When, after four whole weeks, my illness still drags on, I reach a point of decision. I determine, reasonably, I believe, to confine – or rather, perhaps, to consign – myself to the bed, in order that I might either sleep myself to health or else be done with it once and for all to give up the ghost.
In bed with me, I’ve got some water, Mucinex, a bottle of wine, the TV remote, toilet paper in lieu of Kleenex, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman, and an enormous pair of wireless headphones. That’s all.
I don’t know how long I’ve been here.
Deep inside my head, in the part of me where I’ve always assumed my brains to be, something crackles and whines. It goes o-o-on and o-o-on, surprisingly loud, really, until finally, I open my eyes up and catch a glimpse of my hand.
It does not appear real. My hand, I mean. I can see too much of it maybe, and too clearly. All the sides at once and the colors are all wrong.
My hand looks like a giant flea.
The legs twitch against the backdrop of my yellow bedspread and off it goes. Leaping. Across yellow hills of sand. Away…
I hear fleas can leap amazing heights and once I read a story about a man who trained a flea to pull a little circus wagon but I don’t want my hand to pull a little circus wagon so I have to put a stop to this, I know. Surely it cannot have gotten far.
What I do is I send out signals, like ripples in all directions around me to locate the flea which is really my hand. Up through the hills which are really my bedspread and down through the mattress, too. The ripples vibrate – I can feel them – sending me sinking down into the mattress, deeper and deeper, and all the while my hand is skipping further and further away from me.
It has left me this time hollow and for good and I am not paying enough attention to where it is I am going I am sinking distracted as everyone else in these days now I jerk this way and that way now aware now that I am about to be struck now by the Hermann Park kiddie trai-ai-ai-ai-ai-ain-
-“Dude! Harry! Are you alright?” Something slaps me and I see the something is my friend, Wren, and not at the scene of a train accident but back in my room. I cannot recall giving Wren my house key.
“The flea…” I say, by way of explanation, rolling myself across the pile of assorted junk on my bed.
Wren backs away. She says, “Dude, you’ve got fleas?”
I say, “Just one. I’m fine. I just quit smoking is all.”
Scrawny Wren races around my room. “This ain’t what nicotine withdrawal looks like, Harry. Shit, you aren’t even what heroin withdrawal looks like.” She straightens my hair which needs straightening, probably, and sits me in my big comfy chair. A thermometer which is not mine is thrust into my mouth. She gives me a beverage I interpret to be ginger ale, though I do not recall ever having tasted ginger ale before. One just knows, I suppose.
Then she leaves.
My phone texts say that, while I’ve been away, things at work have fallen apart and things in my political group have fallen apart. On the TV, I watch as they close the government down.
It’s all coming to an end now. It all ends with me, sitting here sniffling while the world burns.
I’m afraid to look down at my hands.