Three Sodas a Day Keep the Psychos Away, Part One
If he would rock just a little faster he would fan the smell of his old pee away. You can't rock like that out in public or people will think you're crazy. Maybe that's how he got here? He rocked once too often in public because they don't lock you up for peeing on yourself.
No, wait. I can see he's drooling, just a little. He is so focused he forgot to keep his mouth shut. He rocked himself into the place that is right before sleep, relaxing so completely the drool poured onto his t-shirt. Wonder how he got the bruise on his eye. He doesn't look big enough to fight anyone but he probably needed to be restrained when they brought him in.
Cripes, not me! I came in willingly. I wanted in here. Of course, I might be crazier than he is. I'm just more socially acceptable. Maybe that's my problem.
There he goes. He's up. He walked out the door quicker than I thought he could move. I would leave too, but I don't know where to go. I've used all my "get out of jail free" cards. Wonder where he's going. Hopefully to change his pants.
It is almost dinner time. I can smell the decomposing food-like substance sitting somewhere down the hall on a cart. Well, let's see. why don't they cook the instant potatoes, canned green beans and steamed hamburger patties until they lose all color and are the consistency of baby food and then leave it on a steamer cart for a hour? And they wonder why most of us don't eat.
Why is that woman in her bathrobe? The seashell pink bathrobe is too small, pulling across her body as if trying to keep it all inside, but not doing the job. Deep crevices make her face look fake. It looks like a mask. No one can be that wrinkly. What's with those curlers in her hair? Where does she think she's going? Maybe the bathrobe is a disguise and underneath she has a prison uniform on. God, she's a big woman! Yikes, I better not stare too long. Yep. There it is. She made the sign. She nodded to the place next to her. I don't think I have a choice, she looked right at me.
I feel small and child-like next to her on the vinyl sofa. My feet don't quite touch the floor. She's in the middle of the sofa with her hands in her lap. She didn't move over and isn't looking at me, but stares ahead as if she is watching something mesmerizing on TV. The TV is off. I smile at her, raise my eyebrows and nod as if I'm agreeing to something she just said, but of course she hasn't said a word. I'm just trying to be polite in a normal way.
She leans close to me, as if someone will overhear her. I see in the space between the lines of fuzz on her terry cloth robe some dried egg yoke and dark jelly-like stuff. I stare at that and feel like I've fallen in a stranger's dirty laundry basket. Her breath smells like a fart. Out of her mouth this smell finds its way into my nose. Please go away, I beg to her and her breath.
"I found her upstairs." Her voice pulls at my skin like ripping off a band aid.
What? What does that mean? I am sitting perfectly still while adrenaline shoots through my veins telling every nerve-ending in my skin to send a message to my muscles to get the hell out of here, but I can't move. My damned mind, rationalizing this situation, makes me continue to sit next to this psycho. I make my mouth smile but it grimaces instead. My eyes scrunch and I can feel the uncomfortable disguise. Cripes, lady, shut up! Keep your craziness to yourself!
She leans toward me again. What words of wisdom will she impart this time? I 'm sure something I could live the rest of my life without knowing. I can feel her breath in my hair. She is trying to whisper in my ear, but her voice is just a hoarse raspy thing being pushed at me. "He took my grand-baby upstairs and raped her. Left the body in the bathtub. That's where I found her." She takes a phlegmy drag of air, "I was in the house when it happened."
Holy shit! I have to get out of here! This woman really belongs here! What the...? I try to smile humanely as my mind explodes into a million shards of panic. I hear myself say, "I'm sorry," but I don't feel it. I don't care. I don't want to know any more about this woman with the pink seashell bathrobe and dead grandchild. I don't want this woman in my nightmares. If I open any part of my mind, she'll walk right in.
Cripes! One more thing I have to tell the doctor.
Three Sodas A Day
Tami Gramont is a Northern-Arizona based writer. Her story, "The Self Family," appears in "Life Stories: Casework in the First Person" edited by Drs. Eileen J. Polinger and Jessica Heriout, Haworth Press, 2001.
Tami's professional affiliations include membership in the International Women's Writing Guild and the National Writers Union.
She writes: "Is it possible to expose too much of the soul? Some people have to be coaxed into exploring the inner depths of the mind and soul, but I don't coddle anyone. I push them, stumbling and falling, into areas they pretend don't exist, areas that are still not understood. Not everything fits into a box!"