Friday, November 02, 2007

The Misfortunes Of Women

Here's the last installment of the story! Happy All Soul's Day!

Coley screams, and I run into the bedroom. The bed, covered with blood, makes me think she’s had a miscarriage except that blood has been smeared all over the walls. Josh lies next to Coley, not moving. I wonder where he’s cut himself and yell at Coley to call an ambulance, you dumb bitch, which she does and shake Josh hard. For a moment, I see his body in a black bag instead of bloody blue sheets. I try to remember how to make a tourniquet from girl scouts and curse myself for getting kicked out.

After the ambulance comes and goes, lights maniacally flashing through Josh’s bedroom window, Coley in her bloodied gown, making me think of abortions and miscarriages, the sad menu of the misfortunes of women.

"Who wants to ride with Josh?"

Coley and I look at each other. I could make a point about who I am, that I’m his sister, his only technical family and by law Coley will have to drive herself. But I don’t say anything, and the guy takes pity on the situation tell us we can both ride with Josh. Coley, to my surprise, declines. I want to tell her she has to, not to leave me alone, but I don’t. I pick up my purse, put on my coat, and take a quick glance in the mirror, looking old, like someone’s exhausted wife, head out into the blistering cold.

When I return later that night by way of cab, Coley appears to be gone. She has left no notes, made no calls. With Josh in the psych ward, the apartment feels as empty as it has ever been, a cavernous yawning that gives me a spooked feeling. Part of me wished Coley would return, if only to have someone to help me not jump at every noise. I had not realized how dependent I had become on having people around, even crazy ones. My sleeping pill reserve is dwindling, and I pray that I have waited long enough to call into my doctor to ask for a refill. There is, as with everything, an art to calling in a refill without the doctor demanding to see you. If you call too much, you risk looking addicted and are denied on those grounds. Wait too long and the doctor assumes you don’t really need it and doesn’t remember the sob story you used to get him to prescribe them in the first place.

I don’t have anyone to discuss Josh with since I’ve decided not to tell my parents anything. What if Josh had succeeded? How would I feel? Would I be lonely or jealous that he didn’t have to deal with anything anymore?

It is not my nature to want to know about mysteries, about that which has no ready solution. In freshman English, I had a teacher who wanted us to cut to the truth of our lives, actually suggesting that if we had the power to say where we’d been, we’d have the power to heal ourselves, a cure that held about as much hope as going to Mexico for lozenges after the chemo didn’t work. She wanted our pain and I could have given it to her in small potent doses -- my father raped my brother and me for years. Instead I told her that I didn’t have that much to tell and forced her to assign me topics. She kept saying, there’s more to you than you let on, and I’d smile and say not really.

At nights, I’ve taken to listening to Janis Joplin to drown out the noises and have moved my gun from underneath my bed to under the pillow I don’t sleep on. You might find the end of the road in Detroit . . . My parents have been calling as if they sense something wrong. I lied to them last call, after coming home from the hospital after a very long day of tedious procedures at work. Had killing himself been his intent? I once took an existentialism class from a man who had AIDS. He was an older, closeted gay man and a student favorite despite his exacting nature and high standards. Mine was the last semester he ever taught as he hanged himself on Christmas Eve, a day after he’d turned in our final grades. People didn’t consider it a real suicide since he was dying already and didn’t want to go through anymore pain. That was the party line. I’d nod, but think -- can’t that be said of all of us? Of course, they meant physical pain. That’s one thing most people won’t tolerate.

Before I lived with Josh, I had a small loft apartment that I was always trying to make into the perfect space full of beautiful tiny things, a place so lovely that it would pain him to leave, so lovely that it would make up for how barren and lonely I felt most of the time. And in time it was a little better than acceptable, decorated and cleaned for the quick dates I’d have with Kevin. Having an affair felt less like a relationship that it did getting ready for a photo op. I’d drink enough to ease my nerves before he got there, not so much that I would be smashed (that state was for after). When he left, I felt as though I’d stayed at a party everyone else had abandoned out of boredom. Not unlike now, if I think about it, although I’d never put that much effort into things around here given Josh’s propensity for making a mess and no Kevin to pose for. That’s the thing about not living alone -- you lose a lot of control. Not to say I had all that much when it was just me -- I spilled a lot of stuff on my beautiful carpet, stains that, try as I might, could not be entirely removed.

Every evening, I force myself to the hospital with all its appearance of order. My mother used to say, if people knew what went on inside one, they’d never let themselves be put in one. She spoke of germs, infections, internecine politics. She meant lack of caution, alienation of affection. I fight against the narrowness of the days, offering myself bribes for making it through certain moments. I tell myself I am not alone in the world. I sit with Josh in the evenings in the visitor ward and pretend that every this is normal and that I don’t mind being here. We talk about the news, about nothing. On my way out, I hit the bathroom and vomit instead of crying. Despite being a hospital, nothing is very clean and sometimes I can see streaks of my vomit from the night before. I park near the emergency room, the most well-lit area, push my keys through my clenched fists and make a run for my car. Some nights are so beautiful I can hardly endure them, the frozen breath in the dark blue winter sky. Some nights are so black I can hardly imagine ever seeing the sun again and who would know if I ever came home again?

With Josh gone, I dream that I have aged overnight, my dark circles blacker, my hair cut into layers, my skin grey and worn. In the dream, I tell myself that I have to accept how I look, that this new look must become what I consider beautiful, that I must live with it. Of course, I don’t want to live with it. Lucky for me, I wake up before I start to cry.

On my way home from the hospital every night, I don’t deviate from my time or route, making me a perfect kidnap victim, among other things. I have become something I often suspected of myself -- predictable. In one of the front yards I pass each night, there is a little nativity scene on display even though Christmas has come and gone. Each day I expect it will be put away, but it’s glowing every night, the figures weighted down by what I cannot imagine.


Cheri said...

Oh thats so sad Michelle.

Short bus and Special said...

There way down by crazy glues! Merry XXmasses!

The Butterfly Bar said...

Your story is getting better, taking more chances.

And it is sad. I've often thought about nativity scenes in people's front yards--that no matter how the story begins, we all know it's ending.

Peace out.

Charles Gramlich said...

The nativity scene is an interesting metaphor because it depends so much on what your beliefs are about Jesus. It could symbolise foolish hope, a mistake, or symbolize that death comes from hope, or it could symbolise hope itself, the rising. So many potential meanings. Great story.

Susan Miller said...

These characters are tragic but you have brought them to us and they now seem like old friends.

My first thought when I started reading was, "Oh good, here they are again."

the walking man said...

With Coley now gone from the picture life returns to "normal." Just the two of them, each an anchor on the others ass but in the overall the anchor that allows each to weather the waves of high tide.

The ending of the nativity scene is startling in it's way because in that tradition it is the sign for the birth of hope and here it is late January (after the auto show) and it still stands.

Josette knows she must change but can't find her way to it and Josh knows he must change but wants to change life for death.

JR's Thumbprints said...

I just read all three posts to your story. Some familiar places I see. Makes me want to revisit The Tap Room near Alter Road.

Besides being raped by his father, I'm hoping to get more insight into Josh's current actions. What set him off this time? What will Josette do to keep them together? It's a very heavy and dark story you got going there.