't know," Noah says. "I'll research it for you." Noah walks out of the kitchen and disappears.

"Let's go upstairs," I say.

"What?"

"Let's see grandpa."

"No, I don't think that's a good idea."

"It'll be calming," I say.

"I can't look at him again and you should rest. You shouldn't do anything at all."

"We have to look at it. It's an it now, not a him. You could close your eyes."

"But." Merna watches me and Merna's eyes are very large and round and soft so that I want to touch her eyes but I don't touch her eyes. "But you need to rest, take a shower or something. Lay in bed. I can bring you food or coffee or whatever."

"I'm okay and I want to see grandpa."

"Okay, fine." Merna walks toward the stairs.

"Thank you."

We're in the hallway and the hallway's lined with doors and as we pass the doors I touch the doors and the doors are solid and rough.

Merna opens grandpa's door. "Okay," she says. "Ready?"

I nod. We go in the bedroom. The bedroom's cold and dark. I reach for the light-switch.

"Don't," Merna says. "No lights."

"Okay."

I walk to the side of the bed. Merna walks to the other side of the bed and we watch each other across the bed and across my grandfather's body which is round and long and which rises beneath the blankets very mound-like and still. I lay my hand on the belly.

"We need to take it," I say.

"What?"

"The body," I say. "We should take it somewhere outside and sunny." I sit on the bed. "We should put it in the car and drive it somewhere and take care of it ourselves."

"You can't do that."

"It's our grandfather."

"There are laws."

I watch Merna and Merna watches me. "We could take it to Lisbon. Grandpa would like that. We could ship it maybe. Or drive it to the sea and steal a boat and drive the boat to Lisbon. We could preserve the body in a box with ice or nitrogen or I don't know and take the body somewhere. It's our duty, isn't it? He's our grandfather not somebody else's and his body's dead and done or something and our body's also will be dead and done one day and would we want our body's given to the government or whatever or burned and buried quietly in some expensive grave-plot?"

"He's dead," Merna says. Her voice's low and warble-y. "You should respect the dead."

"You should respect the dead," I say. "I want the body and to care for the body and take the body carefully to Lisbon or somewhere, like Kansas."

"I'll call the police," Merna says.

I don't answer.

"I tell grandma and Noah. I'll tell everybody."

"It doesn't matter."

Merna walks to the doorway. "You wouldn't want them to know, anyway. It'll be a funeral and okay. You're just panicking or something." Merna walks out of the room and shuts the door.

I move my body closer to my grandfather's body and my grandfather's body's cold and solid and I touch the belly and the face and carefully close the mouth and eyes. I watch the face and face doesn't move. The body doesn't move and the temperature in the room doesn't change. There's no sound and I don't think or want or anything. I watch the digital-clock. I slowly lay next to my grandfather. I look at the body. I close my eyes.

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