July 1996 Sketchbook

Am I losing it?

He knew he had finally lost it when he began whistling the song from the ice cream truck. He hated that song, he had hated it even before it was appropriated by the ice cream truck and arranged using bells and blasted through the neighborhood each afternoon. Every afternoon for an hour he heard the truck, as it wandered from one apartment complex to another.

Then one evening he caught himself whistling the song. Not aimlessly or absent-mindedly, but joyfully, wishing there were words to the tune so he could belt them out at the top of his lungs.

That's when he knew he had lost it. He wasn't sure where he had lost it, and he only had a general idea of when he had lost it. But it was gone. And not likely to come back any time soon.

He looked over at Joe, who was sitting at the kitchen table, reading yesterday's paper.

"Joe?" He said.

"Yeah, man," Joe answered without looking up.

"Joe, I've lost it," he said simply.

"Did you look in the living room?" Joe turned the page of the paper.

"That's not what I'm talking about, Joe. I mean that I've finally gone around the bend. Nutso. Loco. Crazy as a bedbug. Daft. Cracked. Touched. Demented." He sat down at the table across from Joe.

Joe finally looked up from his paper and said, "This is news?" He looked back down at the paper.

"Well, it's news to me," he said. He looked off into space. "I suppose it would be clear to other people for quite some time before it was clear to me. That makes sense." He was quiet for a moment, thinking. "But it's now clear even to me that I'm quite wacko."

Maybe it was the calmness in his voice, or maybe it was that the news was less interesting than this, but Joe finally folded up the paper, set it aside and looked straight at him.

"So, what makes you think you've lost it?" Joe asked.

"Well, just now, in the living room, I was whistling the song from the ice cream truck."

Joe looked puzzled for a moment, "Oh, you mean 'Turkey In the Straw'? I hate that song."

"Yeah, I hate it, too," he said. "That's why, when I found myself cheerfully whistling it, that I knew I had lost it."

Joe looked puzzled, "You figure you're insane because you were whistling 'Turkey In The Straw'?"

"Well, it's not just that, but that was what made me realize that I must be nuts." He looked down at his hands for a moment. "Another thing is my living arrangement," he waved his hands around. "I mean, I rent a living room from you. I rent a kitchen at another place, a bathroom at a third place, and a bedroom at yet another place."

Joe slowly nodded. This wasn't news to him. "Yeah?"

"Don't you see, Joe? It makes perfect sense to me. This living room here," he waved at the living room, "is a great living room. It's the epitome of living rooms. All living rooms should look like this."

"Uh, thanks, I guess," Joe said, not sure where this was going.

"But, and I sincerely mean no offense, Joe, your bathroom is sub-par. The bathtub is too short, the shower is positioned wrong, it just isn't a world-class bathroom. So if I rent this whole place, I get a great living room, but a lousy bathroom. And a mediocre bedroom and not such a great kitchen." He stood up and began pacing.

"The thing is, Joe, that this is perfectly obvious to me. Crystal clear." He stopped and looked out the window. "And yet, I am the only person I know who does this." He turned and looked at Joe, "Do you know anyone else who does this?"

"Um, no, actually," Joe replied.

"Have you ever even heard of anyone else doing this?" He stared intently at Joe.

"Um, well, no," Joe shifted uneasily in his chair.

"There you go, then. I am living a lifestyle that I think makes perfect sense. Completely sane. Quite sensible. And yet, I'm the only one in the world who's doing it." Which actually, was a bit of exaggeration, because there was a sailor in Hong Kong who did pretty much the same thing, and there was a couple in Indiana who also followed this same lifestyle, although for completely different reasons.

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