Both standing now, the old man stares into the face of the young man who stares into the face of the clock. “She came to you willingly?” the young man finally asks. “It was an accident,” the old man answers. A small revelation falls upon the young man, “You haven’t come here with a message at all.” The old man smiles the largest smile he has ever smiled, “Yes.” “How much time do we have?” “She searches for Mox.” “Mox?” “Yes.” “Why?” “No one knows for sure.” “Jesus fucking christ, man!” “Yes. More or less,” the old man states, and now that he feels entertained, he sits back down at the table. “How did she find you by accident?” the young man, too, sheds his initial contempt and brings the chair back to the table and sits. “That goddamn boy, what’s his name?, Darby?” the old man answers. “That fucking corridor. Shit. Fucking Darby. Who still sends him?” “It was not that kind of scenario.” “What? She just showed up there, too?” “Yes,” the old man whispers, nearly inaudible. The young man feels another small revelation, “The message. Tell me now.” La salle de manger begins to fill with the sounds of meal preparation. The old man leans back in his chair and assumes his resting position, right arm hugging himself while the left elbow rests upon the arm as the left hand strokes his chin. You will be angry, the old man warns.
Understanding this, the young man stands and exits la salle de manger toward the outdoor courtyard. “Fresh air is good for the crazies,” they say, “It helps them feel normal.” Impeccable, the grass and foliage that surround the outdoor grounds of the facility are the responsibility of four full-time employees. Watered by hand, every dawn the four walk the two-acre property and spray the grass and foliage with water from a water-tank-on-wheels setup. Surrounding the entrance to the facility through the front doors rests a large garden full of blooming, brightly colored annuals. Around the facility, large, lush flowering trees grow and provide shade, branches for wooden swings, and the overall sense that this is a place for relaxation. Just outside the wall of large windows that line the fourth wall of the common area and stretches all the way through la salle de manger, another, larger garden of muted, flowering perennials require constant tending. Beyond the trees that line the facility and the expanse of flowering gardens, a reflective fountain sculpted of a luminous metal settles itself between a rockway and the stretches of velvety green grass that reach all the way down and around to a small stream. Fearing the innate danger of running water near a place where, often times, sufferers come to avoid that self-inflicted permanent rest, the landscape designers opted for a wide, shallow mirror of water. For the stream as well, a wide, shallow trickle makes its way through the outdoor grounds of the facility, where its source begins beyond the fence of the property and pools much farther down, almost a mile away from the facility’s entrance gate. In general, the outdoor area creates the semblance of calm, the serenity against which the profound nature of the sufferer’s suffering becomes obvious. Few sufferers ever venture out into the outdoor area, and most believe this lack of appreciation is mostly due to the overwhelming beauty of the landscape’s design. This, arguably, is the failure of the landscape designer who, sadly, refused to understand what a sufferer may want as opposed to whatever it was that the landscape designer decided a sufferer needs.
Beyond the flowering gardens, upon the rockway, the two men assemble. “Speak your piece,” the young man demands. The old man feels surprised at the hesitancy he feels in hurting this young man. The young man feels the old man’s hesitation. The old man pushes the feelings from his mind for there are greater risks in sparing the young man’s feelings. “Of course my feelings don’t matter,” the young man states. The old man looks at him, and with no feeling finally delivers his message, “She does not remember.” “She doesn’t remember what?” the young man asks a little disappointed, lacking the enormity of the old man’s words. The young man continues, “She wasn’t supposed to remember.” “You fail to understand. She does not remember anything,” the old man clarifies, and reiterates, “If you had seen her, you would’ve known, and I wouldn’t be here.” “But this message was not the motivation behind your visit today,” the young man begins to grasp. “Yes, as you realized a few moments ago,” the old man responds. “I won’t,” the young man asserts. The old man sighs as if knowing that the young man would resist so resolutely, “Then your words mean nothing, and if I see her again, I will keep her hidden no longer and will reveal her to the one you refuse to see on my behalf.” “You motherfucking shithead,” the young man retorts the futility, the disdain rising up yet again. “Yes, but no matter what I may seem to you, the truth still remains. Then, what will become of you?” the old man responds, confident, almost wishing for the defiance of the young man.
