Play Nice

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[This is where the summary would go if I'd bothered to write one.]

« Paper-thinWeek 22 »

The TV self-destructed twenty hours ago. The radio never worked, though sometimes late at night I imagine that I hear the faint strains of a long forgotten waltz. The books dump their words down drains, the letters causing them to clog and overflow. I use a hanger to set them loose, dipping the crooked wire painfully down the chute, shifting it from left to right, dislodging Bs, Rs and Os. The Js are stubborn and wrap their tails around the other letters, trying to hold on.

All this I do in the dark, the lightbulbs made quiet popping sounds, like bugs flying into bug zappers, as they burned out. They were supposed to last a lifetime. I have a guarantee. Confident that the toilet seat cover is down I try to stand on it. My size 5 1/2 Converse All-Star clad foot slams into the bowl, the water, inexplicably, is hot. I sigh. I’ve sighed a lot these past three hours. I sigh, I think, to keep the air cool around me. My bones have this deep clinging chill and, surely, I think, I can transfer that coldness out into the world. It’s simply a matter of focusing.


The camera was trained on me for a brief instant. I sensed it. Felt its touch. Or was it his touch? I lost the ability to know somewhere between Memphis and Colorado. Or is that Colorado and Memphis?


I drag my foot out of the bowl and, like I imagine a newly blind person acts, I lean in slowly as if the toilet will make sudden moves, bringing the cover down gently with the tips of my fingers. My shoe squishes as I step onto the toilet; I am very aware of my thigh muscles working as I lift my body up. It is only as my fingertips flutter over the burnt out bulbs that I remember one crucial thing.

I have no other bulbs.


He turned the camera on her. I didn’t need to sense that. I saw it. Saw him line her up in his field of vision, then the camera’s. Heard him inhale sharply, as her face, that face, came into focus. He forgot he was holding a camera. I’m sure he did. He, however, did not forget I was in the room.

He sensed me watching him watching her. Though he was not aware of the camera his fingers were. They did their job well. They were no longer a part of his body, I don’t think. They seemed to belong to the camera, as they pulled and spun, tweaked and twisted, to bring her closer, bring her in.


I step down and walk into the bedroom. Still playing the blind person, my feet barely leave the ground, suddenly I have the knees of an 80-year-old woman, and my arms are outstretched before me, at waist level. I worry about how I should hold my hands. Palms up or down? Which would absorb the impact best?


I have known this bedroom for many years. There is no square inch that I am not intimately acquainted with, but tonight it is all foreign. It is all so new that I doubt I’ve ever lived in this space.

I make my way slowly from the bedroom to the hallway. In the darkness I see the thin ray of light coming from beneath the darkroom door.

I should wonder why this light works. But I don’t.


She senses my unease, but still she smiles.  I can not read whether the smile is an indication of her affection or pity for me. At different times in our lives, she’s felt both those things. She wishes things were different, I believe. She’s said it many times before, always with a great deal of truth in her voice. Her voice drips like molasses on a hot day. It is sweet and sticky and I can taste it on my skin. Her voice broke the TV and the radio. Of this I’m sure. The books, well, I can not explain the books. In life, some mysteries must fall.

I am no mystery.


With fear, for nothing is feeling the way it is supposed to feel today, I reach for the doorknob. Years of watching horror movies have prepared me for the searing pain that does not come. I sigh and sigh again. I turn the knob and push the door in. Once inside I stare at her and she stares at me. From countless photographs, numerous angles, her eyes are tiny cameras focusing only on me. I stare at her lips, unable to comprehend why no words come out. Surely she has something to say. Today of all days. For it was her smile that made my bones cold and my skin hot. Perhaps she is unaware. Yes, perhaps that is so. I am willing to give her the benefit of the doubt, even now.

I close the door and sit down on the floor, my back rigid against the wood. I bring my leg closer to my body so I can take off the shoe. The laces have swollen and a nail breaks as I strain and pull on the material. It has suddenly become the most important thing, this, this taking off of the shoe, as she watches me. Focuses on me. I feel her gaze and I close my eyes. My blind fingers struggle and my breath catches. I will not cry. I will not panic.

I will focus.

Published 07/01/03 in Writing • | Views: 2310 times | Print

3 Comments & Trackbacks

exquisite ::rotates the wine glass::

you writted that very goodest. maked me feel primitive. (i would say neolithic, but that destroys my meaning)

Posted by anne  on  07/01  at  02:55 PM

damn… you think you know somebody and then she up and kicks your ass like this…. you really are a wonder, patricia, and that was an exceptional essay.

Posted by dan  on  07/01  at  04:50 PM

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