Annie is late today. She is committed to her job, to her patients—the mentally ill, the scared, the delusional, the paranoid, like me; I pretend that it is not the truth, that I am like one of her patients. I know it is something else, something unfathomable, an external entity, inexplicable—Pia Zimmermann. Annie would never believe me. Only Maggie believes me. Only Maggie knows.
I watch Paw Bo crawl across the floor. She prefers it, even though she can walk. I think if I could be infantile I might; it is a time when life is bliss, raw and real, a time when all faculties are heightened. If Annie wants to leave, I won’t argue. I’ll say fine, just go then. I have had it with your bullshit. I have played it out, the various scenarios. Maybe not profanity…too much not like me and she will suspect. I almost took a shower today but couldn’t do it. Annie will ask me if I took a shower. The thought of water on my skin makes me cringe. I can’t tell. She is starting to suspect. She knows the signs of a deteriorating mind—hygiene goes first. I think she told me that. Someone did.
“No no,” I say, gently. She startles, looks at me oddly as if she can see the words exiting my mouth. “What do you see?” I ask her and she turns away from me. “You want some lunch?” I open the cupboard and see the empty shelves, remember I was supposed to go to the store. The idea of shopping feels burdensome. “You can’t keep eating out. It’s not healthy,” Annie had said. I know all that already. But it’s easier. I’m weak, heavy feeling. I quickly slip on Paw Bo’s white Hush Puppy sandals; “Chick a chick a boom boom,” I say, and she smiles. I should say it again and she’ll laugh. I’m too tired for it all; she stares down at my hands whenever I buckle her shoe; “One two buckle my shoe,” more smiles and a small giggle. “More?” she says. I swing her up to my side and her thin downy hair sweeps my cheek, smells like peaches; I could cry from the sweetness.
We walk outside. The air is thick and morose. A spate of dark clouds encroaches. Just take each moment as it comes. Moment to moment—Maggie, she said it. It was after the Zimmermann incident, the time when we clung to each other, to our sanity, hearing Pia’s voice in our heads, hallucinating; it was the time when I wanted to die and Maggie saved me with her kisses, both of us saving each other with flesh and lust and next Paw Bo, her teeny face, eager, reaching arms. I walk quickly to the safety of the car. Paw Bo says “We go now?” repeatedly. She will keep saying it until she gets a response. “Yes, going.” I finally answer. When I buckle her into her seat she squirms and then makes sounds like “NOAP!” which could be a combination of no and stop. Annie might tickle her and make her giggle, distract her. I’m inept.
The drive settles her and me. I glance out the window at the neatly painted houses, too neat, the dolor rows of taupe, steel-grey, white, and then the repeated pattern that has evolved into a searing dullness. I try to recall the days when it may have evoked a comfortable feeling of predictability; but now I find it too obscure a memory, too distant and tainted; I stare at it in an attempt to make it real–the sharp green hedges and sleek white fences marking boundaries, lush and blossoming fruit trees dropping petals and spotting well manicured lawns, tall stemmed dahlias top heavy and leaning against sides of chimneys like frail birds, miniature roses thorny and blood-red languishing on trellises, gleaming metal of bikes and scooters and pogo sticks tipped onto their sides, stray balls rolling along like tumbleweeds in some phantom breeze. I imagine the neighborhood evacuated, leaving behind a hollow vacancy. It is more alive if I imagine it this way. I glance upwards and see dark clouds gathering, plotting as if in secret concession.
“Storm, Da Da.” I tighten my grip on the wheel. “No, no,” I say, gently. I fix my eyes on the road, resolute, readying for some battle…Pia Zimmermann is here–the idea snakes itself into my mind like an unwavering melancholy.
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