He was staring at the gray walls and saw the small crack that ran down from the corner. The crack was like an old friend. They had spent a lot of time together, and he knew the outlines of the crack better than he knew the lines in his palm.
He heard a sound in the hallway. Loud voices. No one around here spoke in loud voices. Was something wrong? If it was, they would tell him. He heard a sound at the door. Knocking.
His voice cracked from lack of use. "Yes?" The door opened a bit.
"Yo! Mr. Guy! How's it hanging, dude!" A head poked in the door, grinning widely. He concentrated on the face, trying to bring it into focus. It was difficult.
"Do I know you?" It was a struggle to say each word. The head was followed by a body. The body seemed almost to vibrate, and it hurt his eyes to look at it.
"Do you know me? Aah, knock that shit off! It's The Wiz!" The person's eyes swept the room, taking it all in at once. The person seemed tall, but that could be because he was always sitting. Standing up hurt.
"Did I know your mother?" It seemed the only explanation. He did not know many young people.
"Yo mama! It's Wiz, man! Remember? We used to share digs! Waaay back when, last century!" This person was looking into his eyes, looking for some semblance of recognition.
"But you're so young." He couldn't remember this "Wiz" person. He couldn't remember much. Some days it felt good just to remember his name.
The person burst into laughter, then paused. "Yeah, well, I guess you forgot. All those years of espresso, man. They're just now finding out--hypes you up, keeps your brain cells going, keeps you young."
"Espresso" The word seemed familiar. A memory almost came. "I... I remember a smell..."
"Yeah, man. Coffee. Speaking of which." The person reached into his pocket and pulled out a bag of something. "Jamaican Blue Mountain, fresh roasted in my own roaster."
It smelled good. He took the bag and held it closely to his chest. The smell seemed to help him remember. "I remember...rain, fresh air, a city..."
"Seattle, man. Best place in the world. Fresh air, unlike this stuff here! Jeeze, it's noon and it feels like midnight! Can't even see the sun!"
This puzzled him. "Sun?" He remembered a bright light. But it seemed so long ago.
"Never mind, man. Listen, I can only stay a couple of minutes. Gotta go see El Presidente."
"The president?" He looked carefully at the person's clothes. This person was wearing a shirt with colors that hurt his eyes. He didn't see colors in this place. He had on blue colored pants. Jeans. That's what they were called. "You don't look right to meet the president."
"Ah, fuck him. He's the one wanted the meeting. He don't like it, he can suck my dick! That jerk-off--wants to send me to the moon colony to fix some problem or another!"
"Outer space?" He remembered. The moon was in outer space.
"Yeah, but I hate travelling. What have we got Virtual Reality for, if we're just going to strap ourselves in and blast off?"
"I...I can't remember. Have I ever been in space?" He concentrated, but he was getting tired again.
"Almost. There was that time, back in your early years with AT&T. They were gonna send you, but then changed their mind. Remember?" The person paused. "No, I guess you wouldn't. They decided they wanted you to convert that old program to Unix. What a crock!" The stranger smiled sadly. "We tried to get you to shuck it, move back to Seattle, do some real work. You were too busy."
"Work. Did I work?" Work seemed familiar. The smell helped.
"Over 30 years on the same damned program. A life's work." The stranger looked away and spoke softly. "Shame it was wasted. Whole thing's obsolete now." He looked at his watch. "Whoa! Gotta scoot!" The person seemed to leap to his feet.
This stranger smiled kindly down at him. He thought the person looked nice. He wished he could remember. "Take care, big Guy."
The room was empty again. He wondered if he imagined it, but then he felt the bag in his arms again. It smelled good. This person had given it to him. He held the bag tighter. It smelled like memories.
The door opened. It was The Nurse again. He remembered The Nurse. He did not like her. "Well, now, did we have a nice visit?" The Nurse moved across the room to him. "Oh, we even got a present!" The Nurse did not look nice even when she smiled.
The Nurse pried the bag from him. She was strong. "Now, now, Gus, you know what happens when you drink coffee."
He was puzzled. "What?"
"Oh, you silly boy! Why you start getting all active!" She put the coffee in her pocket. "And then you get difficult to deal with." She was headed towards the door. "And we wouldn't want to be difficult, would we?" She stopped. "Would we?"
"No." The door closed and she was gone. The smell faded.
He stared at the gray walls again. He found his friend, the crack. It was comfortable looking at the crack. For a moment, something tugged at his mind. A smell. No, nothing ever smelled here. It was always the same.
Remember Lord of the Flies? I had to read the book and watch the movie for high school English class. In case you slept through that part of class (like I tried to), here's the plot summary: A bunch of boys are stranded on a deserted island, where they quickly regress to a primitive state and begin painting their faces, throwing each other off cliffs, and watching Home Shopping Network.
Well this is peanuts compared to what happens to me when my wife leaves town for a week, as she recently did. After being married for four years, this was going to be the longest time we'd been separated from each other.
The first day was pretty good. I sort of rattled around the house for a while, and then realized that I could have pizza for dinner! And, I could have whatever toppings I wanted (Wives, I've discovered, are not fond of jalapena/anchovy combination pizzas.) This was just the beginning of the long downward slide.
By mid-week, I was discovering the joys of getting dressed directly from the
washer/dryer. This actually makes a good deal of sense (provided, of course,
there are no wives around). You wash your clothes, move them to the dryer, put
them on, and undress directly into the washing machine. I feel this is an
important step forward for civilization, as this frees up great wads of closet
space that we could now use to help remedy the homeless situation ("Oh,
that's just Ralph, he lives in our closet").
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