The young man thinks for a minute, caring no longer about what the old man might hear. “She will not be difficult to find because she does not know that she needs to remain hidden,” the old man answers. The young man closes his eyes to see if he can see her. The old man answers again, “Yes, but we now know the consequences of you playing savior.” The young man, eyes still closed, rapidly fires through thoughts about the answer he needs, now. The old man listens very carefully as the young man filters through the options. Finally, the young man opens his eyes and looks directly at the old man who, unflinchingly, looks directly, deeply back into the young man’s eyes. The old man decides, in that moment to help, “Yes.” Knowingly, the young man asks the question, “What happened when this happened to you two.” The old man, being who he is, answers with a question as he gestures to his own bodily self, “Have you ever known yourself at this age?” Confused, the young man responds, “Of course not.” “Exactly,” the old man speaks with congratulations, and then continues, “How is it that you think I’ve come to be this old?” The young man mulls over a few options, then finally concludes, “You both wanted to stay.” “Wanted? No.” The young man thinks for another second; he feels a horrible, sick feeling in his gut and whispers, “No. You couldn’t leave? But that’s …” “Fully possible,” the old man interrupts. “But that means you must be …” the young man attempts to guess. “You will lose your mind and your stay here in this facility will be compulsory rather than arbitrary if I tell you the truth,” the old man warns with his left hand, palm toward the young man, raised as if to stop the young man’s wonderings. “So, you’re here to save us?” the young man wisecracks, and then realizes, “You’re here to save yourself.” “The situation could unfold in a beneficial way for both of us,” the old man consoles. “Fuck you,” the young man spits. “Unfortunately,” the old man begins, “your fate sealed itself the moment she showed up at my house. My fate, fortunately, has shifted, and now, I have only opportunity. You have only to experience permanent absence.” Defiant, the young man squints, “Is that a promise?” “It is my guarantee,” the old man states as he leans in toward the young man for emphasis. “Unless I do your bidding,” the young man reasons. The old man smiles, “Yes.” “Fuck.”
The analyst pokes her head out of the entrance/exit door of la salle de manger, into the outdoor area, “Hey you two. How’s it going? It’s dinner time. Would your visitor like to join you for dinner? It’s been quite the visit, if I may say so myself.” “Thank you kindly for the offer,” the old man begins, “but I should probably be off and leave this poor kid to his own devices. A day spent with an old man can oftentimes be strenuous and unpleasant.” “Well there’s plenty of food and space for you if you change your mind …” the analyst pauses again to allow the old man to interject his name. “It’s fine. Remember? It doesn’t matter,” the old man responds comically patronizing while commenting to the young man, The idiocy that is the Fear of Rudeness. I really do not know how you tolerate this. “You must be hungry. You didn’t eat any of the lunch the chef saved for you,” the analyst suggests at the young man. “Yes, I’ll eat in a minute. Thanks,” the young man responds genially. “Alright then. Please come visit again anytime!” the analyst offers the old man. “Oh, yes. I will be back,” the old man smiles disingenuously. The young man rolls his eyes at the old man and stares him down for a moment while the analyst excuses herself.
“I do not wish to return here,” the old man finally speaks. “I do not wish to visit the older woman,” the young man mocks by imitating the old man’s tone. “Such is the unfairness of life,” the old man explains. “Gah the gaul,” the young man begins, but just before he can spell out his rant the old man separates the young man’s thoughts from his words, “You know nothing.” “Take your leave. I will not do your bidding,” the young man decides. “Do not be an imbecile. I have already sent someone your way. Do not leave this place until you encounter him,” the old man instructs. “It should only be a few days,” the old man continues. “And what should I do until then?” the young man pouts like an infant. “Do what you already do here every day … nothing,” the old man punctuates. Still feeling defiant, the young man touts, “I make no promises.” “Yes, but I do,” the old man whispers, and as he moves to see himself through the doorway into la salle de manger so that he may check out at the registration desk at the entrance to the facility, the old man stops with the door hanging in his hand, turns to the young man and evokes a whirlwind of disaster, and just as the young man waves off the disruption the voice of the old man lingers within the back of the young man’s now burning hot right ear, Wake up! Profusely sweating again, he sits up straight in his bed, curls in agony and vomits on the floor in front of his nightstand.
