Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Insomniac, Part 20

Harold sat in boxers and a T-shirt on the couch. No one was home. No one was going to be home for a few hours, well past a microwaved dinner. Victoria was 'out,' the mall and a movie, Harold remembered, and Hilly was with Hork, spending the night. Saturday afternoon TV was dismal, but he only had to endure 47 minutes until 'Return of the King' came on. Alex would have badgered him to put in his own disc. He didn't know why he didn't get up and look for it on the jumble of movies stacked on the bookshelf, but he didn't. He sat, instead, and waited and watched a rerun of SpongeBob learning to drive. He figured he got about four minutes of cartoon for every six minutes of commercials. It really was annoying, and a little depressing. Why the hell did they put commercials for the scooter store on a network intended for kids, Harold wondered. Then, he laughed out loud. He was watching the kids network. He was glad Alex hadn't heard him snort with laughter out of the blue. She used to hate when he did that. Harold was thinking of dozing off when he heard a click.

"Oh, that's disgusting," Victoria said as she breezed into the living room. Genna and Rachel stood behind her in the foyer. He wondered why they called it a foyer when it was only a five by four square of tile placed by the front door. The girls had turned to face the door and were trying not to giggle.

"Dad, can you just ..." Victoria hissed in a stage whisper as she waved at all of him.

"Disappear?" he suggested.

"No, Dad," she said with a stricken look in her eyes. Harold could see that tears had sprung to her eyes. Real tears. She sat suddenly on the couch next to him as if she'd lost her balance.

"No," she said again. There was a feeling of silence, despite the droning TV. He held his breath. "You know, like, if you could just have seen yourself..." She stared into his eyes but her words trailed off.

Harold sucked in his gut with his next breath and tried to pull the dog's blanket off the floor to cover the boxers. It was kind of an old farty guy thing to do - to sit in front of the TV in his underwear watching cartoons. He hadn't expected either of the kids, let alone company.

"Dad, I didn't mean that." She pulled the blanket away from him, got up, and got Hilly's blue and orange fleece from the quilt rack, and gently spread it over his lap. It made him feel old. This was the different Victoria that Harold had been watching, now and then, since he got home from the hospital. It confused him to feel her flip from one Victoria, the surly teenager, to the other.

"If you could have seen yourself, all pale, and quiet, and lying there on that white bed. You weren't even snoring, Dad."

"It's okay, Victoria. You don't have to ..."

"No, Dad. I do. Hilly, he did everything. I couldn't even drive. He did it all. Didn't you know? I was useless."

Harold looked at Victoria, not having a clear picture of what she meant. Then, he looked at the two girls standing awkwardly on the other side of the living room, halfway looking at them and at T-ball, dance, and karate trophies on a shelf by the door.

"Honey, weren't you going to the mall?" he said quietly.

Victoria stood up abruptly, scrubbed her face with the heels of her palms, and said, "Yeah, Dad, could I have some money? There was, uh, I saw a ... Like ... You know, it isn't really important. Not now." Harold grabbed her arm as she stood up to leave again.

"Give your old man a hug," he said and pulled her thin frame down onto his lap and hugged her in a way that, a month ago, would have infuriated her with its dorkiness. She buried her head into his shoulder for a minute, then pushed him away.

"Oh Dad, that's disgusting," she said as she got up too go.

Thank you for listening, jules

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Insomniac, Part 19

Harold woke at 4:17 am and realized that he'd hoped a head injury would miraculously cure his insomnia. It hadn't. The only difference it made was that he had some holes in his memory and sometimes he missed stuff like turning off the burner after he made tea. After a couple of weeks, the memory part was getting to be less of a problem. Harold realized that within two weeks, the stuff he couldn't remember about his life from a month ago would be irrelevant anyway. It kind of sucked.

The trouble he had with his memory was coming along too. He'd learned not to try too hard to grab an idea before it slipped away. He learned never to put cutting boards on the stove if any of the burners were on, and he learned to double-check that the knobs were all upright before he left a room. He patted his pocket now to feel his keys, before he closed the car door. Two parking lot visits by locksmiths had taught him that. He checked and double-checked his writing at work. Roger had called him obsessive-compulsive. It wasn't obsessive-compulsive if you really were forgetting to turn off the burners, he thought. He could have told Roger that, but he forgot when he saw him and remembered when he walked into his door at home at night.

It was 4:43 am and Harold laid in his bed with the light off, wishing he could go back to sleep. He scratched his crotch. Why was it that something so mundane and socially intolerable was just so satisfying? No one was going to say anything about it now. Alex had nagged him about it back when they'd been married. It wasn't as if he farted around her. Even a year after the divorce, he reveled in this freedom, to be able to scratch his crotch and fart freely in his own bed.

The cat jumped up onto the bed, asking to be petted. At least someone was glad to see him at this hour. Harold had a problem remembering his name, but the cat didn't care. Harold pulled one of Alex's decorator pillows off the floor and gave the cat a throne. It seemed right that the pillow was so furry it looked like it was beginning to need a shave. Even the cat deserved to be himself in his own bed.

Harold tried to remember the days that he'd missed. It was like the time he chipped his tooth when he fell off his bike when he was twelve. His tongue had kept running over that nervy hole in his smile. He couldn't seem to control it then or now. When he woke in the middle of the night, there it was, that nervy hole in his memory to run over and over again.

He'd gone to bed one night but then he'd woken up on the floor, looking up at strangers in his bathroom. He'd been lying there in a puddle, stark naked. He'd woken up in the hospital in the night, after a breakfast had cooled off on his tray, and in dim light, after the old food had been removed and more food had been delivered and congealed on it's plastic tray. He'd been told to be careful, to have complete bed rest, and been sent home. He'd had to ignore the complete bed rest since the kids were gone at school all day. Somebody had to do the laundry. Somebody had to make food.

Hilly and Victoria had surprised him by cooking and cleaning for the first day. It was a Saturday, but by Sunday afternoon, Victoria had tired of the job and had taken the car and some cash and disappeared until after he'd gone to bed. Had she even asked for the keys? Harold couldn't remember.

Hilly seemed to be playing his usual role, going to school and coming home to play video games with Hork, but Harold noticed that something was different about him. Something had been different between Hilly and Victoria too. He just couldn't put a finger on what it was.

That was the thing about memory loss. Harold couldn't put a finger on it. He didn't mind, not too much anyway.

Thank you for listening, jules