“YOU PICKED ORANGE” by SSK Chapter 32
or: “Once Again, I Need To Ask That You Read This Book In An Odd Way, As It's An Odd Book” (And I don't know why I can't line up these subtitles sometimes so they're nice and pretty.)
I must beg your patience once more (not to worry; it won't be the last time): if you would reacquaint yourself with Chapter 23, the Saturday after the Friday when They transferred my husband from the Asylum and back to the ER because he had been nauseated, vomiting, had a horrible headache and pain so visceral that all he could do was scream, groan, bellow and swear like a sailor. He couldn't tell me (or his nurse, who sat on her skanky ass at the nursing station, ignoring my beloved's screams and bellows) what hurt or why, and well, reacquaint yourself with 23.
Because I edited something out of that experience, and it's been stinging my writer's brain ever since.
K had come back from his third MRI on the second of the three trips we would make to the ER, and even though they'd virtually covered him in scopalomine patches (for nausea) he was still screaming and bellowing and swearing, which, when you think about it, is pretty much a remarkable display of verbal talent for a guy who'd had a... you know. And a big one.
We were waiting for the doctor to come back with the film of K's head, and I was so nervous I began to pace outside of K's drapicle. He was still swearing and bellowing, and there was not thing one I could do about it. So, I paced.
I had just gone to the nursing station to ask for a cup so that I could get some water (I felt like my mouth was full of cotton bolls), and a nice lady gave me a small cup. Before I could fill it (there was a dispenser right at the counter) a woman, about 40, burst out of one of some drapicles, and marched up to me.
She stuck her chin out, and placed her right hand on her hip. She glared at me, looking as if she was going to beat me insensible because I had done some dastardly thing. I looked benignly at her, with good reason, because I didn't know why she was glaring at me. Really, the look on her puss made me think that SHE thought that I was a professional puppy kicker or something.
I waited for her to speak, but at least 30 seconds went by, and nothing. The hum and chaos of the ER seemed to just... stop; we were being watched.
I was just about to turn away and get my water, when she finally spoke. “Is that your husband in there?” said the nameless puppy protector, pointing a 'J'accuse!” finger at Kimit's little corner of the world, from which emitted groaning and swearing and gasps of pain.
“Yes,” I said, “Thanks for asking.” I really needed water, so I filled my cup. I sipped. Aaaah. Those cotton bolls were shrinking. I sipped more, then downed the rest. I filled it again, drank off half and turned, only to find that this woman had tippy-toed around me, and was blocking my way back to K's drapicle.
The silence, with a knife you cut it. People stopped moving. Patients gained patience. It was eerie. That's how it feels, when you're being watched. (Is it just me, or do I notice eerie shit more than anyone else because of my chosen profession? Writing! Jeez, get your head out of the gutter! Well, I suppose writing is a form of prostitution, but then, what job isn't?)
“Is there something I can do for you?” I asked her, curtly, as she was, let's face it, annoying me, and in my way.
She put her left arm on her left hip and announced to all and sundry, “You know,” she spluttered, “You and your husband are not good Christians!”
Yeah. I dropped the cup. (Good thing it was a small one.) “Come again?” I asked, truly, really, thinking that I had misheard her.
“You,” she said, in full umbrageousity (really, those OED people hate my guts), “and your husband are using filthy words and are not behaving like good Christians!”
I leaned to my left, my elbow now resting on the nursing station counter; surprisingly, I felt the epitome of relaxed, because I was about to say something that 99.999% of humanity never comes up with until it's far too late to use- the perfect response to an extremely weird comment.
I said, in a normal conversational tone, “And that's your fucking business because why?”
The ER, as a whole, said, “Whoa!”
As for the representative of “Stuff You Are Allowed To Say”, you'd have thought I had struck her with an angry skunk. I, bizarrely, was thinking with the clarity of polar ice.
She turned a shade of crimson I've never seen, but took one last swing at the ball: “You,” she proclaimed, “Are not a good Christian woman!”
And this is where that clear thinking lead me. I picked up the cup I'd dropped, snagged a towel from the linen cart, laid the towel on the small amount of water I'd dropped, and said, “There's a very good reason for my husband and I not behaving like good Christians,” in my quiet voice (not that I'd been unseemly loud to this point) .
By now, you all know what it usually means when I speak quietly: I'm enraged, and it guarantees an audience, almost every time. And this ER audience was waiting, breathless, for my next sentence, which was: “Wanna hear it?”
At this point, she looked like a cobra being dazzled and confused by the shimmying fakir and his little cobra flute- she looked hypnotized. And, she nodded.
I crushed the cup, tossed it in a perfectly arced throw into the trash can behind the nursing station desk, and said, in a NOT quiet voice, “HE'S IN PAIN AND HE HAD A STROKE, YOU STUPID BITCH!!”
She was stunned. (And, yes, I flashed back to the platinum haired “Unit Director” pathetic moron on the Fourth Floor at Home Hospital who charged into our room, not to help, but to tell us how “inappropriate” my beloved was being because he was in agony and hollering and swearing.)
The bitch in the ER was still busy being stunned at what I'd said, but went into full gob-smacked mode when I added, “Oh, and I'm Jewish. He's an atheist. Piss off.”
But, after a very few seconds, she tried, she genuinely tried, to get in the last word on this deal. Too bad she didn't quite make it. She took a deep breath, and burbled, “Well... that doesn't... I mean, everyone here... umm... Christians don't... but you're not... uhh...” I let her natter on like that for only a few more seconds, until I, now viciously angry and showing the purist of disdain for her, said, “Oh, go crucify yourself.” I walked back to K's drapicle, aaaand... scene.
I didn't get a standing O, but I know I heard a few hearty chuckles from the staff.
Now: the reason I implored you to go back to Chapter 23, and reread it, then read this chapter:
Today I watched, again, one of my favorite movies of all time, “Biloxi Blues.” The main character, Eugene, has a journal into which he pours his observations and very private thoughts. While he is out of the barracks, the journal is discovered and read aloud. A lot of the writing is not flattering to his cohorts.
One particular part concerns a soldier named Epstein, and Eugene has written that it's opinion that Epstein is a “homosexual”.
Eugene enters now, and in one crackling moment sees what has happened: his very personal and private thoughts have been exposed. Epstein gives the journal back to Eugene, who is now frantic, apologizing, saying that everything in the journal are random thoughts, and observations, and were private. But, he sees the pain his words have caused, and starts to tear out the pages.
Epstein himself stops him, and says, “Eugene, once you start compromising your thoughts, you are a candidate for mediocrity.”
Hit me like a sledge hammer:
I strive hard for “beyond mediocrity”. I strive hard for truth in my writing. If I edit my own experiences, and my own reactions to those experiences because I'm afraid they might not be well received, makes me a liar.
Thanks, Neil Simon. And Eugene and all the gang at Camp Whatever in Biloxi. (Especially that homicidal sergeant they had; jinkies!)
And I still wonder if that woman found a nice cross to string herself up on?