This is one of my favorite stories I’ve written, but I never was able to find someone to publish it. I’m bringing it back to my blog.
Tripp was back to fuck with us. Tripp with two p’s. Tripp tripped out. At least I liked to think his blood was swamped with Drano-made meth.
But he was sober and knew exactly what he was doing.
This time he was straddling Josie, or so that’s what I’d heard the doctors call her. I could barely make out his clumsy shape in my peripheral. The dimmed lights were no help, either.
His hands fumbled under her white gown with the green dots. She made no noises. Couldn’t. But she could see like me. I saw his hand go lower, maybe his belt buckle coming undone, but like I said, it was dark and I could only see so far.
I screamed, “MOTHERFUCKER!” at him with my eyes, but he didn’t hear.
Tried to close my eyes. My best trick. But the cacophony of ventilators humming, thumping between the walls of the darkened ward kept my eyes open.
Josie had a ventilator and it hummed, too. Tripp didn’t care.
In between the mob-like ventilators, I heard Tripp moan and he slid off of Josie. Then, I could see his shadow near me. I saw him wipe his hand on my blanket.
He smelled like stale cologne and it was rich on my nostrils. I wanted to sneeze or cough it away, but couldn’t.
I wanted to spit at him. Not just spit, but hock that phlegm from a three-day-old cold that’s been sitting at the back of my throat, congealed and thick. I’d hunch my shoulders and really work my diaphragm into it, and send it roaring out of my mouth with the force of a hollow-point bullet.
Instead, he skipped over me and moved on to Blake. She had glossy raven hair. Always made sure to communicate to the nurse to wash it with the expensive shampoo and conditioner. I liked to watch the nurse soap it up, scrub real deep into her scalp with her gloved hands and rinse it out.
The smell of the shampoo was usually the thrilling part of my week. Reminded me of standing under a guzzling hot shower head, letting its tender torrent caress my own scalp, my own body.
Reminded me of city nights under city lights immersed in city life with Emily, the city girl. She used orangey shampoo.
Stride-in-stride, we would talk about how the city seemed to breathe under our footsteps. She called it a humming. Those were good nights until we jaywalked and the city bus hummed its own tune at us.
Unlike Josie, Tripp straddled Blake so that her unmoving head was between his thighs. From this new angle, I could see his pants were down and his white bare ass was visible. I was proud of how strong my vision had become that I could notice a congregation of brown freckles on one of his cheeks.
Her 14-year-old son was excited when her nose twitched two weeks ago. He’d high-fived his dad and said “this was it!” and held back tears.
I wonder if it twitched now.
He was back to his feet, white ass covered and he kissed Blake on her forehead where her raven bangs parted. He didn’t say anything.
As he turned to leave, he looked back toward me. With that stare and shit-eating grin, he knew I wouldn’t communicate any of it to the nurses.
Because he knew I knew how easily he could end me. It wouldn’t take much. Just removing the ventilator would be the easiest, surest way. Or removing my blanket; I’d contract pneumonia before daybreak.
When he left, I blinked hard. Careening my eyelashes into my lower eyelid, smashing and smashing.
I was just venting into the void and the darkness.
Then, my left cheek twitched for the first time.