It began to end for her with an empty glass. Just taking it out of the dish washing machine, all warm and sparkling and clean and sleek feeling—so sleek it slipped. As though her fingers had momentarily forgotten the concept of to hold. As though the sleekness was too overwhelming. As though something she couldn’t quite put her finger, or fingers, on occurred.
The glass did not float or acrobatically tumble. It rocketed straight down and exploded on the tiles of the kitchen floor scattering glass particles every which way. Fragments shot passed her feet, rolled toward the dishwasher, under the refrigerator, bits bounced up against the nearest wall, a major glittering mess from such a insignificant mishap.
Next her bottle of pills slipped. Medicine spilled everywhere. She would find hidden oval-shaped pills for days to come in the most unexpected places, usually where dust gathered. She tried to put her arm in one sleeve of a favorite blouse but missed and let go, thinking her arm was in there, and the blouse ballooned and floated, as the glass had not, to the ground, a brief odd-shaped parachute. She leaned over with a grunt to pick up the blouse and she dropped the two earrings she had been holding in her other hand. She watched both land, each one beside her feet, one left, one right.
Recently her husband had fallen out of love with her and dropped her for someone he himself had fallen for, her daughter had dropped out of university and was dropping out generally, and by the end of the week the family cat had dropped dead. Her eye-drops had gone missing. The bottom had fallen out of the stock market. There was a drop-off in the outside temperature. Flies were dropping … like flies.
At the one local bookstore that still existed she went to pick up a book on dropping things. She had been told such books were located in the Self-Help section, which she didn’t like the sound of. Yet there she found several books addressing the subject, however the prose of the first pages of each one came off as too cheery, too supportive and encouraging and so positive sounding she resisted. The book told lots of stories from all sorts of different people who dropped things and how they cured, or coped, with this minor adversity. The book was targeted at a general readership of those people who were loosing their grip.
While reading a further five books on dropping things she dropped a scissors that pegged her thigh briefly. Her glasses broke into two pieces and she’d taped them back together, and the neighbor’s tiny dog fell from the nest of her usually secure arms and the doggie never quite trusted her again. Five ink pens at five different times of the day dropped from her fingers, the last three of which she just left lying there on the ground, and she also dropped her guard and bought something over the Internet and she dropped her latest suiter, or would have, if she had had one, but that was just part of her general feeling of ineptitude going a bit too far.
It was when her little finger on her left hand dropped off that she thought that maybe, really, there was something not right to all this. She reached down to pick up her little finger — unlike the cap to the bottle of ketchup, her knitting needles, an electricity bill, a banana peel and some objects she couldn’t quite quantify and finally had just left laying about — yet just as she gripped her fallen little finger, the two fingers gripping the fallen little finger fell, and now she was, at last, deeply alarmed. She got down on her knees to study the situation closer and her right kneecap flopped off. Using her lips, she tried to scoop up one of the three fingers laying on the floor — no longer trusting her fingers to stay put where they belonged — but just as she retrieved one finger in her mouth, her lower lip dropped off.
When her head suddenly wobbled, then went points south and just plain bounced and rolled to a spot near the bedroom door, she let it stay there. Right next to one of those pens. The way her life was going, she figured she wasn’t going to need her head.
Five weeks later lazy neighbors thought something slightly sinister might have occurred inside the eerily quiet house on the street. One called emergency services. Someone from social services dropped by on their way home and knocked on the door, rang the bell, put his face next to a front window, clapping his hands around his face to see in but couldn’t see anyone. He called a real emergency number the following day.
People who dealt with emergencies arrived and forced open the front door. Subsequent television news reports called the discovery inside “The Woman Who Fell Apart”.
“Bits and pieces of a longtime city resident, a female, were found in different areas of the house. Sources close to the investigation stated that fallen objects ranged from loose eyeballs to whole toe nails. Foul play has not been ruled out. There are currently no leads,” reported the television news reader. Within twenty-four hours, this local news event failed to pick up national coverage, so the news item on the woman who dropped things was dropped.
Archive for the ‘Noises in the House’ Category
I found myself by some ancient trees standing next to a cold waterfall. Someone had melted animal fat all over my feet. The word discovery had been penned on my right palm. In blue ink. I moved an inch and felt the swift movement of a tail behind me, something attached, and this was wholly new to me. On my left palm there was no writing. I returned slowly to my original inch. A violative vessel appeared from beneath the waterfall, many fierce black ancient muscled beasts thrusting from the bow, primed to gnaw. Elegant waves were raised up in the water by the emergent prow. These waves undulated toward me who stood on the shore fixed and immobile except for the occasional imprudent inch of movement. The vessel’s size increased as more of it emerged from the heavy never-ending fall of water. The waves it had created in the distance now finally reached the shore where I stood. They lapped up over the land, heading for my feet covered in animal fat. Hungry, acidic waves. I ran away not an inch.
