Some Severe Situations #7: “A Conversation Amongst Friends”Fearful Features,News Joe DeRosa
Going to sleep is easy. Staying asleep is where it gets complicated. Once I lay down, I pass right out. My days are long. My job is draining. Mentally, I mean. So by the time I get home and eat dinner, I’m wiped. But once I’m out it’s like my body knows and it wants to work against me or something. Sometimes I actually think my body is rebelling against my brain and it literally wakes me up out of protest. I mean, look at me. You can see I don’t exactly take care of myself. I just don’t have time. I’m at that desk easily ten hours straight. I eat lunch while I work. Out of a can. Or something from the vending machine I grab on the way in. I’m so goddamned tired and shaken up every morning I can’t even contemplate making a sandwich to bring. Christ. I don’t even have anything to make a sandwich with. I’m never able to get to the grocery store.
Anyway, I know I’m digressing. Trying not to work myself up here.
You asked me to describe his face. It’s mostly dark when he’s there. Aside from the little bit of light that comes in through the window. And that’s just moonlight, so it’s not much. And it barely reaches the chair. So his face is mostly shadowed. But from what I can see, I know I definitely don’t wanna see any more of it. Horrible. Deformed isn’t the word. It’s…it’s…
Sorry. Excuse me. Do you have a tissue? Thank you. My nose and eyes run. Maybe it’s tears. Ha. I don’t know…
His face…right. Everything on it, from what I can see, looks like it’s in the wrong place. And his head looks…big. Too big. Way too big. And bumpy. Not bumpy, like, swollen. You ever see one of those pumpkins at Halloween that have all the little tumors on them? Like that. At least that’s what I can make out of it.
And he just sits across from me. He sits there. Staring at me. I imagine now he’s smiling, but I can’t tell. He never moves. He never gets up. He just sits there. And talks. That’s what makes me think he’s smiling. It’s what he says.
No. That’s not true. It’s the sound of his voice. It’s monotone, but it still…hold on. I can never get enough water. God. He sounds like he has two voices at once. One was very high-pitched. Like a sped up tape. The other one is like gravel. Mucous-filled gravel. And for some reason, the two mixed together…it’s so taunting. So mocking and terrifying. He must be enjoying this. Shit. I’m sorry. I always spill shit. I’m sorry. Hand me another nap…tissue…
The words are always the same. “I’m closer now.” That’s all he ever says. Over and over. But he never moves. Sometimes I’ll nod off a bit and then I’ll hear him. “I’m closer now.” And he sounds closer. I’ll jolt but…there he still is…in the chair across from my bed. He rocks back and forth, too. Did I mention that? It’s not a rocking chair, but he rocks. That’s the other thing that makes me picture him grinning. Anyway, I have a theory that my body is mad at me for neglecting it. So it won’t let me sleep. So it calls on this…thing…and then it wakes me up when he gets there. You know, to teach me a lesson. To scare me into…I don’t know…respecting it.”
That’s funny. I think the exact opposite. About my own situation, I mean. It’s my mind playing games. I’m having these visions every time I’m with a woman now. The other night I was out to dinner with a woman I’d met on the train. We were eating…and I knew it was all going very well…but then…Jesus, her eyes. It’s hard to explain. I guess…I guess it looked like her eyes were…coming undone. They didn’t look like they were falling out of her head…they just seemed to be coming apart at the seams. So I was waiting. I felt like, eventually, I’d scream. I didn’t want to scream. But eventually I did…because the fucking things oozed right out of the sockets. So then she screamed too. She didn’t know what made me do it. She didn’t have a clue. And once again I knew she—like the other thirteen—didn’t know what was happening. With her eyes. When I told her why I screamed, I lied. I didn’t want to alarm her. I said I had very mild Tourettes. She believed me, I think.
Christ, I hate this. Nobody has a cigarette? Ah, shit. I should quit anyway.
So yeah…after the eyes went…and then there were holes. Big holes. I just don’t mean empty sockets. It was weird. I mean…her head suddenly had two gaping holes in it…where the eyes were…but you could see straight through. But not to…not to what was behind her. I mean…straight into another place. It was kind of like seeing inside her thoughts. Shit. This does’t make sense. It’s just too hard for me to translate. I know I sound crazy. More importantly, I know I’m not, but that doesn’t matter. Saying you’re not crazy is like saying you’re not married…the people you really wanna convince never believe you. Trust me on that. Anyway, who cares? I’m not getting laid as often because I’m seeing women’s faces…whatever…”
I didn’t think it was possible for a man…I mean…a man like me…to cry. Ever. I think I told you about when I was a kid and we would stomp cats’ heads in…that was for real. That never bothered me. I loved it. But a person’s head was…is…is different. I swear to God I hate being a guy sometimes. Being a guy means I gotta sit here now and justify why it was OK that I cried. Her scalp just…stuck to my shoe. The whole thing looked like food. Underneath it did. Isn’t that weird? I guess meat is meat is meat. Our skin…when it’s off of us…it looks like stuff you see in the supermarket. And that’s why I cried, I guess. When you realize you’re an animal.
Nah, fuck it. I’m not going soft. You know what? I feel really…comfortable in here. I’m kind of glad I’m here.
Another time…I’ll tell ya’ about another time I did something. Just this one time, she deserved it. I know that sounds messed up, but she was better off after. And I’m telling you, I’m not exaggerating here, when I say how awful she was. That’s why it was so great. Right in the middle of her mouthing off…boom. I slammed the plank right into her. And it all just came off at once. It looked like a cherry slushy was pouring out of her face. Just…blah…dumped right on down. Awesome. And she just stopped talking. I almost wish she didn’t. It would actually have made the annoying shit she was spewing seem appropriate if it was coming out of a busted head. I’m not sure why.
All of you sound so tired. Who cares about any of this? What does any of it matter? Stop expecting things. People die. People get killed. So what? You’re not bad. Nobody’s bad. Nobody’s special either. Even if you kill people, you’re not bad. Even if you just watch them die and don’t help them, you’re not bad. And if bad things happen to you, that’s just life. People expect too much. Be patient. Life is about patience.
I never complain. Any time that awful shit happened to me, I never complained. And any time I did something that someone else thought was awful, I never felt guilty. Guilt? No way. It all balances out. Life is just a circle. Your feelings and your wants and whatever happens to you are just parts of other people’s circles. Everything intersects. Your body and your brain and other people’s bodies and their brains…it’s all one.
When I was alive I didn’t care. At all. About anything. You know why? I surrounded myself with people who understood me. Even if I hurt them, they understood me. And I surround myself with the same kinds of people now. I don’t have anybody in my life…my life? Ha ha. Right. My…whatever it is…I don’t have anybody in it that doesn’t get what the deal is. My friend with the deformed face says the same thing all the time. He gets it. He’s so in tune. And patient. Maybe too patient. Next time I see him I’m gonna tell him to do what he’s been waiting to do.”