|Studynook a la Thomas|
I had been studying for a good part of the day. When walking up the road I can see Tony with a plastic bag in his hand. He walks up to his car and opens the drivers door to place bag on the car seat. I use the term car loosely. It bears the shape of a car but I certainly could not call it an automobile. Because I only see it pushed around manually in the lot so there is nothing auto or mobile about it. It is a rust heap. He has told me numerous times he plans to fix it. So far the only change that I see is that the trunk now requires a rubber bungee cord to stay closed.
I deftly avoided eye contact but it does not matter. He is like a disinterest carrying passenger liner coasting into the harbor of my mind. He is oblivious to any desire I have to be left alone. It is a honed art. He slowly drifts up to my porch, his movements remind me of a nursing home resident thorazine shuffle.“Hey Tom.” He holds a hand over the porch banister for a handshake.
“Hi.” I reluctantly take his hand a give him a firm grip.
“What are you doing?”
“Studying. For a class.”
“You’re the nurse. But Sam is the teacher.” I am convinced this has now gone into his repertoire of things he forces his rattled brain to remember. He is not saying this as a conversation piece but to remind himself. It makes me curious what other relatively recent data he force feeds into his brain.
“So this is a nurse class? Are you going to be a doctor now?”
“Yup.” I have probably only looked up from my books once or twice during all of this.
“Maybe you could be my doctor.” He said with a smile.
“Did you see they took my hose away?” It’s like a wrestling match. He wants to pin my attention into submission. Meanwhile I am trying to exude a lack of attention which is slipping out between him and the mat. I know ultimately, unless I go inside, he will win. If I go inside, I won’t be able to study.
“Who took the hose?” I force my nose back into the vascular portion of my anatomy and physiology book.
“They did. The office did.”
“They have a hose. Why would they want your hose?” I ask.
“That's what I said. But she wanted to borrow it. She gave it to her brother in law. And now I am not getting it back. He keeps sayin’ he is gonna bring it back. But...”
“He isn’t?” I asked incredulously.
“Nope. So I bought a new one. On sale. Normally this hose with the ahh...with the umm...” I look up from the book, which is more like a prop now; the prop of the would be student. He is making a squeezing gesture. We are playing charades.
Okay. One word. Undisclosed syllables. Attached to a hose and is pumped repeatedly like an cow’s udder. I bet I could make up a word right now and argue with him that it is the correct word for it. Blastunger. You could argue that it’s a German word. That the Germans invented the hose. Prior to Germanic Wars. In Germany. Where they speak German. Blastunger. Say blastunger, Tom.
“Sprayer? Nozzle?” Pussy.
“Yeah. A nozzle. A hose with a sprayer nozzle. And a nice one, not one of those cheap-made in-China ones that break if you drop it the wrong way. Guess how much I paid for it?”
With no effort on my part, a number jumped into my head. Thirty Five. Bob Barker was standing there with his funny looking pencil thin microphone. I am jumping up and down gushing incoherently next to him wondering what game I will play next after ‘Charades’ and ‘Guess the Number.’
I look down at my book which has now made my fingertips numb. I can not remember anything. I’ve been reading right iliac artery repeatedly since he came over. Nothing is sticking. It’s like someone is giving me turn by turn directions in Manhattan but the directions are moments past the point I needed them so everything sounds familiar but I can not do anything about it.
I realize only then, my attention span was pinned before he even approached me. It’s just he knocked it down with such force that my brain still thought it was fighting him off.I relent, “Thirty five?”
“Hah! Eight Bucks! You want to know how much it is worth?”
“Eh.” I shrug.
“At least Forty five! At LEAST.” This conversation sucks. This is a conversation that fat polyester blend wearing suburban home owning neighbors have while standing over John Deere lawn mowers.
“I know it doesn’t have that spool that rolls the hose up like the other one but I promise I will keep it neat. But like what I said before don’t tell anyone. We don’t do that around here.” He is holding up one finger as though he was going to put it up to his lips but I think his hand lost its way to his mouth.
(Addendum: A few weeks prior to this Sam was away in Florida. I was sitting at home watching tv on the couch. Yes. It was after midnight and yes, I was sitting there in my underwear. There is a knock at my door and Dante, of course, goes ape shit. A KNOCK? AFTER MIDNIGHT!? He barked as I struggled to get my pants on. If I am going to get murdered I am at least not going to look like some bum. When I looked out my peephole, I don’t see anything. Another knock. Dante repeats his concern for my safety. It turned out it was Tony. In the bushes, attaching a hose to the spigot outside my front door. This would be the hose that believed gets stolen by the office. He wanted to tell me he was outside, so that I don't call the cops on him for fixing his hose outside my apartment. Bear in mind had he just done his business I would have had no idea he was even there. He also told me I could just the hose for all my apartment needs when ever I wanted I did not have to ask. The only rule is, we can’t tell anyone. His hose was to be OUR secret.)
He points at the dying flowers hanging from planters on the porch. "You can use the hose to water your plants if you want. I am going to power wash all these windows. you know the management really should be doing all this."
"Maybe that's why they needed the hose." I said. His mouth opened and closed somewhere a synapse fired and then forgot why.
