“Give me an analogy that I can deal with!“, said Perkins. That wasn’t much to go on by any means he stated to the surrounding throng who had about as much of the eighty year old upstart as any small enclave could withstand. “If you didn’t talk so damn much about it you damned fool!“, said the black lady named Betsy, “Then you wouldn’t notice it so much at all!” Perkins pulled in his head a bit like a tortoise and looked around the room of the wheelchair bound. “I don’t belong here!”, he groused in a low tone not meant to be audible. The others in his vicinity turned away. With some violence Perkins grabbed the outside railing of his wheels and did a vigorous 180 turn with the destination in mind of his own room down the hall from the day lounge. The analogy that Perkins was trying to conjugate was now elusive. The heat of his out burst a minute before was still hot but the thought behind it had sailed off. His lower arms and shoulder blades hurt from the sudden release of energy. “Seventy-six years old is no joke!“, had started off the conversation with a groan. The room full of octogenarians were not buying it. Perkins never liked the nineteen-fifties anyhow. Most of these old clowns had been born just before the war. He could still recall the darkness and and squalor of an old bars in Streeterville One that he had happened to visit on an infrequent trips along with his father as his little ‘monkey‘. The grimace on that old man’s face sitting by the bar in back that everyone called, “Frankenstein“. His father had a habit of taking his little boy on sales trips to keep him company. Perkins could recall many an hour alone in the back seat of his father’s auto biding his time watching out for traffic cops and counting the type of hats on passing pedestrians. The thought of it seemed like someone else’s life now. Not his own.
The big lanky male Filipino attendant came up to him as he tried to turn into his room. “You not feeling so fine, Mr. P?“, the tall man in nurse’s pajamas drawled in a discernible approximation of English. Perkins turned abruptly distracted and the wheelchair glanced into the door and bounced a bit. The impact jarring the catheter that was stuck up his penis so that he could feel its dourness yet again. The nurse instinctively grabbing the handles of the two wheeled chair and wheeling it to the nearest of two beds. The one by the window occupied by a horizontal form deposed to what barely passed for sleep in the midst of a constant wheezing noise. The attendant now bent over checking around the slippered feet of the chair’s rider checking the clear plastic lead and half filled bag of urine attached to it. “You got ways to go on these one!”, the man stated as he hung the flabby moist container of accrued urine on the hook off the side of the bottom of the bed that Perkins sat across from. “Ya needs some help!“, the man’s blank face mouthed not waiting for a reply but indifferently grabbing hold of the arm of the chair’s inmate. “Don’t run away with that chair Mr. Brown“, quipped Perkins testily. “You suppose ta be using deez walker!?”, the tall figure replied as he quickly wheeled it to the corner by the door out of reach. The man exiting as Perkin’s purloined convince loosely tilted slowly back a foot out of position from a tilt in the floor. “The whole damn place is so out of true its worse off than I am!“, Perkins spat under his breath. The saw tone melody of labored breath rising and falling in mostly regular intervals. “You still alive in their Danny!” The long low sloping hill beneath the covering of a cotton ruff blanket didn’t stir. “Fucking great!“, his equally ambulatory companion thought as he sat inert on the bed’s edge.
Perkins felt around under his left thigh tugging at the plastic lead that he was half sitting on. “Could things be any worse?“, he thought. Sequestered in this dank musty little corner of mostly forgotten Hell. The world outside seemed an equal fiction to that of his childhood. He could recall that it had begun to slide away from ten years before when the edema was merely a briefly lasting impression of the fore finger into the side of his ankle. “The family curse.”, he thought resignedly. “A gift from the old man.”, he mechanically mouthed to himself without thinking. “The ‘old man’.“, his mind digested the phrase. “HE was the old man now!“, he thought as his white stubble peppered jaw slowly dropped. His hand rising up to cup and rub his chin and cheek in absent minded solace. Life squeezed out of his ailing frame like an old toothpaste tube. He stared upwards at the top of the far window at some lingering cobwebs. A blank distant stare into a long accustomed void awaiting his drift. The world in the mist beyond it a strange familiar thing that had the trappings of places and things not in familiar reach for what must have been several decades. The trip he had taken to Europe that time he got the award from the magazine in Milan Italy for his computer driven artwork. That old worn out apartment on the second floor furnished half in ‘early American alley‘. The myriads of half-finished dusty articles of his female friend’s loft across town. His mother fussing about the small galley sized kitchen of the family condo some fifteen minutes north in the next bordering town. A thousand equally nondescript recalls in minor details a mundane unnoteworthy everyday existence. That hint of success that always seemed to lurk nearby threatening to move things forward from where they had slowed down to a crawl sometime in the past. How had it come to this? It was as if he was somewhere in a dream waiting to awaken back there once again. That point some several decades before when he still had friends and the hope that one of the opportunities he had hoped for would finally come through. “Hope?“, he mused. “What in the Hell was that to him at this point?”
