5 July 2006
He lays on his side, facing the light yellow, stained, dirty wall, eyes half open, empty headed. It is quiet other than a constant low moaning coming from nearby. Suddenly he is gasping for air. He knows he is only 100 feet from the summit, he can see it through the driving, blinding snow but he knows he cannot make it. A spider crawls across the wall in front of him, turns, looks straight at him and whispers “You are a sinner,” and then moves on. The laugher of his 5-year-old daughter comes echoing down the second floor hallway of his first home, “He has a daughter?” He is running, has been running but the wolves are almost on him and he is filled with terror. Faces go flying by, some of which he thinks he knows somehow but others are complete strangers and all are throwing some sentence or phase at him. “Dogs are not tin cans,” an old, old woman, with no teeth, spits. “Hide under the bridge,” a well dressed businessman. “All you have to do is quiet your mind and then crawl inside the hole that is always there,” an old maid schoolteacher with her gray hair in a bun on top of her head. “There is no sense in fighting it. You can’t win,” a little boy hanging upside down on a swing set monkey bar. “Don’t worry, this is not going to hurt a bit,” a woman nurse, dressed all in white with a huge needle in her hand. “Mword chunks multiplied by N chunks of time, taken to the square root of the number of snake tongues in Arizona and you get exactly nothing of interest or value of any kind,” Einstein says walking by. And then he is inside a cave, the walls and ceiling dripping with moisture, close, tight, about him and he yells out, “God, let me out.” “Shut up,” comes as a response.
Igloo’s and snow forts; skinning out dead rabbits and the smell their guts give off; rain pelting him as he lies buried under a pile of leaves, machine gun ready to stop the enemy’s advance. Where is he, he wonders? Machine gun? He tries hard to remember being in the Army but cannot. No, it was not him hiding in the leaves but from some movie he had seen once, or so he thinks but is just not sure. Lightening hits a tree near where he is standing and he feels the current through the sole of his shoes. “Stop it,” he says but in a quieter voice, so no one really hears. “The summit? What summit? I have never been a mountain climber.”
He leans towards, forward, into, the microphone, strumming his guitar, looking at the thousands in the crowd listening to him. Mashed potatoes move about on a silver dinner plate, spelling out words: “Freak, loser, crazy.” He closes his eyes but it is no good. Now he hears crickets on a clear summer’s night wind; rolling thunder; bull frogs calling around a dark, no moon, lake. His hands burn from picking up a campfire coal, his hands freezing from being too high, outside, too long. The skeleton of some large animal scattered about on the ground, its hide still in tact, more or less. A tree falling as he bangs in his stone axe. "Stone axe?" A blind man with a white cane walks by, stops and stares at him. “Can’t you see you are blind all the time you are learning to see?” Then, flashes of hundred’s of objects: old Egyptian vases; small wood horses; old misshapen gold coins from the bottom of the sea; deer antlers; a neon sign spelling out "Jesus Saves” in the shape of a cross; a Chinese bamboo flute with intricate carving; an space alien's face, all mashed in with a big nose and huge nostrils; jars of honey; jars with still borne babies in them; jars of things he does not recognize and does not want to recognize; used condoms laying on a dirty bathroom floor; a bloody knife on the floor next to a pretty young woman, naked, raped; a South American Indian holding up a severed head and grinning from ear to ear; a red, orange, yellow, ugly, mushroom cloud off in the distance but he still feeling the rays from it hit him and knowing he is going to die; a sign at the end of the Great Alaskan highway reading “God Lives in Brooklyn”; an American Indian arrow stuck deep into a huge old pine tree near where he stands fishing and a paper wasp nest the size of a football high up in the same tree. Someone groans and for second all the images, feelings, thoughts are gone. He is so confused, dazed. Most of what he has seen or felt does not feel like him, does not seem to be his memories. "Wolves have never chased him. Perhaps a movie he saw, a book he read, a story told to him?" But all feel like memories and then again, don't, or not his anyway. A gravestone with the phrase, “He had too many clues,” written across it. Sun lit clouds below him at 35,000 feet, feeling the plane going down, about to crash and burn, and feeling so helpless. “Not supposed to be like this,” he thinks, now extremely agitated from all his thoughts. “Are they really his?” He reaches for a ringing phone, “Hello.” There is no one on the other end of the line. Egg salad drips down his chin onto the enormous belly he is pretty sure he does not have. Watching the Aurora Borealis as a kid; holding an egg in his hand and feeling its perfection, economy of shape; his pushing the button releasing the bomb on all those innocents below; a huge pile of raw, bloody meat. He wants to throw up. Moving, he finds his arms and feet are tied to some form of restraint. “What? Where is he? Why is he here”? A speedometer reading 189 miles per hour and out the windows of whatever kind of vehicle he is in, the landscape perfectly motionless; the numbers 1 and 2 arguing over who is more important while 3 sits on the edge of a street curb polishing her nails. A coconut glances off his head and he rubs where it hit. Hurts like shit. A woman with huge tits cuddling his head between her breasts and saying “Poor baby,” A slot machine blinking lights at him and calling out, “Hey chump, want to play. A winner every time.” His mouth is so dry and his temples hurt like crazy.
