by Charles Hill
There’s more to it than a sponge, Chlorox, paperclips and weed. Why would that approach or presentation be the necessary venue for romance? The laws of attraction have changed. The orderlies are slow to push the brooms, sweeping imaginary particles into imaginary piles, content for the moment. Heavy lidded, first glimpse the Newport’s in the breast-pocket unopened, knowing you’ll bum one, an old trick the boys learn, no one ask for a smoke from a new pack, underside tells a different story, peeled back lower edge; a Sucrets tin in the glove box, twigs and stems, 3rd generation high in tough times.
Waking up in Waterford with a pierced nipple and a tattoo of a Shamrock is not the story you tell the children, rainy days, lemonade and Jamison’s, a concoction that weighs down the stratosphere with regret, and a certain amount of dare, I regard these as moments of personal growth.
Marcel and I talk a great deal we must, the boredom, it’s all we can do; it’s all we are allowed to do. He tells me this morning his girlfriend was wearing the earrings of defeat, I think there’s more to it than that, I don’t pry. Sanity is dependent upon secrets. The hospital paper tells us little, shit’s happening, there’s a funk in the air, not a rotting flesh funk, an undercurrent funk, it’s in the air. We read the paper, discuss the stories we know they’re fake, the names are phony the events never happened, but the hospital tries, I hand them that.
Personal section: One legged man seeks one legged woman to hop into bed with.
We have a standing agreement, (I marginalize his regret, he undermines my guilt) I give him some weed, and he tells me which nurses give pity-head and which orderlies are Narcs, so far it’s working out well. Marcel is careful and all, he protects his moments; sometimes I lose count, I forget that I gave him a hit, and he goes all out, there’s a weird reaction with the other meds, it’s like a truth serum, but in reverse, it’s outlandish, but it’s entertaining. He wants to be a writer, the great American Novel stuff, fiction that moves the universe, he has stories that would light the evening sky he says (he actually speaks like this.) In a personal direction Marcel has not really grown, he wants to write, (don’t we all) I fancied myself the next Hemmingway, sparse on the adjectives, then proofing discover it wasn’t adjectives that I was dejecting but certain adjectives, a letter-centric-elimination, it was adjectives that began with ‘P’, perky, pert, precocious, these are difficult self-awares. We all know though that Marcel would never be able to reveal enough truth to be really good at fiction, goes on pontificating about the War and a Government plot to rid the world of poor blacks, and high school drop outs that the man, (he actually says the man), is scheming in a bunker to make the world in his own image. Long tirades about peace-bandits and marketing, pre-Berkley blather, industrial complex sort of hell-bent rage that generally ends with a laugh or a sob, these darker times reveal little, I make notes to avoid Marcel, but my resolutions are without merit. In the morning he remembers he grew up in Chevy Chase and his parents supported Goldwater. These are not necessarily Marcel’s best moments of great indifference.
Down the two lane an abandoned Motel long since gone, for a while between demolition crews the remains’ of the building, exterior walkways and railings, then that too was gone. Middle of the night stuff. Now just weeds, long grass, occasional stray cats and lost shoes. Still standing the sixty foot tall sign, letters hanging on, ‘Ed’s Beds, American owners’. In our collective Democratic youth it was the afternoon ball games, and sting ray handles riding low on a banana seat glove swaying on the handgrip.
There’s a spectral thing going on, the thunk the thud, orange and white flashes, the smell always the smell, sweet and putrid, I listen to Morris, Morris keeps his head in these situations, never seen him sweat, he points left, mutters shit, we spend a lot of time running, and crawling, we move like confused crabs, and the smell, the smell, the rain has come and gone, now is the dry season, cracks and ruts, it’s dark but we can feel them through our boots, black things go in and out of the cracks, our direction is the quiet, my calves react to the vibration, in chapters I see this, mid-sentence my thoughts reach no conclusion.
