How I Deal with Life.....

How I Deal with Life.....

Friday, March 9, 2012

The Unmemory Place

There’s that noise again. That swishing sound. Like a small broom. It’s in his head. Taking away things.. what things? Is it real? He leans back in his chair and looks through the sunroom window. His wife is out there in the swing. She has that little dog on her lap. It’s a cute little dog, but not too cuddly with him. He’d like to hold it, but it runs away most times. It will play chase in the morning and he likes that.

            The sunlight is piercing at an angle through the window. He can see the dust motes dancing. They capture his attention for a moment. They look like dancing thoughts. Is that where his memory went? Is it dancing in streaks of light away from him?

            He picks up a magazine by the chair. The letters don’t make sense. He can pick out a few words, but what do they mean? He flips though the pages and gazes at the slick gloss advertisements for perfume, recipes for chili, and a photograph of a man who looks familiar. He tosses the magazine aside.

            The phone rings. He has to get it. It will ring and ring. He hates the ringing. He goes into the kitchen and raises the receiver to his ear, “Hello?” A woman starts talking. She’s asking about some medicines. What medicines? Her words are jumbling together. What is it he wants him to do?  He tries to tell her to hold on, but his words come out in a tangle. His wife walks into the kitchen. He throws the phone at her in a panic and backs away. His wife starts talking to the lady. His wife understands the lady. He walks back into the sunroom and settles back into his chair. The ray of light is gone and so are the dust motes.

            His wife comes and tells him what the lady said. What lady? He asks his wife three times what the lady said. The third time he almost understands, but his wife looks frustrated. He won’t ask her to explain it again. He only says, “I see”.  His wife is talking about going to the grocery store. He doesn’t want to go. He just wants to stay here, but she is insisting. “We’ll only be gone a minute” she says. He knows that isn’t true, but follows her out of the house into the car anyway. He gets into the passenger seat and closes the door. His wife slides in behind the steering wheel. They pull out of the driveway and a ding ding ding echoes in the interior of the car. “Put on your seatbelt”,  his wife says. He reaches over to grabs the seatbelt, pulls it around it and fumbles with the slid in mechanism. Why do they make these things so hard to put on?

             He peers out the window as the landscape goes by. There’s where Nubbies used to be. When he was in high school all the kids gathered there to park and shoot the shit. And there’s the drug store. Why are there giant plastic rabbits hanging in the window. Must be Springtime. Rabbits mean Spring, don’t they?

            His wife drives too close to the white line and then veers over towards the yellow one. It scares him and he tells her to keep the car straight. “I am”, she says.  She’s going to wreck the car, but she won’t let him drive anymore. Sometimes, when she goes somewhere by herself, he finds the key to the other car and drives to that BBQ place and gets a hamburger or drives to the Pick and Pay and walks around. He always makes sure to get back before she does. He doesn’t know why that is so important. Why must he get back before his wife? He’s a grown man. He should be able to go where he wants to go.

            The way his daughter looked at him last week when he came home after a Pick and Pay trip made him flush with sudden anger. She didn’t say anything, but she was in his house when he got home. Going through his things. What right did she have? And what was that look she gave him? Later his wife told him the daughter was helping. Helping to do what? Everyone has started treating him like he hasn’t got any sense. Him, a man who served his country for twenty-five years. Him, a man who had a top security clearance. Him, a man who always took care of his family, no matter what. His family never lacked for anything. He has always provided for them. Now they look at him strangely. They watch him. He sees the looks. He hears the whispers.

            They pull up to the store. His wife parks and gets out. He fumbles with the door latch. The car door won’t open. He pulls at it. It still won’t open. He wife walks around the front of the car and opens the door for him.

            “Won’t work”, he mutters. “

             “I know”, she says.

            People come up to him in the store. He knows their faces, but can’t recall their names. He tries to speak to hem when they nod to him, but the words short circuit somewhere between his brain and his lips. He stutters and stumbles for worlds. People walk away before he can find the words. Where did his wife go? She was here a few seconds ago. He wanders around the store and sees her in the bread aisle talking to another lady. He approaches and catches snatches of their conversation. His wife doesn’t introduce him to the lady, so he must know her. The lady finally turns to him and smiles,              “And how are you doing today?”, the lady asks.

            “I’m…uh.. the …..”  he holds out his hand. It’s trembling again. It always trembles. He can’t make it stop. . The lady takes his hand and grasps it. “So good to see you”, she says.

            “Goooo…. I mean,.. it’s ….ah, g… good to see you.”

            The lady walks away.  He is bewildered and turns to his wife. “Who was… who was..”

            “Who was that?” his wife prompts. “You know, Grace. She plays the piano at church. You remember?”

            He doesn’t remember, but he shakes his head yes anyway.

            Everywhere they go his wife knows someone and they have to stop and talk. He hates to talk. He was never really one for chit chat, but now that he stumbles so much with his words, he dreads these encounters.

            Finally, they get to the checkout. His wife has the money. He reaches into his back pocket and pulls out his worn brown wallet and opens it. Two one dollar bills. Why does she have all the money? Why does he only have two lousy dollar bills?  He tries to help carry the bag, but his hand is trembling so badly that he can’t get it into the plastic handles. His wife tells him it’s okay and not to worry, but it’s not okay. He wants to carry the bag. He reaches to snatch it from her. The bag almost spills, but his wife catches it. If it had fell, the glass mayonnaise jar would have shattered all over the clean tiled grocery store floor. He pulls the bag forcefully from his wife and they walk out of the store in the fading sunlight. An elderly woman is pushing a cart back towards the store from the parking lot. She is limping. He shoves the grocery bag towards his wife and hurries after the woman. He takes the cart and smiles. She says “Thank you” as he wheels the cart toward the metal cart corral.

            His wife is waiting for him. “She needed help”, he explains when he reaches her.

            “I know”,   she says

           When they get into the car and pull away the car starts ding ding dinging again.

         “Put your seatbelt on” his wife says.

         “Okay”, he says. He reaches over, grabs the seatbelt, pulls it around, and fumbles with the slid in mechanism.

            They drive home and the broom starts sweeping in his head again. He pictures his daughter’s face.

            “What is that girl’s name”, he demands abruptly.

            “What girl?", his wife asks.

            “The girl… that one who… our..”
            “Daughter?” his wife asks. “You mean our daughter?”

            “Yes, that one.”

            “Beth. Her name is Beth. You named her.”

            “He nods his head. “That’s right. Beth.”

            He watches as the scenery blurs past.

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