Previously, We accompanied Maurice to the hospital, where he was interned and got surgery. Alex, the helpful paramedic ("Green Eyes") offered us a ride (home), we took him upstairs for the same, we did it, and somehow we fell asleep. We wake up, and Alex is gone. We've spent the last two chapters thinking about him and our blog, futzing with it to the point that the blog has become frozen and inaccessible. Now what? John's father will show up for his annual "visit," a few days earlier than expected. The core sentence of this chapter: "You wonder whether he ever raped me."
The phone rings.
It's not that simple, of course, the phone doesn’t ring. Instead, it speaks a pop song to me, or, more precisely, it speaks to me like a future ex would during separation proceedings. I've tried everything, even phone calls (I hate phone calls, both ways), tried everything to download a ring tone like "rrringg, rrringg," a tone that nobody remembers from the analogue days. I've hit the Download ringtone now button too often, I've been charged for said tones occasionally, I've stamped on the ground like Rumpelstiltskin, I succeeded once, when my pop song was replaced by a different one that I had to learn with difficulty—it takes some time before you realize that the dahhhduhhdahh is actually yours when it happens in your pocket and not on TV—but it has happened too often now, and I love it like you love your ex after a bitter divorce.
"It’s coming back to me now," the cell sings again.
It's the hospital. Maurice. We killed Maurice and now he's dead. A neutral voice informs me about my identity. "We have you down here as next of kin," the voice continues. My parents are still alive, my stupid brother is, tricks never die, this is the first death notice of my life. Next of kin. This is the moment. "I would like to provide you with an update on the condition of our patient. Mr Dymond has undergone surgery,"
"Wait" I interrupt,"is that Maurice? Maurice Dymond?" A pause. Yes, it is.
"Mr. Maurice Dymond received blood transfusions and is now in stable condition, but still under intensive care. He has regained consciousness after surgery, and is sleeping now."
"Wait," I say, "wait." I put the phone down, pour myself another cup of degrading coffee. Then I put the cup next to the cell phone, go to the bathroom, and wash my hands. I'm back in the kitchen, where cup and cell-wife await my return. Did I kill Maurice or not? The voice is still there, no sign of impatience, he's possibly used to this, even trained for it, in case the news would be different. I apologize for the intermission. "Mr Lee," the voice continues, "there is something more. I have a message for you, from Dr. Sandeman, the MD of the ER. She's asking you to see her, urgently, at the beginning of her next shift, tonight around ten o'clock. She must discuss important matters with you, concerning Mr. Dymond. She absolutely hopes you can make it, despite the late hour. She apologizes for the inconvenience. You might then briefly visit with Mr. Dymond, the IC unit is always open to visitors in emergency cases. Would you please confirm?"
"How do you mean, confirm?"
"That you will come."
"Yes," I say, "yes. Maurice OK?"
"Considering the circumstances."
"He's going to live?"
"His condition is stable. He's under IC. Any problem, any situation, we know within seconds."
I'm going to ask more questions, it's like you've won the lottery big time, and they call you, and you want to know how they are going to pay, and when, by check, or wire, and whether you should get a haircut. The voice cuts me off.
"Please confirm," it asks.
"Can I ask you one more question," I ask.
"One more," the trained voice answers patiently.
"Who are you?"
"I'm Quinton Hayes, the head nurse of the IC department. You did invite me once to your premises, four years ago." He was possibly my last trick. I confirm.
I sip stale, colder, bitterer coffee; a new bird is singing outside, perhaps another martin, the sound is faint, the windows are closed now (air conditioning). You suffer when you look at the heat outside, the water tower is suffering too. I'm fairly selfish as a person, and could stay in character by thinking that Maurice isn't a bad substitute for Alex. He has no nick name, right, it's just Maurice. What is it about “Maurice?” Yeah, right, there was this movie. Maurice Chevalier? No, just Maurice. The Brits sometimes play with their surnames, Dymond, perhaps he's Dy, or Lady Dy. I'm not thinking at all. Time pendles, the water tower is melting, my public parts have gone missing, I'm falling asleep on my chair.
The doorbell rings. Alex is back! It must be him. Nobody else knows where I live. He's back from the convenience store and brings cigarettes and love and fresh condoms for an extreme fuck. No need to answer the intercom, I have an erection already. I'll buzz the buzzer. I hear the push-click of the entrance door below, then heavy steps. As if somebody carries a heavy load. Slow, onomatopoetic steps. Something is wrong. The steps turn at the penultimate landing, I can see them now. It's my father.
The blog is frozen, I'm frozen. Usually I swing from one uncool state to the next, but my father does wonders. He makes me freeze so fast, I would make a good guinea pig for cryopreservation efforts.
