I took the pill bottle in hand, an entourage of doctors harmonizing over my shoulder. There may be some adverse side effects: depression, nausea, hunger or sluggishness. I pushed them back with a mental hand and counted back to ten as I drifted back to sleep. The blinking red digits said it was 2:30pm and I felt a nausea that came at me in muted yellow and orange waves.
This was the norm. It's kind of amusing that somehow, you don't notice the decline your body and brain begin to take until you're submerged at sea level. I guess that's what the medication is for, to keep me from going that far. Yet, how does that saying always go? 'You can't reach the top until you've hit rock bottom.' Something like that. I'm paraphrasing.
The first occurrence wasn’t terrible. Dad walked in the other day to check in on me during the first trial week. I couldn’t really tell how much time had passed: every day tended to bleed together like static on a CRT. Those used to exist right? I think they still do. “How are you, bud,” he said, mouth pressed in a tight T shape. Only half his foot was in the doorway.
I shrug and stare at the ceiling. “My tongue is kind of numb but I guess I’m fine.” He nods and steps in a little more. I feel his weight in the room but can’t look him in the eye, can’t face that pressure of things to say.
“Buddy, I just wanted to let you know a few things. ‘Bout time I got around to saying it." He sits down at my bed and I shudder for a moment, dreading the words I knew he already had loaded like BB pellets.
I half turn to him to be polite and listen.
“Alcoholics Anonymous is bringing fruit from the apolitical nonsense of an ideal word. Necessary to negate Twelve Steps for without inner thought, it cannot bring the requirements insomuch as tumultuous frenzy from atop the mind’s eye.”
“What?” I say, turning slightly more to stare at him.
“Enduring my love is all that can be offered. Please, regard my intake with a grain of sand because it is lifeblood similar to the hummingbird which flutters in the Attic of Attics, constantly consuming demons and innards alike until it all sinks in and sinks in and sinks in and sinks in and sinks in and.” His words are now laying there on the bedspread, wriggling around. They remind me of house centipedes, hard to decypher from the floor and hideous to look at.
“I don’t understand you.”
“I know kiddo, it's a long and difficult road to recovery but your mother and I are trying to get, y’know, the ball rolling. And I’m sorry that I uh, haven’t been the greatest role model for you or your brother.”
“Just get out of here. I don’t understand you.” Much like the static, he will never change, and keep repeating a pattern that appears like chaos.
Dad looks at me like he’s hurt and gets up silently, clapping my chest with a solid hand and closing the door on his way out. This is normal. I go back to sleep and pretend he was never here. Which he wasn’t.
The next day came and I was still in my room alone. My shirt began to stink, and the bread crust I left on the purple plastic plate was beginning to rot. Hunger was far from my mind: didn’t the label say I’d be hungrier possibly? Hard to tell on an empty stomach.
My brother came in. I almost didn’t notice him due to how he sort of glided over the carpet and intangibly handled the doorknob.
“Mom wants to know what you want to eat,” he muttered.
“Uh, I dunno, McDonald’s?”
“No. We had that yesterday.”
“Okay. You can eat me, fucker.”
My eyes widened. “Huh?”
“You’re a fucker. A real fucker. Look what you did, you rotten asshole.”
My tongue went numb again like the sour sweets I used to eat. Heart palpitating. Not good, but at least I knew I was alive then.
“You want to know why things are a no go? You can’t fuck with me. You want to help me, but you can’t, you sick cunt. Disgusting. I’m going to fuck so many dudes and you can’t stop me, ha heh heh.”
I could barely sit up to look at my baby brother, now old enough to be MY elder. My eye line barely saw the tip of his head from the door frame, between my feet. I heard my vertebrae snap a little as I lifted my head for the first time since waking. His eyes were shadowed by black wetness and his mouth was open to reveal several layers of rotting gums. There was a hole in his chest where the heart once was, and from that hole was a trail of cold I could only look at and not touch. “You did this to me,” he said. “You weren’t there and you fucked up big time you cocksucker. Die for all I care.”
He closed the door and left. I didn’t cry until I choked down the sandwich later. Took me about an hour. At least then, I knew I was alive.
Earlier in the morning mom came in to chat. I saw her the most, talked to her the most, yet couldn’t bear her presence. My back was aching from many nights spent lying awake on my side, mind racing like a drug-addled horse. A few blood blisters were beginning to form on my inner thigh. I felt disgusting. I was.
“Sweetheart, how are you feeling?” she asked, placing a hand on my forehead.
I shrug sideways again, my only form of communication aside from ‘yeah’ and ‘I guess’. “My stomach is bloated. I think I’ve put on a few pounds since I took these pills.”
She looked at me and smiled, patting my grotesque belly. “Oh you’re not that fat. You’re getting older, putting on some muscle and weight. It's normal.” She was being nice. I imagine it to be extremely frustrating to see your only son basically give up on looking decent: in the back of my mind I felt a subtle shame for forcing her into this position.
She continued to smile at me, albeit a little sadly. “I mean, at least you’re not me, right?” She chuckles and I almost crack a smile, knowing she’s fishing for the good son compliment she knows she can expect. “I mean, my skin is literally falling off right now.”
Mom’s skin began to grow taut and pale, blue veins poking up through the skin. Sunken, shallow, her skin began falling off in chunks, red and purple muscle visible beneath. Her tendons snapped as her arm began to fall off. The limb - plod - down on the floor next to my bed. I couldn’t even scream because my throat felt like cotton. I wanted to put her arm back so badly but I was bed-riden myself. Surgery in reverse.
She just smiled at me sadly. “This too shall pass, sweetheart,” she gently notified me. “This too shall pass.”
She picks up her arm gingerly and begins to walk back to the door.
She turns around once and says “I’ll be back later to bring you some fresh towels.” She doesn’t even bother picking her jaw up from behind the dresser where it falls.
Her crying that night is something I can’t purge from myself.
So now here I am, laying in bed again. I can’t tell how long I’ve been here, but I’m pretty sure it's been at least 12 years. That static time fuzz keeps coming back to me as I remember everything I’ve been through, wondering about everything I could be. Thoughts are meaningless now. I need to remember to take the pill. Take. The. Pill.
I think I did already, but what the hey, what's one good turn without the other?
I swallow it like candy and drift backward. The words in my brain melt away into a puddle. Good.
The sensation of pulse in my chest fades away to a pleasant, ambient hum. Oh, orgasmic.
The pain in my bones turns into a steady knock against the wood. I have no body now.
The space in my room falls apart at the seams. There’s only a bed and my soul which lays still on it. An oppressive blanket begins to weigh in on me: I am being suffocated by an unseen foe. I can feel my limbs and my ‘self’ laying here, but I simply can’t bear to bring myself up. I cry out, begging for help, God, anything to get me out, but nothing comes of it. Only a responsive jerk of the hand twisting the blanket: something reaches forward and gently holds my hand through the cloth like a guiding mother.
There can be no understanding in this realm, I come to recognize. Only a stern silence that reflects the severity of the situation. Oh well.
Slowly but surely, I lose control of my phantom limbs. I assume the Death Posture and begin to disintegrate little by little until not a single atom of the person I was remains.
Written by William See