They had lived together for ten months, with the first month being pure bliss and the following nine consisting of discussions evolving into disagreements, which acquired the dimensions of arguments, one after the other. They had both brought quite a bit of baggage with them into their relationship and it was showing up all the time.
“You think it’s easy being me?” With a furious face, Lorraine pulled a suitcase from under the bed. “Do you? Well, listen to this!”
Lorraine popped open the suitcase laying on the floor, the lid flew open, and her mother rose straight up out of it, finger already waggling.
“You’re a bad girl. Your math scores are low, you hang around with the wrong crowd, and when was the last time you helped in the kitchen? You are never going to amount to anything. Never ever.”
Lorraine pointed to her mother and yelled at her boyfriend Arthur. “See!”
Arthur shook his head in a combination of pity and superiority. “Oh…you think you’ve had it so bad? Take a look at what I had when I was eight.”
Arthur pulled a bag of his own down from the top shelf of the closet and opened it. A cute little doggie jumped out of it and ran around on the floor barking playfully. Suddenly a train came barreling through the bathroom door and ran over the dog, cutting it in half, then thirds, then mincemeat, and then shot out the window just a suddenly.
“See!” Arthur pointed at the bits of his scattered, dead childhood pet. “How am I just supposed to get over that?”
Lorraine stared open-mouthed at her boyfriend’s puppy’s body parts…but she had what she thought was even worse.
She walked over to her dressing table and yanked open her usually locked top drawer. Out of this arose a life-size pelt of of her skin when she was five. It was covered in welts. “This is what my father did to me when I was five. At five years old! One doesn’t easily forget such things.”
“Exactly!” Arthur shouted as he jumped toward his gym bag, ripped open the main zipper of the bag so his father’s head like a bowling ball could emerge to sneer at his son, “You think you’re a man? You’re lousy at sports, you always hide in your room with your games and books, say boo and you pee in your pants. Be a man. Come on, throw a punch? Think you’re tougher than your old man? Huh? Do you? I said, Do You?”
Lorraine opened her rather overlarge handbag and out came three giggling teenage friends who just pointed at her shoes and laughed and laughed.
Arthur popped open his mobile phone and out came thirty of his so-called university friends , each staring at their own mobile phones, Arthur’s number glowing on it, and not dialing.
Lorraine and Arthur pulled out of their separate overnight bags twenty-seven pairs of lips, which flapped crazily around the room like manic butterflies, each mouthing off different parts of their past conversations, endlessly analyzing their relationship from different possible angles, over and over and over. The combined emotional noise was frantic and piercing.
Lorraine whipped out from a hidden compartment in her baggage her seven month old self, wailing in fear and tears. Arthur did the same from his own hidden compartment, yanking out his nine month old self, wailing, teary, waving his helpless arms about feverishly. Lorraine pulled out her thirty month old self, followed by herself at eight, eighteen and twenty-one, always crying and wounded, internally more than externally. Arthur matched her with his own self at fifteen months, eight, seventeen, and twenty-eight years of age, weeping and afraid and alone. There were different scenes being yanked out of different baggage of being fired from jobs for no good reasons or refusals of employment, again for no good reason, other partners turning away from them, siblings or cruel cousins teasing them mercilessly, their parents continually appearing in different guises from different times with fuller, fresher curses to hurl at them. The couple showed off the times when they scrapped their knees at five or were slapped at seventeen.
Meanwhile, the train kept charging out of the bathroom and running over the newly revived happy pet dog over and over again, while the mother berated the daughter and the father taunted the son and many teenage friends and recent business colleagues endlessly betrayed and tormented them. And their lips talked and talked and complained and wished the other would change, change, change for the better.
Then both suddenly stared at the various traumas that pulsed and moaned all around their apartment, and they ran into each other’s arms, wanting to shout, Save me! and Love me! and Help me! and I didn’t know! and Oh my God! And in the end they always said, each time, I love you.
And the baggage zipped back up and went quiet, for a while.
Late one night, driving out of the center of Brussels toward home, I arrived at a notoriously chaotic crossroads where impatient automobile traffic piled in from ten different aggressive directions. Truly, ten streets dumping cars onto one large oblong area where everyone wanted to get to the other side first. A place where all concerned needed to keep their wits about them, especially late, late at night, with too much liquid merriment in the veins.
Coming from my own direction, one of the thinner streets to disgorge traffic, I waited like a good cautious boy, watching the traffic light, anticipating when it would switch from red to green telling me I could now go go go. For the moment it was telling me to stay (…stay…stay…). I sat and stayed seeing no change of colors, no switch from red to green, not even yellow was making a surprise appearance. I just kept staring, waiting for something to happen, when I finally entertained the thought — horror of horrors — that I was staring at a dead-eyed red light. It was not going away, not changing to anything but remaining dedicated to staying true to its red self for the foreseeable future. Somebody honked behind me. Then somebody else honked behind him. Restlessness was building behind me.
