Saturday, April 11, 2009

Release


I left the hospital a week later still slightly dizzy and thinner. I kept the dizzy part to myself. I could rest at home, I just wanted OUT. I was so elated with my impending departure this morning that I stupidly knocked over a nearly full pitcher of ice water on my bedside table in my haste to call Rob to come and get me, quick. I was still swearing and trying to mop up the mess with the bed sheets when he answered.

“Hello?”

“Hey, it’s me, they’re letting me out of this torture chamber!”

“Alrighty, cool… you need me to come after you ?”

“Would you ? I mean, I’d really appreciate it, I don't know who else I could call. God, I so can’t wait to get out of here.”

“Not that I mind, but where the hell is Daisy ?”

“Once she found out that I wasn’t about to expire on her, she went back to that bible camp in the mountains.”

Rob laughed, “I can’t believe her sometimes.”

“I know, but I can’t say much, I wanted her to go. You know how moma depresses me…”

“You know that you could have come here and stayed with me and Wayne.” Rob changed the subject quickly because he could never seem to relegate Daisy’s actions with the demure southern-belle fa├žade she presented to the world.

“Rob, You know I wouldn’t feel right staying with you and your man.”

Even though we hadn’t been an item in over years, his partner was still nervous and jumpy whenever he was in my presence. “Besides, I don’t think Wayne likes me very much.”

“You read too much into things, know that?”

“Yeah, I guess, maybe…” I trailed off.

“Lay back down and get some rest, I’ll be there in a little bit.”

“Uhhh, can you stop by the house and get me some clean clothes to wear home?” I asked hesitantly.


Rob sighed. “You don’t have any clothes, Ken?”

“Well, just the clothes that were on me when I was brought in, they’re pretty funky by now.”

“Anything special?”

“Just a tank and some cargo shorts and some flip-flops…”

“Shit, Ken ! You’re getting out of the hospital, not going to the beach,” He barked but laughed, “You’ll never change!”

It was hard to explain to him that I just wanted to be out in the golden rays of the Spring sun again, wearing as little as possible and soaking it all up. Simply put, it made me feel alive.

“You know you just want my body.” I shot back, deadpan, returning to the conversation.

“Yeah, whatever. Anything else you need?”



Rob arrived 30 minutes later and tossed the clothes to me, “Hurry up, lazy-ass, get dressed, we’re making a run for the border, I’m starved!”

“You’re just trying to fatten me with all those refried beans. You know they cook them in pure lard, don’t you ?”

Rob ignored me, “I’m going down for a wheelchair. Hurry up, you know hospitals creep me out.”

“They creep you out ? Trying being in one for almost a week.” Then it hit me, “Wait a minute, a wheelchair ?”

“It’s the rule, Ken.”

“Damn, do I look that bad ? No, don’t answer that. I am not going out of here in a wheelchair like some old sick fag.” I grumbled. I knew I was being an ass, but I couldn’t seem to help it.

“Ken, you’ve been very sick and it’s the rule, so chill the fuck out!” And with that, he left the room.

When we got to Taco Bell, I realized that I was very hungry. Suddenly, I wanted one of everything on the menu and with gallons of fire sauce. But, I knew better and only ordered three plain tacos and a large Pepsi.

“Is that all you’re getting?” Rob snarled when he saw my tray.

“I better take it easy for now, all that lime jello and chicken broth at the hospital has me spoiled.”

I began to load my tacos up with the fire sauce quickly.

“I thought you were taking it easy, you sure that won’t upset your stomach?”

“Naw, I’ll be alright, I think.” My stomach rumbled ominously.

A dirty group of hillbillies sat at a table across from us and began to noisily eat and complain about the price of eating out. I looked at Rob and grimaced.

“I know…” He motioned to the table of men with a roll of his eyes, "How are you getting along here, I mean, are you glad to be back in NC ?”

“You mean, do I get evil looks when I drive down Main Street with my windows rolled down, blasting the soundtrack to Dreamgirls?” I laughed, “Well, what the hell do you think?”

Rob gasped out loud, drawing a look for the hillbillies and started coughing because he’d almost got choked on his nachos and spewed Mountain Dew out of his nose. Ever since I’d known Rob, I’d took to playing the dumb blonde role occasionally to crack him up when I though he seemed down or too serious. Fact was, I didn’t own the soundtrack to Dreamgirls and I hardly had enough idle time to just go cruising around town in my car just for the sheer hell of it.

