I had that poor woman cut open on the table for more than three hours. I checked everything. But tests don’t lie. She’s still bleeding inside.
There aren’t a lot of people whose judgment I respect as much as my own and they all agree. She’s not going to make it unless we open her up again.
|drawing by anthrpicdecadnce|
It can’t be her heart. I held that fucking thing in my hand and inspected every centimeter. I checked ever vessel in and out. There were no leaks. I don’t know if that heart can survive another operation.
It’s her kidney, I’d bet anything. The blade must have grazed it. That’s the angle of the original wound.
I haven’t prayed in a long time and I’m not going to start now but I’m going to need more strength than I currently have to pull this off. And if I can’t…
Jasmine blamed herself. That was her default position. In her mind, it was her excitement at having a boyfriend, after such a long lonely time, that made her laugh too loudly, and too freely. She was showing Robert a video on her phone, to see if he thought it was as funny as she did, to test the compatibility of their senses of humor. She was oblivious to the impropriety when the racket she was making rolled from the platform into the enclosed space of a subway car. Caroline was there to remind her.
“Excuse me,” Caroline said in a voice that wanted no part of being excused, a voice that was not asking to be excused, a voice of grievance. That was her default position. “We don’t all need to listen to that, do we?”
It was the ‘do we?’ that offended Robert’s ear – the way Caroline sought to turn their fellow passengers against Jasmine. His anger melted into sarcastic aggression. That was his default position. He put his arm around Jasmine’s shoulder. “Don’t let her get you down,” he said, “that’s just what she wants. That’s what she lives for – knocking people down. It’s not just you. I’m sure her friends and family and co-workers all dread it when they see her coming. She’s the type who thinks she’s saying what everyone else is feeling but they’re afraid to say.”
He might be right, Jasmine thought. Or they might both be assholes. She put in her plugs to listen to the rest of the video and laughed softly to herself.
Leslie was a pilgrim. She traveled thousands of miles to reach Mecca, which in her case was Brooklyn. She came from a humble home on the other side of the murky mountains, forests, and fields, clad in penitential garb, with tribal insignia printed on her skin. She came with her barest possessions: notebooks, the broken flea collar of Twinky, who’d run away too, and the guitar her Daddy gave her before he…also…drifted. Another victim of the family curse.
She made the pilgrimage for a blessing. For grace. She came to the sacred place to recite her homemade prayers and to find eternity within her heart. She believed, like every pilgrim before her, that her spiritual wandering could only end in the holy land.
Leslie also believed in her mother’s favorite adage – idle hands are the devil’s workshop. She kept her hands busy scrambling up and down the worn fretboard of her prayer-manufacturing machine.
She was on her way to an open mic when it happened. She was silently meditating on her newest prayer so that she could perform it with sufficient sincerity to appease the royal court in the County of Kings. She was weighing alternate phrasings with such devotion she didn’t look up when she stepped off the curb onto Metropolitan Ave.
She felt the universe shudder.
She heard salvation in the voice that yelled “Whoa!” She felt it in the firm grasp that lifted her away from the rush of traffic. In the soft brown eyes that looked into hers she saw redemption: the reward of faith.
I don’t like this new hunger. Not that the old ones were great, but better the devil you know, you know? I prefer it when my body hungers for those things that are necessary for its survival rather than feeding appetites that are, lets face it, better left unfed. You know what happens to hungers left unfed? They grow. They grow until their dissatisfaction eclipses even the finest of life’s satisfactions.
It’s not a completely new hunger; this isn’t the first time I’ve felt it. But the last time I felt it was a long time ago, back when the future had far fewer limits to it, when thoughts became manifest almost as soon as they were imagined. It was all the way back when such desires were conceivably achievable, when the fear of the unknown was so much greater because there was so much more of it.
Hunger, now as then, feeds on that fear.
Hunger does terrible things to people. It turns us into beasts. We become simple brutes, demanding satisfaction at any cost. Satisfaction that is now out of the question, on grounds both moral and practical. Still, the emptiness screams out to be filled. It cries like a baby with an empty belly and an empty heart, each hunger warring for supremacy in the hierarchy of need.
As in all wars, there are no winners, just scarred survivors.
Alice was terrified when Joey told her he was going to Iraq. He might just as well have told her he was going to try jumping off the Empire State Building to see if he could fly. When he was a little boy he was always saying things like that to her, trying to scare her. “I’m going to go play in traffic now, Mommy,” he’d say. Or, “I’m going to ride my bike on the subway tracks.”
Jeff, Alice’s asshole of an ex, was thrilled to hear Joey had signed up, and if he had any misgivings about their son sticking his head into the mouth of a lion he never let on. The prick was so obsessed with himself that he probably thought it reflected well on him to have a son with such courage. The sick thing to Alice was that he was right; it did reflect well on him.
September 5, 2013 – a date which will live in infamy. That was the day that the two young men in their dress greens performed ‘the notification.’ It was all by-the-book. They even said, “we regret to inform you that your son was killed in action.” Just like in the movies. They said other things too but she couldn’t hear them over the ringing in her ears. They told her later that one of them had caught her just before her head hit the floor.
Alice thought of a line from a Bob Dylan song: “Some things are too terrible to be true.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t mean they’re not true. Some things cannot be comprehended. Some things cannot be integrated. Some things cannot be overcome. The call her a Gold Star Parent now, like she aced some kind of test. Maybe she did.
I know you don’t want me kissing the back of your leg. It would be embarrassing for you – a grown man leaning or crouching or kneeling down to get his lips at a good angle for that soft flesh between the back of your knee and your ankle. Why are you shivering? It must be that the cold, dark days are coming fast.
And I’m overcome by the soft spot where the elasticity of youth is surrendering to the ease of age. I want to kiss the back of your leg.