I examined at the crossroads once more, weighing my chances of making it without wreckage and death. Numerous cars were busting through their own dead red lights from other streets roaring toward the cluttered center of the crossing, most zooming round, switching gears, feinting left, swerving right, being fearsome and belligerent, absolutely indifferent to possible dents, whether to body or brain. It was every car for itself way past midnight with my home sweet home somewhere on the other side this killer span of blacktop. I daringly moved my car two inches forward, then halted to check how my progress was going, sweeping my eyeballs left and right, checking incoming threats. More insistent honks piled up behind me.
Continuous blurry headlights swung by from different directions with different speeds. Prodded by honks, I continued inching cautiously toward the main mass and mess of the intersection. Growling Alpha cars missed my front fender by micro inches. My eyes weaved in and out of the cars before me, measuring the “what was to come” when and if I did actually get out there where the world raged on, and during this look I thought I spotted some wobbly gesturing scarecrow improbably in the middle of all this.
I moved a full couple of bold yards forward and saw that this vaguely human form was as a shirtless male staggering about, pointing at zigzagging cars with one hand, waving his shirt in the air with the other. I stared at this death-defying sight while the cars behind me honked more insistently until my brain clicked that this man’s gestures were a crude imitation of someone in authority trying to direct a traffic jam.
Startled people behind the wheels of hostile vehicles slowed, also baffled by the man in the middle of this, stumbling to the left, then to the right, like a man on the deck of a ship caught in a massive storm, all the whole pointing here, pointing there, doing an impression of handling traffic with a slick, efficient diligence. Other cars, less impressed, buzzed past, nearly clipping his hip. A few, like mine, waited for something deadly to happen, such as a sloppy car in a fierce hurry smacking him and sending him twirling limp and lithe high through the air, a pinwheel human in an fantastical airy dance.
This man, full of drunken confidence, weaved toward my car, pointing at polite, timid me, indicating that I should now come on through, drive, drive. He held his flat just-you-wait other hand toward an angry driver racing from the right. This driver screeched his wheels briefly, insisted he wanted through with his front bumper, as though threatening that he was more than willing to run over the drunk if he did not give ground immediately. The drunk guy gave nary an inch, the hand continuing its authoritative no!
Once convinced his authority had been stamped and that the angry driver had been tamed, and ignoring all other dozens of cars coming and speeding by and honking horns, the guy returned his full attention to me. He waved me on with the surety and arrogance of one drink too many. At this the angry driver on his right took his chance, revving and swerving behind the drunk, who caught this disobedience, twirled round, waving his shirt at the driver to stop, stop! right where he was and allow calm passage of my car. But the guy was good and gone.
Once more waved on, I dutifully drove steadily and gently across the intersection, keeping a lookout in every direction while the drunk assured me with his gestures that my way was paved with gold and to prove it he was going to accompany me, so to speak, all the way across, perhaps since I was one of the few cars actually obeying him. Cars kept honking, continuing to zip past, and those pent-up cars once behind me flew in another blur right past me and my guide. Finally seemingly safe on the other side, I drove on, started inhaling again while the traffic continued its aggression and honking behind me.
I glimpsed in my rear view mirror the drunk returning right to the middle of the crossroads, energetically waving his shirt anew, pointing at naughty drivers, determined to keep everything orderly and tidy according to a plan not fully evident to those embroiled in his project, as he weaved, and automobiles weaved, and I turned my eyes away and my car left into a side street and drove on, drove home.
Sam: I don’t really want to kill myself.
David: What changing your mind?
Sam: Lack of commitment.
David: Not a lack of desire?
Sam: Oh no, not really. I have lots of that, of desire for ending it. I know Death is just waiting for me, and I’m starting to get used to wanting to go there. Like making it a goal.
David: But not making the effort?
Sam: I make efforts.
David: Such as?
Sam: I fell in love again last month, bought some non-organic supermarket food, and decided to vote in the next election. I make efforts to go on living, man.
David: Your efforts qualify more as self-destructive, not so much suicidal.
Sam: Ya think?
David: My opinion merely.
Sam: So what would be suicidal?
David: Getting married, eating the crap food you bought and actually voting.
Sam: Right. So I have to make more of a serious effort?
David: More than you’re making, yeah.
David: You said you fell in love. Last month.
Sam: Yeah, I fell in love but with life.
David: And life’s not in love with you?
Sam: Not a lot of cuddles, nope.
Sam: Life’s got no sense of long-term commitment.
