“I see we’re having medications again today,” I quip at the attendant, as he reaches across my bed to grab the bag hanging from its rack. I notice the dried brown mustard stain against his light blue jacket.
“What is it today?”
“Don’t worry; it only killed 29 during the test trials.”
Small conciliation as I glance across the room and see the attendant’s assistant observing, jotting notes on a chart. She’s much too young to sport a dragon tattoo on her neck and her hardened look, butch waxed cropped hair, and black fingernails provide no comfort. “Yeah don’t worry,” she says with a sneer.
“OK,” I reply, “but you have to check my notes.”
After a few minutes the world seems to slow down and the public address fades to a faint monotone. Traffic in the hallway drifts away and the tick-tick-tick of the wall clock keeps time with my light breathing. I hear the soft drone of the window air conditioner.
I awaken in my safe place. It’s an old mechanical room located on the 40th floor of a downtown high-rise. The purr of the chillers is calming as the water flows through the miles of tubing and pipe to cool the building and then up to the roof to release the steamy vapor to the outside world. I get up from my cot and peer out the small window to the street far below watching the antlike humans scurry about. The sun is just coming up, an orange ball that casts eerie, glowing shadows of my profile on the wall. I amuse myself with my hands, making a bat, a butterfly, an elephant. The hum of the transformers speaks to my alpha waves, soothing them, keeping me away from the bad place.
The air compressor startles me as it comes on.
I am hungry and must go out to find something to eat. I reach over for my backpack and check to make sure that my notebook is there. It is, along with a fountain pen. I slip the backpack on and open the door slowly. The coast is clear. I tape the door strike to assure re-entry and head down the staircase. Never the elevator, up or down, far too risky.
Outside the hustle of the morning is in full swing. Honking buses, limousines, delivery trucks and cars compete for lane space and parking. Throngs of pedestrians wander through the intersections thwarting the vehicles right hand turn opportunities. The light changes. Drivers curse. I make a note of it.
Then there’s more honking. I press on to my first meal choice, the New York pizza joint. Only it’s 7:00am and they are not open. I make another note.
A panhandler approaches me for money. I have little and cannot share. He screams at me, his eyes blazing red, veins rippling in his neck and temples. I give him a quarter. I glance up at the street sign, 4th and Broadway and I make a note. Stay away from here.
Further up the street I find a breakfast shop. It’s old and dirty, but cheap. I decide on a bagel and coffee. I accidentally drop my money on the floor and as I bend over to pick it up I watch as roaches scurry for safety. “You can’t eat here, take your food and go,” the clerk demands.
I hate eating on the sidewalk and make a note of this foul establishment.
After finishing my bagel I decide to head to the square for some sunshine and the trees. I find a bench and sit after wiping the pigeon poop off of the armrest. The sun feels good after the chill of the morning air and I doze. The hum of the buses and click-clack-click of hard soled pedestrians provide a gentle symphony. Before I know it the day is over. I jot another note, a good day.
“You’re sitting on my bench, get off it now!” a huge bedraggled shaggy figure demands. Then impatient with my pace, he picks me up and tosses me on the sidewalk. My elbow hurts like hell and a trace of blood trickles from my nose.
“Stay off it!”
I jot a note about the bench.
With no chance of self defense I leave the park heading back to my safe place. The pigeons mock my cowardice looking steely eyed into my sorrowed gaze. An old woman sitting cross legged under a filthy blanket rolls in laughter, but not at me. She told herself a joke that only she can comprehend. A hooker glances up from the statue she leans against. She then realizes that there are no possibilities here. Her scowl follows me.
The streets are much quieter now, the sun lost behind the towers of the city. Darkness is near.
I reach the building and begin the long climb up to the 40th floor. Every step, every day, more difficult. I finally make it to my floor and try to open my door. But it’s locked. The janitor has found my tape job and removed it. I reach into my pocket and find a credit card that I pulled out of a dumpster.
I slide it back and forth until the latch releases. Safe again, I rest on my cot, content with the hum of the transformers. I drift.
Then startled, I hear the door open. A police officer stands in the entrance and announces himself. I have no where to go. He enters, along with a partner and some paramedics. He begins to ask me questions but I can’t hear him. The music on the radio is so loud and I hear only every other word or so.
He repeats himself but the music, so loud. I try to be respectful but become frustrated. He repeats again and again but the music prevails.
My wife pleads with me to answer his questions but I hear only a muffled drone.
The paramedics begin to prepare me for transport.
My mother and father shout at them to leave me alone!
The mayor frowns and shakes his head.
“You have to check my notes!”
The room spins as they wheel me off on a gurney.
“I see we’re having medications again today,” I quip at the attendant, as he reaches across my bed to grab the bag hanging from its rack. The fresh brown mustard stain glistens against his light blue jacket. I take note of the odor.
“Why do they always shit themselves during electroshock?” the attendant complains.
Copyright 2009 Patrick A Granfors