Tuesday, March 5, 2013

He Dreams of Resolution (44)

Every single word written here is an extraordinary exaggeration of events that have played out in my head... based on the stories I have heard from people I have met in jail or while I was dealing with my own stupidity and carelessness, resulting from my own addiction to alcohol and drugs. This is in no way a glamorization of drug use, but a tool to lend some humanity to a subculture that has been demonized and written off as a hopeless and worthless part of our human family. I do not condone or promote any of the behavior or activities herein.

            The remaining contents of the bottle offered little reprieve from the agonizing ideas of what was in store for me when and if I appeared at the services scheduled for the day following tomorrow.  My perception of how short the hours were between now and then sent my mind into a whirlwind of panic accompanied by a constant and profound sense of debilitating depression that seemed to be content existing with just enough perseverance to render me incapable of outwardly expressing any of the twitchy quirks I normally associated with the speed at which my mind was developing unpleasant thoughts.  I closed my eyes and let my head fall back onto the couch behind me.  Sleep was upon me quickly and I began to dream shortly thereafter. 
I’m standing in front of a crowd of disapproving stares that would undoubtedly be directed at me, gazing with the intensity of those who might prefer to be holding knives with murderous intent. A room full of faces attached to lifeless, seated bodies in drab, yet theatrically evident, funeral-etiquette clothing are focused on my position and startlingly devoid of recognizable features except for their unnaturally bulbous and maddened eyes peering towards me from within the darkened sockets of their noseless, mouthless, taut-skinned visages.
I stand between the ghoulish crowd and an open casket while reaching into the interior pocket of my suit to retrieve the words I have prepared to eulogize my wife, which I had intended to express my sincere grief and inescapable sense of loss during this time of unexpected tragedy. When the crowd of nearly-featureless phantoms collectively realizes that I intend to speak to them on behalf of their dearly departed a rustling begins in the back of the room. It quickly travels through the mute crowd and escalates to a sound similar to the white noise of a television set left on an unused channel at maximum volume.
The silent, seated bodies begin turning towards one another in exaggerated and melodramatically displays of disapproval. They are shrugging their shoulders in unison and touching their barren faces to one another's ears as if to whisper thoughts of disapproval at the apparent audacity I am showcasing in their presence. The noise grows as the synthetic fabric of their clothing comes in contact with other fabrics of similar quality.
I am distracted by the notion that these morose and regrettable ensembles of drab attire must have been painstakingly coordinated within the eerily silent homes of this phantom audience as couples assisted one another in choosing the appropriately gloomy wardrobe while communicating only by rolling their eyeballs, offering wordless shrugs, exaggerated nods, and objectionable shakes of their menacing and nearly featureless heads.
The raucous scratching of polyester and rayon reaches a climactic volume and the ghastly game of charades continues within my mute, yet appallingly rude audience. I attempt to begin reciting the carefully chosen words I have written to memorialize my dead wife in the hopes of bringing the nightmarish crowd to attention. Several unintelligible words escape my lips which have suddenly begun to tighten without warning. As I bring a hand to my face to investigate my malfunctioning lips, my eyes leave the written words on the page I am holding tightly and drift into the crowd as I discover that one of the ghouls has halted their defiant activities and the eyes in her head have taken focus on what my hand is discovering.
The size of the opening that my mouth had provided only moments before is beginning to shrink and the soft flesh of my lips is disappearing rapidly. I drop the eulogy I am holding with the other hand and bring those fingers to my face as well. I am greeted with the same frightening realization when that hand discovers disappearing lips and a quickly closing hole where my mouth had previously existed. One after another the phantoms in my audience begin to take notice of my plight as they begin to momentarily become still.
My jaw is cramped and can no longer function except to involuntarily close despite the protesting muscles in my neck and cheeks. As I struggle to keep my teeth from meeting inside of my mouth which I fear will surely signal the interminable disappearance of my mouth and lips I begin to feel the skin tighten beneath my eyes and across the bridge of my nose. Despite the painlessness of the experience, my awareness of what this signals is brought to full attention as the amount air I instinctively try to draw into my lungs through my nostrils becomes more and more difficult to satisfy. My fingers move from where they have been monitoring the disappearance of my mouth to the area above where my skin is currently tightening as the cartilage and bone of my nose is seemingly turning to putty under the pressure before disappearing into my face along with my nostrils
Panic sets in as I draw the last streams of air through my newly flattened nose and fall to my knees in front of the feverish, nightmare spectators who are all leaning forward in their chairs and peering over each other’s shoulders. I offer a muted scream from behind an absent mouth and reach out to the ghoulish patron directly in front of me. He folds his arms defiantly while sitting back smugly in his chair and motioning approvingly of the spectacle. It has been delightful to him and his surrounding companions. The white noise begins again as ghouls take turns pointing, bouncing and holding their hands to where their mouths should have been in pantomimed laughter. I cannot breathe as the crowd showers me with silent laughter and mocks me with silent taunts.