David: Feel like you’re just one more thing its programmed to do?
Sam: Man you can be depressing.
David: How’s am I worse than your suicidal tendencies?
Sam: Maybe I want to end my life but I don’t necessarily want to be morbid about it.
David: An upbeat self-killing?
Sam: Now you’re mocking me.
David: Okay. Right. So, when’s this happening?
Sam: Sooner rather than latter.
David: Time is variable when it comes to killing yourself, that it?
Sam: Making fun of me again?
David: Well, just, like, commit and have a schedule. Then it gets serious.
Sam: How can I plan when you’re trying to depress me!
David: I thought I was just helping you clarify.
Sam: You mean, like a friend?
David: Exactly. Like a friend.
Sam: Then why are you being so negative? Why don’t you try to talk me out of it?
David: That’s what you want?
David: So then what do you want from me?
David: You got it. That’s what friends are for. To respond to needs.
Sam: Just shut up. Be quiet.
Sam: That’ s better. (Silence) Much better. (Silence) Peaceful. (Silence. And then more silence)
Today I decided to move it forward some and stuck my arm up to my shoulder into another dimension hovering just off to the right of my easy chair. I felt around, and came upon a crumbling bone of my mother. I let go and pulled my arm out. Maybe I’ll try this again tomorrow and hope for better results.
The next day.
I put my arm back into another dimension and found the grinning, sarcastic skull of my father, who had had numerous strokes and died some time ago so I took my arm back out and decided to give this another week.
A week later.
I went in and felt something that can only be described as the end of civilization as we know it. Took my arm out. This is not going as I had hoped it would.
A month later.
I stuck my hand into the next dimension again, with much less hope than on previous occasions. Someone over there shook my hand in a firm but gentle grasp. It went on for a while, and it felt good. When I removed my hand from the other dimension, my hand was gone and I yelled for my wife to take me to the hospital.
Three years later.
Got in another argument with my wife over some space-time continuum theories. She actually pushed me. I actually for the first time in years pushed her back. Too forcefully, probably compensating for my missing hand. She knocked backward into my favorite easy chair then tipped right over into the other dimension we’d been avoiding for some time. She disappeared and I reached in and felt around but she was was gone.
The next day
I reached in with my one good arm holding a note, asking someone in the other dimension for the return of my wife. I held it out for a while but nothing happened. When I brought the note back out I saw someone had spat on it.
Three months later
Moving out of the house tomorrow. The Johnsons are moving in. I’ve warned them about the extra dimension in the house but they just smiled and patted me on the back and continued thinking they were getting a great deal. They have four small children, a pregnant cat and a dog, so good luck with that. I’m taking the money, my good arm and heading off someplace uni-dimensional where there’s plenty of warm sunshine.
He said to her, “I can name fifteen reasons why we should stay together.”
She waited over on the other side of the room, her arms crossed, waiting to hear his reasons.
He said, “One, I love you.”
She waited some more. She got tired of waiting, so said, “And?”
“The other fourteen don’t matter, just the first one.”
She continued waiting over there on her side of the room, arms still crossed, wondering how to tell him that that just wasn’t enough reason any more.
My cat is fat. The cat used to be a he but is now an it. He has been deballed, neutralized, neutered, fixed, castrated, altered, changed, sanitized, synthesized, de-catified. No wonder he got fat. Under such circumstances, anyone would tend to get depressed and over-compensate with between meal snacks of mice-meat and sparrow heads.
Imagine being pushed into a carrier bag, zipped up in it, transported and manhandled, and upon being unzipped, exposed in a foreign shiny environment, where some stranger promptly sticks a sharp object in the hind quarters — and before a cat can shriek injured dignity and utter shock — the world turns all dreamy and it’s time for a long, unsought catnap.
Upon awakening, the world remains incredibly woozy and wobbly with something missing. Imagine the first time you as a cat bend round to clean your privates, licking tenderly to clean with care. The cat suddenly is certain something essential is missing. He looks up to stare off into some cat half-distance, mystified eyes calculating, recalling. He bends to lick again to make sure that what used to be there is no longer snug and tight and two, right there as usual. He needed those two tiny round objects to give a certain heft to his yowls, leave his smell, mark his territory, make frequent hot cat-love.
Now that will no longer be possible. Never, never, never, never, never, as Shakespeare wrote for King Lear to say. And like a more mild King Lear, my cat is in the grip of an astonishing disillusionment and barely contained depression.
When I let the cat out into the back garden, I watch it disappear into the gathering gloom. He does not run, he still slightly wobbles. He’s edgy and uncertain. There’s less of him, and he knows it. He’ll never be all there nor as big and brave as he once was. From here on out, he truly deserves all the night-time mice-meat and scraps of excitement he can hustle.
Photo: Rights lambertwm