Thursday, January 16, 2014
A Day: Part Five
The melancholy of winter never reaches me until the first snow has fallen and melted.
Sun sleeps, blanketed in blue and gray clouds for days. Overcast. Wetness. Slush. Pock marked snow, pooled with dark water. Bare trees. Cigarettes butts and candy wrappers cluster with leaves and soggy sticks in small coves surrounded by brittle ice shelves fused for a moment to the concrete curbs of the city streets. Paths are found again after the first snow. The snow is trampled, compressed, warmed with the friction of footwear, precisely or carelessly chosen. Dirt. Urine stains trickled yellow in collapsed and grainy ice. Feces. Sand and crumbling stones. The landscape will be changing step by step until all that has fallen melts and drains and pools and flows and fogs. It merges with land. It merges with air. Soaked up again by living things of varying age and stamina.
His cigarette stained black and brown with a drag. The vapor from the tobacco becomes liquid in its paper in this cold. He exhales the smoke, hot air steaming in the streetlights of the winter night. "I'm about ready for this blizzard shit to end."
We are a standing on the patio, work over for hours by now. He and I and many others are drowning out the cold night at a bar. I've been drinking since we left work. Same for him, but he is not feeling his drinks the way I am mine, or at least he isn't showing me he is. He hasn't stopped talking since we stepped outside, him to smoke a cigarette, and me, to simply breath the cold open air. "I'm about ready for this blizzard shit to end" are the only words I've understand him say. In the warm and blurry cocoon of my mind I had wandered outside with him in a state of singularity found only in times of extended alcohol consumption. I take a deep breath and squint my eyes, tears welling in my eyes from the light, the smoke, the cold. I arch my back and stretch my chest and feel the pops and fizzles of my body.
Do bears involuntarily stretch while they hibernate? Do their bear brains moonlight during winter, subliminally making there muscles move beneath their fur and slow burning fat, without igniting the synapse that sparks surly aggressive and defensive animal conscientiousness? Does their physiological make up keep them limber in their extended slumber without need of any instinctive awoken awareness? Or do they spend their days awake; while searching for food that the land provides, somehow, sometimes, in some places; while prowling for mates; while protecting their brood; while rolling around and lounging with fellow clan bears also stretching out their muscles after days, weeks, months of sedentary rest? Is it just get up and go and figure it out when you can? When can you figure it out?
"What the fuck are you looking at?"
"I asked if you wanted to come back inside and you just sat there staring off into space. Do you want to go back inside?"
"I'm going to stay out here for a little longer."
"Suit yourself. It's fucking cold out here."
Memories and assumptions trickle into the mind before any real narrative can be established. What the fuck am I looking at? I do not think about it often, but I live my days, now, with a vague feeling of uneasiness and guilt.
And I miss Steph.
Jed exited quickly, breathing irregularly, trying to catch up with Zeke. "Mother fucker" he yelled out loud into the summer night. He reached Zeke and grabbed his shoulder to stop him from walking. "Where are you going?"
"What are you doing?"
"I smashed my thumb, Jed. It's bad."
"Stop being a baby. You're fine."
"I'll see you later."
"You're going to tell your mom, like you always do, and she is going to blame it on me."
"Jed, this isn't about you."
Zeke began to cry.
"What the fuck man?" Jed turned away from him.
Zeke sniffed and wiped his nose and eyes with his wrist. "Where's Steph?" He sternly announced, dropping both hands to his side, blood dripping from his split thumb unto the worn and corroded pavement. Stone, soil, weeds. A weed sprouts and twists through the weight above it, finding a way through corners and nooks and loose pockets of dirt and detritus. It springs upwards, finally upwards, where it waits to be trampled or somehow spared. His blood drips upon the leaves. It pools and drizzles off, down to the concrete, down to the ground. It soaks into the roots.
"I don't know." Jed answered.
"Where am I?" Zeke asked.
"Where am I?"
"I don't know. Here with me?" Jed put his hands out.
"I know." Zeke said. "I don't want that now. I want my mom." Zeke turned around and began to walk away.
Jed stood with his head down for a moment. He felt heat swell in the back of his neck and began to tremble. He clinched his fists, then stretched his fingers into fans. "Why?" He yelled to Zeke.
Zeke stopped and turn around again. "What?"
"Why? Why do you want your mom?"
"I'm done Jed." Zeke started walking again.
Jed began screaming. "Your bitch of a mom! What is she going to tell you? Be more careful, Zeke! Let mama fix that, Zeke! A big retard like you needs to be taken care of, so let me fix that! What happens when she's dead, Zeke? Don't come crying to me when you can't go crying to mama anymore, Zeke, you fuck!"
Zeke kept walking, tears streaming down his face. Then he stopped and turned around. Where is Steph?" he said quietly. He walked home and fell asleep that night crying with his open wound.
After Zeke left, Jed text Steph -what are you doing?-
His thumb becomes infected. He hides its severity and squeezes the puss and thin blood from the wound. Yellow grease and white sebum well around the oily orange water and dark coagulated blood and scab surfaces, cracking and flaking away daily from his hand. He pours hydrogen peroxide into the wound, watching it foam, wiping it clean, wrapping it in rudimentary bandages of toilet paper, paper towel, medical tape, gauze, cotton cloth torn from unworn t shirts. A grease stained napkin from a fast food restaurant. A bar napkin drenched in vodka and beer. Whatever personal care he tended to the wound did not keep the infection from spreading.
"What happened to your friend, Zeke?"
"Mrs. Barbee told me she heard from his mom that he had hurt himself, some how."
"I don't know, mom. Zeke and I don't hang out anymore."
"He had to go to the hospital."
"Okay. What about it?"
"She said there was an infection. They had to remove something."
Jed stared at his Cinnamon Toast Crunch. "I have to go to work."
"First that thing that happened with your friend Dakota and now this."
"Who is Dakota? What are you talking about, Mom?"
"Fine, I can tell you don't want to talk."
"I have to go."
"Fine. Will you be coming home after you are off?"
"I'm going to go over to Steph's after work."
"When exactly am I going to meet this girl you've been spending time with?"
Jed walked out the door of he and his mom's apartment without answering or saying goodbye. It had been a month since he had seen Zeke. It was the first he had heard about the infection that, due to neglect, would require the removal of two-thirds of Zeke's hand.
Aaron C. Molden