The wheezing beside Perkins had settled down into a whisper. The bent figure of something approximating human lay inert upon the ancient bailey. Perhaps an offering to some immortal indifferent god that hadn’t got around as of yet to collect it. Perkins reached the catheter kid his legs as he weightily swung his aching waterlogged swollen limbs on the bed. He lay back upon the rumpled pillows that were shoved up against the mattress that was canted up on a slight angle. The solitary spot on the ceiling where the plaster had been chipped off was still there. A small hold that that had several cracks radiating out from it into solid ceiling. The fissure so many times explored in the boredom before another fitful episode of dreaming. “What wonders lurked just beyond its mystery?“, he pondered. Something to escape to? Something not old and tired and used up but wholly undiscovered? The voice from an old movie sprang up automatically. “A new life in the colonies awaits where you can start again!” it boomed in its far off echo. His mind sailing past spinning gas planets and bright nebula. Himself in the chair of a pilot’s cabin of some gigantic space transport hurtling at a tremendous rate of speed. The feeling of unbounded power of the ship and its increasing speed coursing through him. The vistas speeding past vibrant in color and electricity. “It’s time for your pills Mr. P!” a stocky female voice rang out. Perkins opened his eyes and looked over at the obese black nurse holding a small tray mostly covered with small paper cups. Without waiting for him to make a move she took one of them and handed it towards him mechanically. The room smelled of farts. The woman’s nose slightly wrinkled in a mild form of perpetual discontent stared blankly at Perkins as he resignedly reached over to take the cup and bring it towards his mouth. “You need some water with that?” she said holding out a second slightly larger cup. He slowly shook his head closing his eyes as he did so and swallowed hoping inside that it was somehow a mis-apportioned dose of arsenic. He resumed his stare focusing his eyes skyward back up at the ceiling. The ship that he had been piloting was now was far beyond his reach outside of the galaxy. He would have to wait for the next one. If indeed one ever showed up again.
Taking the long suburban road back to the ‘house’ that in reality has become a much smaller apartment through the emptiness of a semi arid landscape escorting my mother. One that is too far, knowing too late that we should have driven. Why we did not was a matter of forgetting for a while that the path back over open terrain always seems shorter than it in fact ever turns out to be. One’s age averaged and divided is occasionally put aside as a factor and the fiction of youthful endurance assumes a greater palpable fiction. A chain restaurant a block or two off the gravel path due east gleams quartz white as if it has just recently been built. A Disney castle mirage in the deep darkness of the mind. Salivation for the hopeful fantasy of plenty and tasty inside crosses the space between my ears within my own empty divide. I have grown up in the postwar age of advertising. The mental Utopia that the worship of everything new and improved allows you temporary entrance within. To conjure the mental picture is more immediate than to test the waters with your tongue and pocketbook. That is the actual realm of scant financial resources and the specter of starvation. The great kings and dukes of old along with their subsequent more modern social warrior imitators having forged a great mental trauma genetically passed on by too often playing too dangerously with the ship of state and so often running it aground. One remains ever mindful of their next meal hoping that if it be one’s last then at least it might be memorably distinctive as the best so far. This is progress.
Ron, the father, ends up on Johnny Carson as a guest. A failed entertainer from the ‘get go’ in his own mind. He rises up from the audience to follow the expected patterns of behavior on stage. His greatest secret dream. To be recognized as talented and out of the ordinary, and loved. What can any self-made man hope to find after he has found a knock off copy of the Philosopher’s stone and a deck of playing cards to gain a sufficient amount of ready cash? Money and all that it can buy is never enough. The ritual of an audience locked in their seats facing East towards the refresh of a hopeful morning Sun of the television is all too seductive. A crowning gift to the man who initially came up from nothing but for whom this persistent sense of the inescapable present provides never ever enough. this is the curse and blessing of his most formative era.
The two of us having wandered, end up waylaid behind a big strip mall on the bank of what is rapidly turning into a raging river rising up. The silt scraped from the bottom being thrown into the air like the froth of a chocolate milk shake. The building flood overwhelming the back access of truck supply lanes subsuming the loading docks. This apocalyptic chaos transforming dazzling cinder blocks from their intended task of securing items within to serve as a retaining wall protecting this unready location. The terror of the unexpected show of force of nature underestimated. A might deluge instantaneously conjured without a single drop of rain. Surely a figment of one’s pernicious imagination?
