Eastern Standard Tribe – Day 31 of 64

But Fatima was off in med-land, eyes glazed and mouth hanging slack. Manuel nudged her with his toe, then, when she failed to stir, aimed a kick at her shin. The doctor held a hand out and grabbed Manuel’s slippered toe. “That’s all right, let’s move on to Lucy.”

I tuned out as Lucy began an elaborate and well-worn rant about her eating habits, prodded on by the doctor. The enormity of the situation was coming home to me. I couldn’t win. If I averred that Fede and Linda were my boon companions, I’d still be found incompetent—after all, what competent person threatens his boon companions? If I stuck to my story, I’d be found incompetent, and medicated besides, like poor little Fatima, zombified by the psychoactive cocktail. Either way, I was stuck.

Stuck on the roof now, and it’s getting very uncomfortable indeed. Stuck because I am officially incompetent and doomed and damned to indefinite rest on the ward. Stuck because every passing moment here is additional time for the hamsters to run their courses in my mind, piling regret on worry.

Stuck because as soon as I am discovered, I will be stupified by the meds, administered by stern and loving and thoroughly disappointed doctors. I still haven’t managed to remember any of their names. They are interchangeable, well shod and endowed with badges on lanyards and soothing and implacable and entirely unappreciative of my rhetorical skills.

Stuck. The sheet-metal chimneys stand tall around the roof, unevenly distributed according to some inscrutable logic that could only be understood with the assistance of as-built drawings, blueprints, mechanical and structural engineering diagrams. Surely though, they are optimized to wick hot air out of the giant brick pile’s guts and exhaust it.

I move to the one nearest the stairwell. It is tarred in place, its apron lined with a double-row of cinderblocks that have pools of brackish water and cobwebs gathered in their holes. I stick my hand in the first and drag it off the apron. I repeat it.

Now the chimney is standing on its own, in the middle of a nonsensical cinderblock-henge. My hands are dripping with muck and grotendousness. I wipe them off on the pea gravel and then dry them on my boxer shorts, then hug the chimney and lean forward. It gives, slowly, slightly, and springs back. I give it a harder push, really give it my weight, but it won’t budge. Belatedly, I realize that I’m standing on its apron, trying to lift myself along with the chimney.

I take a step back and lean way forward, try again. It’s awkward, but I’m making progress, bent like an ell, pushing with my legs and lower back. I feel something pop around my sacrum, know that I’ll regret this deeply when my back kacks out completely, but it’ll be all for naught if I don’t keep! on! pushing!

Then, suddenly, the chimney gives, its apron swinging up and hitting me in the knees so that I topple forward with it, smashing my chin on its hood. For a moment, I lie down atop it, like a stupefied lover, awestruck by my own inanity. The smell of blood rouses me. I tentatively reach my hand to my chin and feel the ragged edge of a cut there, opened from the tip and along my jawbone almost to my ear. The cut is too fresh to hurt, but it’s bleeding freely and I know it’ll sting like a bastard soon enough. I go to my knees and scream, then scream again as I rend open my chin further.

My knees and shins are grooved with deep, parallel cuts, gritted with gravel and grime. Standing hurts so much that I go back to my knees, holler again at the pain in my legs as I grind more gravel into my cuts, and again as I tear my face open some more. I end up fetal on my side, sticky with blood and weeping softly with an exquisite self-pity that is more than the cuts and bruises, more than the betrayal, more than the foreknowledge of punishment. I am weeping for myself, and my identity, and my smarts over happiness and the thought that I would indeed choose happiness over smarts any day.

Too damned smart for my own good.

Post a Comment

Your email is never published nor shared. (To tell the truth I don't even really care if you give me your email or not.)