"Focus," he says to himself and turning his head, his eyes find a very large open room, 2 rows of beds with a center isle. With perhaps 20 beds in all, one wall has floor to ceiling windows between each bed. Because the window glass is frosted, he can see no details of what may be outside. Down the isle, between the rows of beds, hang 5 bare light bulbs but none are lit. All 20 beds are full of what look to be men, all covered from their feet to just under their chins with a plain white sheet. Some lay on their side, others flat on their back, all look about his age. “His age? How old is he? Why can’t he remember that? His name? My God, what is his name?” He can’t remember." The floor of room he is in or thinks he is in, is the color of mud or it is just incredibly dirty, he is not sure which. Other than the beds and men in them, there is nothing else of any kind in the room. "Where is he?"
His focus slips: touching a woman’s nipple; an erection; the smell of sex on sheets; a downed electrical wire snapping and popping; throwing up after seeing the victim of a car crash all crushed and bloody; shoes hanging from some clothes line in a back alley of some big city; sitting in a tree waiting for the lions to go away, scared he will fall asleep and tumble to a horrible death; wrapping his hands around her neck and squeezing and squeezing and so revolted by it; drinking water out of a drainage ditch as he so thirsty and no other water to be had; alone on a raft out on the ocean for days and days and thoughts of committing suicide by jumping over the side or cutting the raft so it will sink; laying on a hill side, alone, leg broken, miles from anywhere and not able to think of a thing to do to save himself; sitting naked and cold underneath a waterfall, hiding from everything and everyone.
“CZE1287!” Oh, I say, “CZE1287.” He snaps back to his eyes and comes to focus on a man standing beside him, all dressed in white with heavy frame, black rimmed glasses and thinning, gray hair. “CZE1287, ah, there we go. I am your therapist and I have come to tell you that the treatment went exactly as planned and now we see no reason why you cannot be released tomorrow. Isn’t that good news, CZE1287?” “What?” He struggles to understand but is not sure that this man in white is not just another thought, hallucinations, dream, memory, he is having. “What?” he manages to say. “Come, come, now CZE, if I am call you that. Is it all right if I call you that? After all we are all friends here, aren’t we CZE? Come, come, according to our calculations, your mind should be clearing moment by the moment now. Don’t you find it
so?" He stares at the man in the white lab coat, white shirt, white pants, white shoes. “I have been having these strange thoughts, idea’s, memories, whatever. They don’t seem like they belong to me. What is a matter with me? Where am I? Why am I here? What have you done to me?” “Oh, CZE, you really must try to focus more. Of course, all our patients experience a little confusion after the treatment but more than enough time has past that you should be well on your way to a full recovery. Tell me, don’t you feel much better now than before?” “Before what?” he asks, beating back the image of a hog’s head in a butcher shop store front window, its tongue hanging out one side of its mouth and its eyes wide open and staring right at him. “Now CZE, you know I cannot tell you that. It was on all the forms you signed when you entered here. You may not remember signing the forms or what they said, but CZE, you cannot hold me accountable for that. After all, I am just your therapist. It is not like I run the whole place, you know."
