Monday, January 28, 2013

SS: "Cold Turkey"

[Eric Storch, who is really a friend of all humankind, is holding Master Class again this week, featuring an opening sentence from Kelle Groom's "I Wore The Ocean In The Shape Of A Girl", "Morphine makes me weightless, airborne". This story is called "Cold Turkey"]

I was thinking about John Lennon's "Cold Turkey". Supposedly he had been through withdrawal before, and that was what made him write the song. Nothing is like withdrawal, exactly- it's like women who say that nothing can be compared to childbirth. I suppose nothing could. But withdrawal wasn't just pain, it was a terrible restlessness, pain along with itching and nausea and diarrhea and a general sense of your body not belonging to you. You started to understand why people would kill, or abandon children, or walk away from careers, in order to avoid the feeling. It is as close as I ever felt to wanting to die.

I stared at the inside of the closet, the mops and cleaning solutions all around me, the precious box clutched to my chest. I fumbled with the flap, and then screwed the needle on top. I flipped up my scrub, feeling around for a bare patch of skin. I sucked in a breath when the needle pierced my skin, pushing the plunger down, feeling the sting and picking up the gauze I had dropped on the cement floor.

I felt relief, even though I knew that the drug hadn't taken effect yet. My breathing slowed, and I felt the tension release in my shoulders. I knew I was going to get caught, and I knew I was going to be fired again, but for that moment, for those few minutes as it eased its way into my blood, unknotting my guts, slowing the sweat on my brow, relieving the rush of my thoughts, I was an addict, I knew that, but as much shame as that engendered, the relief of knowing that the awful suffering was almost over, made me feel like I was flying.

SPE: "Eyes Of A Stranger"

[For the Scriptic prompt exchange this week, Jester Queen gave me this prompt: "When it grew cold, I shut the door. But I left the window open, hoping possibilities might pour in with the night air." I gave SAM this prompt: "People say they love a lot of things, but they really don't. It's just a word that's been overused." -Bob Dylan]

She piles her hair up every morning, an enormous cantilevered bun secured by pins and stays and clips, only releasing it when she was home with me and ready for bed. It seemed like an enormous amount of effort, but I certainly enjoyed the effect it had. It was like she saved a version of herself, a Jen only I got to see, a long haired, raven goddess with locks unkempt and matted with sweat and smoke and hairspray and whatever other smells she had encountered. If I sat on the bed while she brushed it out, it was like a summary of her day- the grease of the subway, the hickory of the steak place where they went to lunch, the tobacco of the group of outcasts outside the back door through which she dashes to catch her train. 

I came in and stood beside her as she sat there, fluffing and combing through her mane, releasing the codes of her day. 

"Shut the door," she said. I listened for the "please" that never came, then turned and closed the door. She was always cold, anywhere up to nearly 90 degrees causing her flesh to pimple and the fine hair on her arms to stand on end. It was a warm night, but not really a hot one, and I would have been comfortable to lay on the bed and let the occasional breeze dry our skin. But I didn't even ask. 

"What are you doing tomorrow?," she asked, getting up to wash her face. I watched her strip off her nightgown, to avoid getting it wet. I watched her bend over the sink, her breasts small and sad under her thin back as she cleansed and dried and moisturized. 

"I have some research to do," I said. "Some microfilm that isn't digitized." My historical novel was coming together, but I felt like I needed more period detail, which would require a few hours in the library. 

She sighed. "We haven't gone anywhere in a long time. Can't we go to the beach or something?"

I watched her straighten up, settling her nightgown over herself, tugging and adjusting, focusing her brown eyes on her reflection. I thought about the deadlines bearing down on me, the rewriting and the polishing, the days that were slipping away. I felt the yawning maw of failure behind me, one push and what passed for my career would slip away into nothing. I thought about the hard shoes she wore, the tight slimming pencil skirts, the two hundred dollar blouses, the late night phone calls and arguments that left her dinner congealing on the plate while I listened to half a conversation I couldn't understand. I thought about the power imbalance that I said never bothered me, her salary paying the bills, my occasional checks from articles and short stories sometimes buying dinner.

"Sure, if you want," I said softly. I didn't feel like I could refuse her. I never did. She came across the room and climbed into her side of the bed. She yawned and stretched.

"I'm exhausted," she said. She pulled the sheets up and pulled her hair together, then let it go, the flood of darkness blanketing the middle of the bed. I slid my arm around her trim waist, and brought my lips to her ear. 

I was about to say something, when she said sleepily, "Not tonight. I have an early meeting." 

"Good night," I said, and kissed her ear. I wasn't asking for sex. I was offended that she assumed I was. We used to click on every imaginable thing. More recently, I couldn't understand anything that was happening: it was like living with a stranger.

I turned away from her, staring at the closed window. I heard her slipping into sleep, her breath slackening and deepening. I felt hot already, but if I opened the window, she'd be awake in seconds. I thought about Paul Simon's lyric, "I like to sleep with the window open, and you keep the window closed, so goodbye, goodbye, goodbye."