I lay stiff and still on the board
. They wheel me through corridors to various locations. They think I cannot hear them, but I do.
My boss comes up to my right hand side. I have been wheeled up to my desk, so that I can see the screen, my arms limp and thin membranes running along the arms of my wheelchair. "Can she really see anything?" she asks, a concerned and puzzled look peering from behind her stiff plastic tortoise shell glasses, the kind in style for bosses these days, I was told. My eyes dart about, reading the text with effortless ease. My eyes have never been the problem.
My assistant who comes with me to work asserts that I can see just fine, but she does not tell them that I can hear them, for I made her promise. My boss smirks and then twists her mouth like someone trying too hard to be concerned for a legless man trying to cross the street on a skateboard, when she would never help him, really. "Well, okay then. I'll be back in a bit to touch base with you." She says this more to my assistant than to me, for she loves eye contact, loves making people look through those greeny brown frames to see her. I don't miss that, either.
Later on, as I am wheeling myself, lazy eyed and with one and only one focus across my left shoulder (my neck support is broken and the replacement is on back order, which reminds me of my friend whose prosthetic arm requires batteries from Germany and it's been 3 years and still no batteries), up to my apartment ramp. I overhear my downstairs neighbor talking to my landlord as he and his nephew cross the street. My landlord owns the building next to mine and his nephew is renovating it. When I said I was moving out, my landlord decided to move his nephew in, until the renovation is complete. She asks the nephew when he's moving, and he tells her he'll be in in a few weeks, pointing up to my side of the building. "Only I'm moving in there," he says, following his finger up to the second floor. She glows, I can almost hear her joy; she clucks her approval. Oh really. Won't that be wonderful.
When I come back downstairs to run some errands, I can hear the landlord and the nephew talking. "Do you think she realizes she has to be out by the 31st?" pipes up the nephew as he sweeps fresh sawdust from the sidewalk.
"Well, maybe we should remind her, you know, just in case." My landlord pulls out a sheet of weak tissue paper and a pencil; I'm watching it all through the peephole. I don't say anything, but I can't really talk anyway. My feeding tube is in the way. Between my slippered feet, an envelope appears. I almost fully topple over trying to reach at it, my hands heavy lumps of dough and worthless fingers. I arrive at my friend Dalia's house. She has known me for a long time and is used to watching my face to see what I want. By the time I get there, my face is practically white with straining and I will regret it later, when she is slathering cold cream on my cheeks to soften them. I mouth words but they don't come out...
Dalia understands. She takes the envelope, unopened, from the pocket in my lap and holds it out in front of my face where I can see it, and slowly, luxuriously, rips it up and throws it into the grill on the back porch. It's where she's discarded many of the letters I've brought her. She burns them for me because she knows well that I can read them and that I just don't want to, and my time is too precious. I blink twice to thank her, and she drives me home. She understands what I need.
Later in the night, I start in my bed. The clock strung from the ceiling where I can see it is bleeding 3:30, and even though I am off the following day, I am uneasy. My stomach has wakened me to say that it is empty. The assistant had just earlier put me to bed after cleaning out my side bag and filling up a new glucose bag for me to suckle on at night. It hadn't been 4 hours and I was empty. My tongue still works, so I poked about inside my mouth to see if maybe there was just a kink in the tube, only to find no obstruction. I can't find my feeding tube.
I am more angry than anything, and being hungry just gives me reason. If I'd have swallowed it, I would be dead, so now I'm just sticking out my chin and narrowing my eyes. With that, I hear the first audible sound. It is clearly coming from me.
I have long gotten used to my limbs not doing what I want, so I stopped trying to make them move. I don't flail about anymore like a man whose arms have fallen asleep in the night, for I learned long ago my limbs were not sleeping, they were dead. I have also long forgotten solid food or cigarettes. I would too have forgotten the feel of moist peat moss and pine needles if Dalia and her boyfriend hadn't taken off my shoes for me and danced them, weightless, on the ground outlining the swingset in this park they had newly built down the street from our favorite restaurant, where they can liquify anything for me, even gumbo and beans, if they water it down good. But I didn't forget; my friends wouldn't let me.
Still angry, I rocked about, rolling as much of my body as I could with as much muscle as had left. All of the sudden, my right arm flies up and clips my left ear, startling me worse than the neighborhood gunfire. My arm slowly flops back in place in my lap. Hmm, I think.
Since I can still close my eyes, I do so and picture my arm moving again like it did, only this time not hitting me. Like a magic show levitation, I open my eyes and my arm is hovering in front of me like a hummingbird in slow motion, no wait, still motion, perfectly still. Now, I am really, really hungry.
They removed my fridge a long time ago and replaced it with the small portable kind you use in college, to save electricity, they said. And without my feeding tube, the stiff bags of broth and juice are no use, as they are diluted in portions I have never been told. The whole building feels asleep as my body is slowly waking up, limb by limb. Like water creeps, creeping up the walls to flood a home, knocking a loose log against the door to talk you into opening it and letting in flood waters, so came up and around my body the ringing of skin remembering itself. My face discovered smile, my throat voice, and God, that awful and exquisite hunger.
In the morning my assistant had a hard time finding me, for she never looked out on the balcony, where I was watching the pigeons being fed by my downstairs neighbor. An empty bag from McDonald's that shortly before held my first meal in years. I smiled at her. Her worried glance asked the question, how can this be?
"I never really left you," I said. "I was always, always here."
Nodeshell rescued, and here is the moral: Despite my mistakes in the past, I am NOT retarded. I know exactly what you are saying, and just because I ignore you doesn't mean I don't hear you. Stop fucking treating me like I am some unteachable child, you fucking ignorant corporate FUCK.
*Ahem* thank you