Suddenly there is a voice.
“What do you all think you’re doing?”
The voice is sharp but its familiarity calms the death rattle beginning deep inside of me. It is the voice of my wife coming from directly behind me. The phantom audience suspends its activity, seemingly caught off guard, surprised and ashamed. They immediately begin to take whichever seats are closest to their current positions.
“I am so disappointed in all of you. This is my goddamned funeral for fuck’s sake.”
It sounds to me as if she is smiling a grin I had only witnessed when she had caught Lil’ Step doing something she wasn’t supposed to be doing. This grin expressed amusement and disapproval at the same time. It was neither joyful nor wicked, but you always sort of got the impression that she enjoyed catching Lil’ Step trying to get one over on us. I refuse to turn around to verify where the voice is coming from. Instead I watch as one by one, the ghoulish crowd begins to hang their heads in shame like school children being reprimanded by their teacher.
“You all have some nerve passing judgment on the man I chose to spend my short life with… and look at what you’re trying to do to him... you don’t even like him! Why would you want to make him one of you? Are your lives so miserable that you would take a man you have no love for, and turn him into one of your own kind? If you’re all that fucking miserable, then for crying out loud, do something about it! But leave this man alone... he is mine, and I love him.”
Several featureless faces in the front row seemed to obey her request to look at what they were trying to do to me by turning to look at me shamefully. I begin to stand up, surprised that my feeling of suffocation has subsided, although I still wasn’t drawing any breath.
“Baby... please turn around," the familiar, sweet voice beckons.
I shake my head softly.
“I know you don’t think that you want to see me… and I understand...you know… after that little experience you drempt up at the morgue…” She paused. The crowd in front of me still hangs their heads. “My goodness, baby… your imagination is really something else sometimes.”
I shake my head again and drop my eyes to the carpeted floor at my feet.
“C’mon… trust me. I’m just the same as you would want to remember me. I promise.”
I slowly turn my head in the direction of her voice. The image I witness is that of my loving wife. She looks as though there had never been an accident. The scar on her head is now gone. There is no bruising or swelling to be seen on her face. She is propped up on an elbow, with her hand supporting her head. She remains still, lying in a pearl colored coffin with platinum finish handles. Her blouse is white and lacy like she preferred although not as low cut as I liked. Her beautiful hair is pulled away from her face in two petite braids along her hairline which have been further intertwined into a French braid at the back of her head. I taught her how to do this hairstyle when we first met, and she insisted that I style her hair just this way for our wedding despite the superstition. Her makeup is subdued, and without much effort draws attention to the porcelain quality of her skin. She is beautiful.
I begin to cry in silence, standing several yards from where she is looking at me. She is beaming as if it were our wedding reception, and not her funeral.
“Come here and let me tell you goodbye.” She uses the pointer finger of her now visible hand to curl and beckon me closer. I hold my hands to my face and shrug to draw attention to my current deformities.
“Don’t worry about all that… I know how to fix it. I’ve been cleaning up after my family’s bullshit shenanigans since I was old enough to know better. C’mere... I want to help you one last time.”
I walk quietly to where she is watching me. She sits up a little more in the coffin as I approach before she reaches her hand up to my face and softly caresses the tightly drawn skin where my nose should be.
“I’ve always loved your nose, even though your infuriating vanity led you to believe that it was too big. It’s hard to pick which part of your face is my favorite, but your nose is definitely on the list.”
She smiles and draws her hand away from my face. I immediately feel the skin below my eyes begin to loosen and suddenly feel the cool air being drawn instinctively through my nose and into my lungs. I am surprised and comforted to find that the coolness of the air is accompanied by the faint scent of my wife’s favorite perfume. I reach a hand to my nose and become relieved to feel its familiar shape.