I await my father on my landing as he climbs the last flight of steps. I stay motionless, focus on him as if he doesn't exist, looking through him, his bag is heavy, heavier than last time, he's a year older. I step back, backwards, back into my apartment. He puts his bag down, gasps, heavy breathing of the unerotic kind, he's exhausted. He's waiting for me to say something. I reciprocate. He isn't saying 'hello,' or 'howdy,' he doesn't know how to overcome my threshold. So he explains why he came earlier, he couldn't reach my voice mail, something to do with his boss. No embrace. I'm thinking whether I should submit him to an awkward handshake, shoulders and body stiff, the arm bent at a stiff angle, you've seen this in Nazi-flicks. I did the Nazi shake to him on some occasions but won't do so today. I retreat further into the kitchen, he follows with his bag. "You want coffee," I state, my first words. Yes, he wants coffee. I hand him the poisonous brew, let his visit commence.
"Joe sends you his greetings," he says.
"How's Joe doing," I state.
"Fine," my father says, "he's finally got on with his divorce."
It isn't complete clear what he wants to say, as usual, it’s rarely clear to me what he wants to say. I've learned a lot from him though, how stupid people are—not that he ever explained, although he's also complaining a lot how stupid people are. I’m more stupid than him, for sure, so I've completely given up on syllogisms, or other debating tools, when we fight, it's not a debate. I really try hard not to argue, and when I succeed, it's because I've got him so mad, he runs after me, I jump off the cliff, (Wile E. Coyote), and he follows. It's very easy to make him mad, that's my weapon of choice, NRA, take note. I make him mad about everything, then I'm off to bed, he's off the cliff, no beer left in the fridge. We do this for three days, then we have a real fight, body language from the street. I grab his belongings, throw them into his bag, throw the bag outside, he knows better, I'm six times stronger than him, we had a real fight once, he remembers, he keeps me going at the gym. When we had that fight, he rolled down the stairs, some ribs were broken, he had to drag himself to the emergency room, I did not follow up, nobody wanted to know. Mother and he are divorced, he left town, found a job in Atlanta. Why does he always come back?
Perhaps his skin is so thick, he feels nothing. He spends a holiday week on the beach (cut short to three days), and I feed him one hamburger each night, plus booze, plus not enough booze. Perhaps he comes here for weight loss. Perhaps it's just a pretext, his beach towel time under the melting sun, perhaps it's plain guilt, self-flagellation; or it's just for show, perhaps he wants his boss or Joe to believe in his family life, he's a father, my father, my father and your father were fathers, he has sons, my son, John junior, who knows, or he likes to talk about his vacation, he's taking vacations in Paris, TX, and Georgia Beach, France.
He drinks the poisonous coffee (it's so bitter Miss Marple should plan a visit). He's shaking his head but drinks it, puts the dirty cup back on the table, and survives. "You know what," he says without prior warning, "I'm with the Tea Party now." Does he really mean it? Should I say anything back? Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit, right? "Cool," I say.
I should have left it at that, but no. "You're a Tea Party activist, or passivist," I go on. Replies he, with timing: "Both."
I lost. He’s got some brain cells left. I should beat him up now.
I get the spare room ready without further comments. The ambulant desk is on rolls. It goes into my own bedroom, there's just enough space. I superficially re-drape the sheets of the spare bed, don't change them, let a dirty old man sleep in dirty old sheets, in fact, I didn't change them since last year, he must have used them before, perhaps he's still sexually active, don't let's go there.
How to abuse a father in the meantime? Step one, no welcome. Done. Step two, offer poison. Done. Step two-A, let him die. Fail. Step three, let him ask for the booze. Step four, there's no booze left (Alex helped). Step five, be unpredictable. On some occasions, I go and fetch a few cans of beer from the nearest convenience store. On others, I don't, I'm off, busy, see you later, leave him key-less behind, there is no spare key, he's off to the beach, he returns, he can't get in, there are no flower pots, my cell-phone is on voice mail. The first day is almost over, two more days to go.
You wonder whether he ever raped me? No, he didn't. My mother just caught him on the wrong side of my body, when the thing stopped. Let me explain, I'm politically incorrect here in a terrible way, I know. I didn't really care. He sucked my dick, it didn't hurt. He never asked me to suck his. I wasn't hurt, or devastated, or desecrated, at least subjectively I wasn't. But I think my bipolarity has something to do with it, I learned to compartmentalize, if that's the word, or at least my brain did, the autonomous part, my father in one compartment, other things in others compartments, and myself somewhere else. These compartments are still there, I always have to think outside of some boxes, go back and forth from box to box, these boxes will possibly stay with me for the rest of my life. This back and forth all the time, it must have something to do with my mood swings, I don't know.
I never talked about it. He never talked about it. My mother never talked about it. But when I came out, my mother divorced. I never asked her why (if you wanted to know more about our family, now you do), but I'm sure she thought it was his fault, that he "initiated" me somehow, like some people get initiated to poor argumentation techniques by a third rate teacher who raises two fingers to signal a quote when she can't find the right word (that's obviously not what she thought, bear with me). Yet sometimes, when I cannot sleep, when all fences are down, I agree with my mother and think that my life would be so much easier in the arms of a naked girl who's just won a trophy for fucking me to death.
We're still at step five of the relationship therapy. Be unpredictable. Head or head. It's head, we'll go fetch some booze. I need fresh air anyhow, if that's what Southern Georgia means in early July around noon.
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