A Day in the Life

Notorious

Two men stood outside of the brick building, smoking cigarettes. The taller of the two kicked at a clump of weeds and inhaled at his Marlboro, while the other worked an orange, plastic lighter through his nicotine stained fingers.

“Did they install your A/C yet?” the taller man asked.

“Nah, they told me there was something going on with maintenance. You think we’ll have them by August?” the man said with a laugh and continued to practice with the lighter like an unlikely baton twirler before a high school football game.

“I put a fan in my window, but it’s just blowing the hot air around. It’s like the desert in there.”

Beads of perspiration popped out on the taller man’s forehead, he wiped it with the back of his hand.

“Whew, it’s hot,” he declared. “But its cooler out here than it is up there,” he gestured with his eyes in the direction of his apartment, too drained from the heat to lift his arm to point.

A woman emerged from the door of the house next to the apartment building. She wore a neon swimsuit top with white washed, cut-off jean shorts that were pulled up over her belly button. Perhaps most noticeable was the mean looking, black and purple bruise around her left eye.

“Hey boys,” she rasped to the men with a grimace that was as close to a smile as possible.

She fished out a lighter from her high-waisted pocket and uncurled her fingers from around a Pall Mall.

“How’s your old lady?” she asked the taller man.

Sensing a follow up question, the man answered with a reserved, “She’s ok,” and waited.

His companion interrupted the pause with a snort, “She’s been cooking again. I smelled the burned food all the way over in my place,” he chortled.

The woman lit her cigarette and took a deep drag with no small amount of pleasure.

Exhaling a dragon-like stream of smoke through her mouth and nose, she continued, “Does she smoke? You tell her to come over and visit anytime she gets sick of you. We can garden and smoke a little herb.”

A shadow darkened the doorway from which the woman had previously emerged and a man with strands of long gray hair appeared.

“Theresa,” he barked with a tone that threatened of another bruise, this time to her right eye.

The men outside stopped smoking and looked at each other; the reputation of this neighbor preceded him via the frequent bruises of his partner.

“That’s just my ol’ man, you know how he gets.”

Theresa took another long drag of her cigarette before dropping it onto the grass and walking away with a wave. Smoke curled from the end of the abandoned cigarette, briefly burning before it extinguished itself.

c

Twists and Braids

Promises

red

Mama stopped to twist a lock of rough hair to match the others, all reaching up like the tentacles of a sea anemone. Her older daughter, Gal, continued her halting walk forwards. She was in charge of Baby and had to make sure the little girl didn’t run out into the street or eat glass, but that was the extent of her caregiving ability or desire.

Gal matched her steps with Baby’s; Step, step, rest, step, step, rest. It wasn’t a quick way to travel, fortunately, the three didn’t have far to go from the bus stop.

They stopped in front of a heavy set of doors. Mama straightened out her tank top and ran her hands back over her hair. Baby toddled off of the sidewalk and plucked a bright, red bloom from a mass of red flowers in a big, decorative pot in front of the building.  She brought it over to Gal who had lapsed in her duties of watching her liege to pick at her dirty and chewed nails, still bearing the flecks of bright pink polish that refused to be flicked off.

“What?” Gal said without looking at Baby and swatted away the little fist that reached up to her with the fragile gift.

“Girls, it’s going to be different this time,” Mama said standing up tall.

Her older daughter raised her thick eyebrows in doubt and continued to pick at her nails.

“Don’t start, Gal.”

“What? I didn’t say nothing.”

“And don’t start. Keep your mouth shut and let me do the talking.  You watch after Baby and don’t let her cry.  People don’t like crying babies,” Mama spoke in a hushed voice with an urgent tone.

Gal knew the routine. Someday, it will be different; she thought and followed Mama through the doors, dragging Baby and the impossible load of psychological baggage behind her.

Water, water, everywhere,

And all the boards did shrink;

Water, water, everywhere,

And not a drop to drink.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner, Samuel Coleridge

A light in the dark

flashligh

I am at the bottom of a deep hole, maybe an old well, trying to figure out what happened. The darkness is suffocating and heavy as I try to stand. Nothing is broken. I feel my arms to be sure a bone isn’t sticking out where it doesn’t belong. I’m just a little sore and confused. So that’s good, but it is dark and creepy. I am afraid of the dark, so this is bad.

Fear sets in spreading from my chest outwards, reaching my head and feet at the same moment.

Frantically I try to find my flashlight. It came down with me so it must be here. My fingers are my eyes now; they are both far and nearsighted as they adjust to their new role. I feel my way over the muck, decaying leaves and twigs, walnuts, trash and still no flashlight.

The rotting debris stinks and I am panicking. If I could still the thousand thoughts in my head, I might try to use the Litany of Fear. Reading all of those Dune books need not be in vain. Fear is the mind-killer…

That’s not happening because I’m gagging, the stench surrounds me and I’m covered in this muck. Bile rises in my throat. Mouth breathing makes it worse; the smell is so pungent I can taste it in the air.

Vomit will not improve my current environment, although I’m not sure if I have a choice as the bile continues on its path upwards.

Mind over matter, mind over matter, I tell myself and swallow hard. Briefly, I consider that the nausea could also be related to a possible concussion. Not knowing how long I was out from the fall, I am only certain that it is night and that the nausea is passing.

I dig for the flashlight. It won’t get me out of this pit if I do find it, but it will give me the comfort of light. Light is a reminder that I am human and therefore a conqueror of the dark.

Unfortunately, I am not the conqueror of anything, aside from the urge to vomit which may only be temporary. My only power is that of patience to wait for the first light of the day. I can be patient.

I feel hope for the new day.

Then something moves, squishing through the muck towards me.

Fear ties my stomach into knots and makes my heart pound. Needles of pain shoot out from my neck and scalp. I am deaf, dumb, and blind in this hole with patience as my only defense and acutely aware that I am not alone.

I was never alone.

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