“Now if you’ll lean down and give a dead girl a kiss, I can fix the other thing.” She giggles at her peculiar statement. “I’d bet you a nickel that you never thought you’d hear me say that.”
I shook my head to say 'no, never'. My eyes never leave hers. I hold my fingers to the place where my mouth should have been and shrug.
“Yes, I know…” she closes her eyes in feigned, flirty frustration. “I promise that you’ll have a mouth by the time I’m done. Believe me… I wouldn’t kiss anybody in the world during these last moments unless I knew I was going to be rewarded with those wonderful lips on your beautiful face that I have come to love so much.”
I lean in and let her hand drape the back of my neck as she pulls me in and firmly kisses the tight, smooth skin where my mouth should be. Within seconds the muscles in my face relax and my jaw begins to surrender its position. As freedom begins to blossom in the cavity of my mouth I feel my wife’s warm breath wash over my tongue. I can taste her as the muscle of my tongue regains mobility. As if to assure me that everything is returning to normal, she bites my bottom lip gently and licks my top lip afterwards. I smile within the kiss, and am relieved to find the gesture effortless.
She pulls her mouth away from mine and brings our foreheads together. At this close distance all I can see is her beautiful brown eyes, and the glistening sheen of hesitant tears that are building at their surface.
“Baby, I’m so sorry this happened,” I whisper.
“Stop it.” She shakes her head softly, rolling our touching foreheads from side to side. “It was just my time, okay? One day you’ll realize the truth within that idea and find peace within that knowledge. I’m sorry that you still have more to do and can’t come with me any sooner.”
“More to do?” I raise my eyebrows at her.
“You’ll figure that out on your own. I’m not spoiling it for you, and don’t you ask me too. But I want you to know that I love you.”
“I love you too.” I feel my throat tighten and my eyes began to sting with anticipation of the tears that would soon follow.
“Now, listen to me… I want you to turn around for a second and look at those creeps who have been tormenting you.”
I obey as she releases her soft hold on my neck. As I turn to see the seated crowd I am almost relieved to see the familiar faces of my wife’s relatives. Their images are familiar, and all features appear present. They are all still glaring at me with silent, yet fierce animosity.
“Well,” I turn back around and return my forehead to hers. “That’s a little better, but not much.”
“That’s as good as it’s ever going to get with those people.” She places her hand under my chin and separates our faces by several inches. “You shouldn’t feel obligated to deal with them right now. As a matter of fact, I don’t want you to deal with them ever again. There is nothing but pain for you in the faces and judgmental attitudes of my extended family. They don't know you like I do, but I can’t do anything about that anymore. I’m gone now…” Tears fall simultaneously from the lashes of both of her eyes. She ignores the urge to wipe them away, which would require her to relinquish her hand from my face. I am grateful.
“What do you want me to do, baby?”
“Well… none of these particular events you've just experienced ever really happened. Its a manifestation of what you know in your heart to be the truth. God bless your wild imagination. I could have never come up with this nightmare." She smiles proudly, but briefly. "In a minute or two you’re going to wake up. When you wake up I want you to know that it’s okay for you to avoid this parade of sadness being held in the morning. This isn’t really about me… it’s for them. I'm already gone, my love.”
“You… you don’t want me to speak at your…”
“No… I don’t think it’s a good idea that you come at all. If you feel like you need some closure after this, then you can write me a letter and read it to me when you’re done. I’ll be waiting to hear your voice and listening intently for it. All that those people you would see at my funeral could offer you is misguided anger, undue resentment and painful memories to associate with me. Why would I want that for you?”
“Okay.” I close my eyes.
“It’s just about time to wake up…” she whispers.
“No, baby…” I open my eyes in the hopes that I can resist the inevitable.
“Yes sir. You’ve got work to do. I’m not sure what it is, but somebody… probably goddamned Bull Gunville… needs your help more than me from now on.” She smiles. “I guess you’re not out of the woods with that shit yet.”
“I can’t help you anymore. You are truly on your own. I wish I could have made your journey easier with the time that I was given, but I couldn't. I didn’t realize just how short my time was going to be. Neither do you. You are walking a very dangerous and complicated path. If you make an unfixable mistake and get yourself killed or die in the process of doing some fucked up shit, then you will have to start your journey all over again and it will be twice as hard. So please, please try to get it right the first time. I’m going to miss you until then.”
“I miss you already.” Tears silently escape my eyes.
“I know you do…” She closes the distance between our faces one last time and rests her forehead on mine again 
“Wake up!”