It’s nice when they allow us to open the window, it’s not a weather thing, it’s a behavior thing, even though it only opens about eight inches, they worry. Those are the days when we talk little; the television has become more history then currency, they know we smoke but when the windows open smoke is not the concern. Marcel tells me about the perfect world. Ynez is the one that gives us the most shit about the window, she’s pretty enough, great smile, brown eyes, lips that make you imagine things, hair to the waist, a little pigeon-toed, and a big ass, but those tits, Jesus those tits, it’s her job I guess to monitor, report, and bitch but you can tell her heart’s not into the mean stuff, when you look her in the eyes it’s obvious she’s somewhere else maybe a beach or a park maybe in bed, but probably with someone else, probably one of the Doctors that come by every hour and look at their clip-board, look at your clip-board, write something down, mutter and shuffle off. Those guys get all the girls it’s the money and the life or death thing that surrounds them, a power that’s just there, and the way they act so nonchalant so devil may care you know it’s an act no one is that cool without knowing they’re that cool, that makes them pricks, but they’re getting laid and head, probably in the supply room when they’re supposed to be somewhere else, but no one gives a crap because they’re Doctors and they can do whatever they want, who’s going to tell the guy that decides your destiny to zip his fly and get to work. Marcel leaves out the part about growing up well-off and going to fancy parties and the clubs, country clubs in the middle of the neighborhoods, clubs that cost more to join then most people make in a lifetime, Marcel is careful about this stuff, I think he’s sensitive about having so much, all he ever wanted to be was one of the guys, and I guess in a way he is, he is now, it’s probably a safe bet that Marcel is regretting his decision to sign up, most of us here didn’t have that choice, I let Marcel take another hit, the window’s open, and Ynez is in a supply room, the clip-board at the foot of the bed is swaying we have another hour before she comes back and bitches.
In the world of fame, in the world of names, in the world of initials, the moniker of success is the shorter the placard the greater the fame. Single names bode well. Some have gone to symbols. As a budding famous writer, I’m thinking it’s time for a change. Marcel has it dicked, Marcel. Unique, stands alone, like Cher or Adolf, (not all acts of recognition are good, there will never be a fragrance called Adolf.) J.C. are the most famous initials, from Jesus Christ to Johnny Carson, Jiminy Cricket, Johnny Cash, Jimmy Carter, it goes on forever, even the girls cash in on the J.C. phenomena, Joan Crawford, June Cash Carter, some of these can stand alone, Jesus for sure, and to a lesser degree, Johnny. My first book will be about things like this, but for now, until I’m mobile and can use my hand, it’s a verbal anthology, Marcel disagrees, he says spoken books are the new thing, people are too busy, too lazy, too distracted to turn pages and read, people he says like things handed to them, from their coats when they leave a fancy restaurant, to their car keys, and even words, he says pretty soon all you’ll need is a set of ears and a nose that everything else is secondary, I disagree, Marcel and I are never going to see eye-to-eye on this. Of course there’s time, one minute it’s the Hancock building the next the big red Citgo triangle, Dad giving us a bath, if we stood in the tub we could see the triangle, there would be the then too familiar lecture, everything was a lecture, (the curse of professor-dad) ramblings about Greek alphabets, scientific equations then the crescendo of corporate greed, anti-intellectualism, republican puppets and the Kennedy promise, we would shiver and drop back to the bath water.
The rainy season is forever, it sweeps in from the south sideways and penetrates everything, faces become numb from the constant drilling of pellets, at first it tingles, then slap, after a week everything is numb we are resigned from everything, we are wet, we are tired, we are marching forward, for three months nothing but rain and mud and sores, sleeping in puddles, crackers damp and limp, infections are the topic of every day. Then it’s gone.
Marcel is quiet. The window is closed. The Doctor comes by, prospect poor is written on the clipboard. I want to wake Marcel, I need some insight.
Ynez comes down the hall, her white shoes a little scuff on the toe, the white blouse with the coffee stain, she leans over kisses my forehead and whispers, ‘Good Night Marcel, your happy moments are over.’