Some turnips pop out of the ground and begin doing the can-can, kicking dirt this way and that off themselves and he begins to shake his head to try to clear it. “Why am I strapped down?” “Oh purely for our benefit. We are so understaffed these days; it would be impossible to let everyone just move about as they please. No, no, that would not do at all. Certainly you must see that!” “I see all sorts of stuff but none of it makes any sense to me. All sorts of things all jumbled up in my head. What has happened to me? Tell me where I am.” “Now, CZE, I must insist. Enough of this dazed and confused charade of yours. According to every medical book known, you should be clearing nicely by now. Really, CZE1287, if you insist on pretending you do not know about the treatment and where you are, I am going to have to order up a hyperbaric and believe me, CZE1287, you would not like a hyperbaric. No, you would not like a hyperbaric at all. So messy and all. Gives me the shivers just thinking about it.”
He takes his hands and rubs his face and then he sees himself in a mirror but does not recognize the face he sees. Along one side of the mirrored face is a long, deep scar like he might have been cut by a knife and his hair, his beautiful long hair has receded way back off his forehead. “That is not me,” he tells himself but every time he moves his head, the mirrored face moves in synch. He closes his eyes again.
“So what will it be CZE? Should I schedule you for release tomorrow or should I call up a hyperbaric for later today?
Hum?" “I want out of here,” he hears himself say. “Oh, I am so glad. I knew you were pretending all along, you funny man. So good, tomorrow it is. You have a good night and I will see you bright and early” and with that the man all dressed in white turned around and walked the center of room and out a set of double doors. “Release to where,” he fights to wonder through feelings of intense love for a dog he never had; jail bars and a cell that reeks of urine and shit; sitting on the ground under a railway bridge, watching the rain, cold and damp, sirens blasting away in the distance; standing in line with other men, waiting to get something to eat that smells awful as it is poured into bowls and handed out.
A moment, a minute, an hour, a day, a week, a year, a lifetime go by, he is not sure.
“Ah, CZE, I see you are awake. Good, good. Can’t waste time now, we need your bed. So busy here these days and you know how the state is about such matters. Waste not, want not and all that. Personally, I hate all the state slogans, signs, but that is just me. So, are we ready for release CZE?”
He struggles to focus but is able to put on his shirt, pants, and shoes as the therapist hands them to him.
“Well, CZE, just follow me and I don’t want you to take this personally, but I do hope I do not see you again for another treatment. We have such a high success rate here and I just know you are going to do well.”
The lab coated therapist leads him past all the beds and as he struggles to walk along, he turns his head this way and that looking at the men all cocooned but he can tell nothing about them. Finally, the double doors open as if by magic and he is standing in a lobby with other double doors off of it but which all have the sign “Medical Personnel Entry Only” on them. Before he even realizes it, his therapist is gone and a gorilla dressed in some sort of security guard or military type uniform motions him towards a turnstile type door. As with the windows on the room he has been in, the turnstile door has frosted glass and he cannot tell what lies beyond it. Entering the door and moving forward, he immediately is hit by brilliant sunlight, and he is forced to close his eyes tight shut and then only slowly open them to adjust to the light. He is in a city. A big city from the looks of it and standing just outside the door, he sees he must descend some 10 or more steps to get to the sidewalk. Slowly he makes his way down the steps but as he reaches the next to the last step, he stops and sits down. Still not knowing who he is, he has no idea where to go or what to do next, so he sits and watches. At least his visions of canoes on a mirror perfect lake are gone or at least for the moment.
“Hey buddy! You just get out? Better come with me as they don’t like releases to hang around right outside. Ok? You coming?” He looks around to see who the man on the sidewalk is talking to and then the realizes it is him. “Releases?” At least it is not a gorilla this time. He stands up and moves down the final steps until he is on the sidewalk standing next to the man that has spoken to him. “Come on, come on with me. There is a nice little park nearby and nobody will bother us there or at least not during the day.”