He reaches out to the control panel to call for clean up. Someone, a male—since there are males, females and the like who clean the facility, specifically of hazardous materials and bodily fluids, males are sent to clean the personal spaces of male sufferers, females are sent to clean the personal spaces of female sufferers, etc.—who goes by the name “Kace,” which he reads off the front of “Kace’s” cleaning smock, comes up to clean his personal space of his bodily fluids. The task seems to him to last forever, but the efficiency of the cleaning staff results in the clean up taking less than two minutes. Nevertheless, he is alone.
Alone, again, appeased, he thinks to himself, but this time, not lonely. Before this day had come to an end, he remembered the lonesome feelings with which he was constantly bombarded simply because of the “lack” of the person upon whom his own existentialism rests. He lies naked on his bed, staring at the celestial design of the wallpaper. The one wish that penetrates his mind revolves around being alone. Being inextricably tied to another definitely has its problems, burdens, sufferings, and so, he wonders, all too often these days, what life must be like when all of the responsibility placed on a being who depends upon another falls away, disintegrates into the nothingness of meaning nothing to everyone and everything to no one. Those are the truly crazy people, he thinks to himself as he recalls the supposedly sad stories of all those unloved women, rejected men, the trite romance of needing a witness to their lives so that their lives hold meaning. No one ever thinks about what it means or what it must be like to be forever tied, forever joined, forever involved with just one other being. Of course, he knows he cannot live without her, and the mere thought of her makes him weep deep down in his soul, so deep in fact, that he usually ends up vomiting or shitting himself senseless, drawn into a deep sleep where he may see her but he cannot see her nor feel her. The endless betrayal of finding that person who, quite literally, fulfills you. Betrayal, he thinks, is not the right word. He longs to see her. He aches to feel her. The forgetting was a known effect. The forgetting was temporary. The forgetting was … was … necessary. He cannot bear to think of her any longer. All he wants is to be alone.
He relives the day that unfolded the day before. In an attempt to catch the minutiae of the old man’s words, movements, tells. The old man knows the secret. The old man holds the answer. Mother. Fucker. A slight, calm, gentle ring interrupts his thoughts as his control board dings to call his attention to a notification. The small screen blinks forth a message: “Breakfast will be served in five minutes.” He rolls over and decides that he will not eat fucking breakfast. Someone shouts up to him from the base of his ladder, “Are you dressed?” “No.” “You cannot skip more than two meals in a row without consequence.” “What is the consequence?” “ … “ “Exactly. Go away please,” he whines. “We’ve received a call for a visitor who has requested to be named on your Approved Visitors list.” He sits up, mildly curious but knowing of whom this someone speaks, “And?” “Don’t you want to know who it is before we approve him?” “I didn’t know last time.” “Very well then.” “Tell the chef that I only want the meats today.” “Tell him yourself,” the someone cajoles as he walks away, toward la salle de manger. Fuck. He looks to his control board and taps out a short message, “Chef, just meats please. Thnx.” With a deep breath, he lies back down on his bed, closes his eyes. Another slight, calm, gentle ring dings from the control panel. His body flails around the bed like a toddler. He reaches the control panel, “Fuck you, man. No more special requests until you show up for ten meals in a row, on time. The Lady Doc’s orders.” Shitfuck. A response of any nature he deems irrelevant and unnecessary. No breakfast it is then.
Where are you? he thinks as he clears his mind of every, single, tiny, little thing. He feels warm. He feels excited. His sleeping quarters turn a violent green. He knows that she, on some level, tries to find him. A stroke of warm sunlight. He blinks as he raises a hand to shield himself from the rays. The world is flat; it is indeed, and everything within it lacks depth.