The awakening of these fictions in that other world of one’s former life precariously rewoven since the night before? Never to be believed but for the hint of a solutions that they pretend to offer? Should one play the gullible fool and volunteer their belief?
This quiet surrounding realm of framed photographs serving as dusty headstones embalming the past. Now long silenced.
The sun had painted the landscape below upon its Western face. The rest of everything rapidly filling with shadows of mauve. All earthly attention pointed upon it imminent escape. It was going to be a cold and blustery Summer this year. Uncustomarily so. The day had been spent indoors with all the blinds closed and little illumination save for some old reruns on the DVD machine that recounted a vague facsimile of what life had supposedly been several decades back. Everything seemed equally at a loss now as what little could be resurrected from that now indefinable place of ‘back then‘. Or that is what his answer to the abject stillness before him inferred. The day was at an end. Soon to have night slide over it like a cover. It was the same vista of rectangles overlapping each other. Some brilliant and reflective some with yellow and red brick hues all fading away before his eyes. That certainty of another day not unlike the last as it had been for so long was quickly waning as well. The original occupants were barely a memory now. Just empty quiet place holders that one left space for occasionally in the daily patter. Whatever discourse that went on was conducted in the confidentiality of dreams that were reliably expunged without he first light of a new day. That orange-ish glow had descended upon all in sight up to the edge marked by the horizon. In less than an hour or two this all would be blackness delineated only by pinpoints of random street lamps. This failing illumination revealing a hint of that sadness that plodded about keeping a clear distance of daily activities. Tonight it was anxious to come out back into these few rooms to inhabit them without apology or regret.
Age had descended upon all. The rooms were little more than sections of a museum housing artifacts whose only definable purpose now was to contain some anecdote or long lost memory of an experience. A talisman functioning as tiny time machines taking one back to the immediacy of a single instant int he past. But not having the presence or persuasive power to maintain the effect for more than the next successive instant. All possibilities in this sense had been terminally exhausted. There was no going forward with any of it. It was a trap. Flypaper for the emotions. Too many hopes for things that remained in progress but could not find their roots or a possibility of fruition. The light about the room failing blending all the items into jagged caverns of inhospitable coral. The enigmas of happenstance as left by its previous occupants insoluble. Each assemblage a shrine to some former meaning lost to the ages. How quickly human flesh decays when bereft of the animating spirit that powered its engine? Was this what was meant by the notion of being haunted. Rumors spreading about an empty space only slightly fragrant enough to suggest but never again to embody? A grand silence that only a random wooden beams squeak or distant tailpipe cough dared to intervene against. The streams of light receding to the West as if all firmament had been unknowingly tilted in the wake of the racing Sun. Life was now a soft hush of unseen humanity dutifully passing back and forth respectfully unseen at the end of another day’s labors.
The landscape extended below was now simply a quilt. The final embers sinking to ash and smoke in dissolving sky chariots relieved of gorse and rider. Their drift slow and inevitable in procession back towards the East. Whatever eulogies that had long ago been offered now floated about as if perpetually contemplated yet never said. The audience of friends and relatives now strangers. Perhaps stranger still than the rest of humanity unmet. One could consider the vast fortune in knickknacks now lost to anonymous shelves somewhere in small resale shops. Those rewards awarded for the special moments dispersed and unrecognized now for the meaning that they had once represented within a single casual glance. Gifts no longer wanted or treasured. Death could not be defined as pain but forgetfulness. Certainly not an individual thing! But of entire worlds and societies whose ways of life could not longer be fathomed. The accomplishments and complexities of entire lifetimes returned to the invisibility of simple elemental molecules inhabiting the endless oceans of water and air and dust. Undignified and unsympathetic to the conscious longing of a broken heart wrecked upon the shoals like the broken back of a long forsaken schooner. Abandonment in the fact that whole worlds of thousands of years of communal experience were singly no longer there. The only repository left signifying the meaning of an entire life’s struggle themselves waning. Falling into the hollows of stillness and silence garnering no companionship or interest of others with which to pass on this saga. The absence of chaos, and of sound or echoes. Forms melting into the absence of illumination. Slow incremental motion of static whirlpools deteriorating within endless undefined regions in the emptiness of space sinking towards a deep unreachable place. Unknowable. Untouchable. Gone.