“Be careful, Ken. I don’t trust these people, they’re ignorant.” Rob had moved here from Pittsburgh in the late Eighties. He loved the low cost of living, but loathed the rednecks and the white trash that went along with that.

After Rob dropped me off at the house, I looked through my email and then slept most of the day away. The little side-trip to Taco Bell had worn me out. I wondered if perhaps I should have listened to the doctor and stayed another night in the hospital. Thinking of the endless stream of bills I’d receive for my little vacation, I quickly dismissed that thought.

That night, feeling a spike in my fever, I decided to go outside to lie in one of Joann’s green plastic lawn chairs to cool off and get a bit of air before I went back to bed. I pointed my chair west and watched the heat lightening paint the sky. A bit early for that but I’ve learned not to be surprised by the weather in North Carolina. I had been somewhat taken aback by the lightening and thunder during the snowstorm last month.

“God or whoever is up there, send a cool breeze, I’m so hot right now.”

Nothing, just the chirp of the crickets and then they stopped, perfect stillness as if they were listening to see if my request would be granted too.

What had I expected, that God would go, “Okay, sweetie, here ya go!” and then a gentle cooling breeze would be released from the heavens ? My usual optimism and joy at life was a bit hazy at the moment, the hospital visit had taken care of that. A few tears of self-pity began to form in my eyes, I hated the fragile, broken feeling that wouldn’t seem to leave me. Man, I needed to get laid, that would perk me right up, I thought and yawned slowly. I must have drifted off for a while, because when I woke, Clark and JoAnn were standing there staring at me.

“Where’s Daisy?” Clark asked.

“I guess she went back to her bible camp in the mountains, why ?” I asked JoAnn, “You need to get saved or something ?”

She startled me by sticking her tongue out at me like a little girl. That was unlike her, I thought. JoAnn at best could be described as someone who had lived a very hard and fast life, the heavily made-up roadmap of wrinkles told you that quickly. Seeing her do something so “young” was a bit disconcerting.

“How’d you get home from the hospital?”

“I called Rob.” I knew where this was going.

“Rob, you guys get back together?”

“Noooo…” I answered slowly, hoping it would sink in this time, “He has a new partner now. We’re still friends though.”

“Ohhh, well go on, Clark. I thought you had some laundry to do.” JoAnn motioned toward the house, clearly tired of grilling me about Rob.


Clark went inside and started his laundry, soon I knew, the house would be filled with country music and thick Winston smoke. JoAnn pushed my feet aside and sat down at the end of my lawn chair, lighting a Misty 100, sighing in relief as that first puff left her body.

The quiet night air was suddenly pierced with the sound of semi-automatic gunfire. JoAnn flinched , I jerked upright and stopped.

“My God, what was that?” JoAnn wondered, eyes big as saucers in the near dark.

I laughed nervously, “It’s just those skinheads that live across the pasture.” I pointed.

“How long has this shit been going on?”

“A good while…several months at least. I think they’re pretty much harmless.” JoAnn snorted.

“Every time they see me out in public, they always come up to me and ask me to join them.” I laughed, imagining it.

“Why don’t you ? You look like one.”

“Oh hell no, JoAnn, if they knew that I was gay, that gunfire you just heard would be used on me.”

“You think ?” She frowned back at me and patted my knee. “I’ll go call the law on them.” She said as if promising to take a child out for ice cream. She though I was paranoid and maybe I was.

“Doesn’t do any good, the cops around here just think that these fine upstanding white boys are carrying on the fine old southern tradition of hate.”

“Oh Lord…” She got up abruptly and headed for the house, “I better check on Clark, he’s probably eaten that banana pudding I made for your homecoming.”

Minutes passed and the distinct sound of lovemaking could be heard from the laundry room window. Ewwww, since when had Clark and JoAnn started bumping cooters ?

“Oh baby, yessssssss! Rock that old man in the boat, oh yesssssss!”

“God damn it, JoAnn, he’s gonna hear!”

“That’s right, Stud-Bear, fuck mama, oh yesssssss!”

I laughed until I cried. Sometimes life truly amazes me. What the hell had happened since I was in the hospital? I fell asleep then and woke many hours later covered in a fine layer of dew from another morning. Time for some coffee, quick.

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