Dante stirred from inside the apartment and walked outside. He looked up at the man who can never get his name right. He is wearing a white warm up jumper with an irish flag embroidered his left breast. He looks like an irish soccer hooligan.
I have my theories as to why he thinks my dog is a racial slur. My best one is when I first introduced him to Dante. He repeated it to himself and asked me if the name was Spanish or Italian. Dante is named after Dante Alighieri. So I answered Italian. Since then, he calls out a random Italian sounding name usually starting with the letter D. So, he sees my dog and thinks: Diego first, because who names their dog a slur for an Italian person? Apparently me because Dago, is the next word he pitches when Diego gets shot down. Danny, Doggie, Rex (the neighbor’s Pitbull), and my personal favorite “Kitty Kat.”
“Dante..” I was not going to have him walk through all the D words his brain damage can recall like he was taking some neurologic exam.
“Dante! Dante, Dante, Dante.” He said pretending like he was going to finally commit it to memory. He calls Dante to him making a noise I am familiar with calling for a cat while snapping his fingers. Dante sniffs his hand, to which at the time I thought it was because he wanted food. He reaches down over the banister and steadies himself on my dying lilies. He is petting Dante he is moving further away from his hand making him stretch his arm further. The banister creaks under his weight. Dante lays down flat right in front of him and it takes real effort on Tony’s part to pet him.
“This dog is so nice. He wouldn’t harm a flea.”
“He might.” I say looking down at Dante.
“Check out the ass on that.” I look up at him. He is staring at something behind me. Which is good that he was not checking out my dogs ass.I have seen his girlfriend Bonnie. So I wondered what he qualified as a something with nice ass would land on my threshold. The problem is my back is turned to whatever he sees. I would have to back up my chair and turn around in order to see. He is still staring. He looks captivated.
It’s killing me. I place my book on the table, scoot my chair backwards and look over my left shoulder. There are several people outside on the lawn right now. All of whom belong to this Indian family that lives in the building next to ours. There is a young teenage boy chasing what I presumed to be his little brother. On the lawn, standing there was a young 12 year old girl who was waving to her father as he pulling out backwards in his minivan. I thought for a moment the mom was walking away from the community mailbox but they were out of my view.
“I don’t know who you are talking about.” Maybe it was the mom. I thought. I hoped.
“What do you mean? You did not see her?” A few moments went by and he leaned over to pet Dante again. In this time I pondered what I thought the mother looked like last time I saw her. The more I thought the more I worried it was not the mom he was talking about. Suddenly he stiffened up and stared off back across the lawn.
“Quick. There she is again. Man, check out that hot piece of ass.”I sat there a moment. Begging God, Heaven, the cosmos for anyone.
A tall voluptuous OF AGE 18 year old Indian bombshell.
An awake, alert, oriented ninety six year old woman with a recent hip replacement and a walker.
Shit, at this point I would take a stark naked full consenting 21 year old male Adonis with body of flesh colored marble and a three foot penis.
Anything but a petite innocent 12 year old Indian girl in pink pajamas.I slowly turned around around grasping for anything. It was like I was in some perverse evil morality play using the framework of a “Where’s Waldo?” book. FIND THE LEAST MORALLY REPUGNANT SEX OBJECT AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.
It was only the girl. I quickly turned back around. I felt disgusting. I felt like I was some dirty shit head in some pervert chatroom ribbing one another while cat calling on an elementary school playground. Any moment, Chris Hansen was going walk up to me.
“Dude. I don’t know who you are talking about. All I see is the little girl not a piece of ass.”
“I guess you missed her.” He leaned back over the banister to pet my dog, but Dante was coming over to me now. Maybe he could sense how uncomfortable I was. I looked down at him and he looked up at me and I pet his head. Across his brown fur I could see a red streak. At first I thought it was paint or something. But I’ve seen this at work before. It was blood. I looked at him closely the red clashed starkly with his white fur. I looked at my hands and on my right hand in my palm there was half dollar sized mark of dry blood.
I wasn’t bleeding. “Tony I have blood all over my fucking hands Dante has blood all over him. Are you cut?”
“No. Why would I be cut?”
I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank god. Maybe it was Dante or I scratched a scab on my leg or something.“Oh wait. Yeah. I guess I am bleeding. I fell before. Yeah here. Look.” I looked up at him and he was pulling back a flap of skin between the webbing of his right thumb and index finger. He had blood all over his left sleeve that I could not see until I stood up.
“I was wondering where that was coming from.” He said looking down at his sleeve. “Its okay. It will heal.”
I was stunned. As though concern for him had even a whisper of possibility in the realm of reality right now I had no sympathy for him. This man I barely know bled all over me and my dog. This possibly evil man who with my luck has AIDS, with a side of Hep alphabet. and a sprinkling of blood borne antibiotic resistant pathogens. Its pointless to stay here. This is the best worst reason to bring this conversation to a close.
“I have to go Tony. I need to wash my hands. And my dog. You should fix your hand.”
“Yeah. Oh okay. Sorry about that, Tom. I’ll talk to you later.”
Dear God, I wish that wasn't the truth.