They walk along for a while and he tries to remember the city, anything familiar but nothing comes. Still images of things he knows he did not do, or see, or feel. Finally, they come to the park and sit down on a park bench under some beech trees.
“Just out, huh? Been for the treatment 3 times myself. Once in that there place you was in and then twice in the place on the other side of town. Real kick in the head ain’t it?” “I really, I mean, I can’t remember anything and I keep having these strange thoughts, visions, feelings, I” his words trail off as he sees himself standing alone on some harbor pier. “Oh sure, real jumbled mess ain’t it. Well for a while anyway. Say, do you have any idea of what happened to you? You got any money? Check your pockets. They supposed to give you 100 bucks when you leave. What? No! Crap! They must have forgotten or more likely, your damn therapist just took it. Damn therapist! Crazy bastards, the whole lot of them. Shoot them all if I could but don't tell anyone I said that, ok?”
The man sitting beside him is shorter than he is, has not shaved for several days, smells of body odor and has on a dirty T-Shirt that says "Homeless Are Humans Too!" and is wearing a patched pair of blue denim jeans. His hair, uncut and unkempt is all over his head, in his eyes and over his ears. He wonders if this man is just another one of his memories or hallucinations or something he saw once in a movie or was told about. Still shaking his head to somehow get things to fall back into place, he looks out on the park and listens to the man talk and talk and talk some more. “So it goes like this. You are a homeless guy see and a ways back the state decided to start using shock something or another, I forget, treatments on the homeless. Said that studies proved this shock thing could so scramble your brain that afterwards homeless folks would become like normal people with jobs, a house, all that stuff. Might be right but ain’t worked on me yet. How many times you been in for the treatment?” “I can’t remember any treatment. Shock, you say? What is shock something or another?” “Yeah, shock, you know, tape these wires to either side of your head and to the back of your neck and like throw the juice to you. Almost bit my damn tongue off one time, those worthless therapist bastards. Let me see your left arm.” He raises his left arm and the man on the bench beside him rolls up his sleeve. “5. Man oh man, you been through some shit. I can’t swear by it but been rumors going around that the more times, the more juice they give you. Don’t think they even care if they cook our brains or not. What is the difference to them? I mean, according to the law, homeless people without like brains, well the state owns them and you know what that means? They can cut you up for your parts like heart and stuff. Yep, cut it right out of you and give it to some rich guy. Ain’t life a bitch?” “5 times. You mean I have been in that place 5 times and had my brain shocked?” “Yep, that’s right. Well that place or another one somewhere else in the city or state. Sure you ain’t got no money. Damn bastard therapists.”
He lifts his eyes up off the ground and looks around him, really looks for the first time since he left the turnstile doors. It is such a pretty place that for a moment, he has no strange visions or confusion. “And this treatment, this shock, is supposed to help me, so I am not homeless anymore?” “Yep, that is what they say. Bullshit if you ask me but ain’t no body asking me. Say, you hungry? Damn I wish you had some money, we could dine in style. Sure could use something other than that stinking slop they serve up down at the mission but something hot is better than nothing. Say, you got any kids? I got 2. Live right here in town but don't like me coming around. Say that I embarrass them with the neighbors. Can you believe that? There own father an embarrassment. Ain't life a bitch? So you got any kids that we could maybe visit?” He tries to wade through the mud that his thoughts, memories and feelings. "Maybe a daughter but I not sure." Oh, that's ok, thought you might have someone that cared about you, that's all. So you ready for some food, big guy? " He turns and looks at the man beside him. “Sure, why not. Where else am I going to go?” “Oh, do you know my name?” he asks. “Oh, sure, says it right there on your left arm: CZE1287. You know, you ought to get yourself a vanity name. You know something classy, like maybe George."
A Jap Zero comes down out of the clouds straight for him. "No, not again!"