“What?”  I am stunned at the abruptness of her command and the change in her voice.
“WAKE UP!  WAKE UP!”  She begins shaking my shoulder, but her voice… it wasn’t hers.
I opened my eyes and was face to face with my sister-in-law.
“Fuck… Goddammit, I’m awake… stop shaking me.”  I batted her hand away from where it was shaking me.
“You okay?  Nice boxers…”  She looked me up and down.
“I’m fine.  What are you doing here?  I mean, besides disturbing the first pleasant moments I’ve had in awhile.”  I was groggy, but I got to my feet.  “What day is it?  What time is it?”
“It’s still Wednesday.  It’s about 8:45.  I brought you some beer and a big ass bottle of booze.  Where should I have put it?”
“Thanks... and I don’t care where you put it.”  I shook my head and ran my hands through my hair.  “But where’s the beer while we're on the subject?”
“In the fridge.  Vodka’s in the freezer…  just put ‘em in there, and I noticed that there’s not much else in either place.  Have you eaten?”
“What do you mean?  Ever?  Yeah I’ve eaten.  It’s an overrated and increasingly expensive habit.”  I grunted.
“Smartass…”  She turned to face me.  “Do you realize that there is a pair of urine soaked jeans on your kitchen floor?”
“Oh yeah… well… there was a piss party in the kitchen.  I was the only one who showed up… so I had to clean up.”  I smirked.  “Apparently I not only mistook the floor for a toilet, but I mistakenly thought my pants were a mop.”
“Nice.”  She was shaking her head.  “What did you decide about the service Friday?”
“Funny you should ask…  and I am pleased to inform you that I have been relieved of that obligation.”
She stared at me blankly, mouth agape.
“What don’t you understand?”  I bit my lip as I talked, expecting resistance from her.
“I’m not even gonna ask who it is that you think relieved you of the obligation…  I’m sure I don’t want to know.”  She shook her head.  “What do you want me to tell your step-daughter?”
“You just tell her I love her, but that her mommy and I had an agreement about this kind of thing… if it were to ever happen.  Tell her that I will come and see her as soon as I can and that I’m sorry I won’t get to see her on Friday, but that this is not the kind of thing that you want to look forward to seeing people at anyways.”
“That’s it?”  She held her hands up inquisitively.
“I guess so.”
“Well… alright then.”  She turned around and began walking towards the front of the house.  Before getting too far, she stopped abruptly and began speaking without turning around.  “Do you want to go to the store to get some groceries or something?”
“I don’t know… do you really think I should?”  I hadn’t really thought about eating in quite awhile.
“I’ll come back tomorrow sometime to take you.”  She started walking again.  “What are you going to do about a car?”
“I haven’t thought that far ahead yet, either.”
“I’ll work on that too.”  She slid the sliding glass door open and stepped outside.
“Why are you being so nice to me?”  I leaned into the door frame.
“I’m trying to figure that out myself.”  She stopped and looked at me.  “I guess it’s maybe because you don’t have anybody else right now and…” she started walking down the porch stairs to the sidewalk leading to the driveway.
            “Yeah?  And?”  I pushed the question.
            “And because I think this is what my sister would have expected me to do… because she loved you.”
            “Well… for what it’s worth…   Thanks.”
            “I’ll see you tomorrow sometime.”  She was halfway between the house and the driveway.
            “I loved her too, you know…”  I hollered.
            “I know.”  She let herself into her van and started the engine.  I slid the door closed and sat down at the computer desk. 
I hit the keys on the keyboard to bring the machine out of ‘sleep’ mode.  As I pushed some things around that had recently gathered haphazardly on the desk while searching for a forgotten pack of cigarettes, the baggie containing what shards of ice were left of Rhonda’s gift bag dropped out of some papers.  I picked the baggie up and examined the contents more closely.  There was actually quite a bit of dope left in the tiny bag adorned with a neon green twist tie.
While the computer warmed up I walked to the kitchen to fashion myself something to smoke dope from out of aluminum foil.  As I walked back to the computer desk and the waiting bag of dope I was only thinking of two things.
1.      Getting high
2.     Getting online and finding an application for Bull to NewLife Recovery Systems.
It felt just fine to be going back to work for Bull again.  It was going to feel even better after I smoked a little dope.

This work is the intellectual property of Jerome J. Panozzo                                                                                          

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