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Terminal Chapter 3

Chapter 3 of my latest novel, Terminal. Soon to be pitched to editors by my agent. Check earlier posts for the previous chapters. Warning: intense graphic content throughout the novel.

                                                                                              3

Lester the Molester was a folk hero of sorts.

That seems strange to say.

Lester never molested anyone, at least to my knowledge, but the name was a moniker given to him by residents of the town. Despite the fact that it was shameful, the title came as sort of a badge of honor to Lester, who, became part of the unique lore of the town of Rosedale.

Lester was a middle aged man, unkept, quiet, and unassuming. He kept to himself, was socially awkward, and had a longstanding history of mental illness. This is a history I could probably look up and provide to you, but like most of the residents of Rosedale, I know him based on hearsay and assumptions.

Lester is more legend than man now, after all.

I should get to the point.

Lester liked to pee in odd places.

Well, I guess not so odd. Plenty of animals and even people have peed on cars and storefronts, but for whatever reason, Lester had to do this in front of other people. The incidences were isolated at first, spread out by months of times, but like a serial offender they soon began happening more frequently. First, he was spotted pissing on the grocery store, grinning and giggling as he released the pressure. Next, he popped out of an alleyway and drew a line in the sidewalk no pedestrians dare cross. He doused the door of Nick Losinno’s sedan as he stood screaming at him from his porch, and went a step further by trying to pee on Jon Duff’s shoes as he stood waiting at a traffic crossing.

No one really knew who Lester was back then. The paper shared the stories like they were a part of some urban legend, and everyone around town was on the lookout for the “phantom pisser” roaming the streets of Rosedale, waiting for his next opportunity to strike.

Seriously, a local printing shop made t-shirts geared towards tourists. “I survived the spray in Rosedale, PA.”

The shop went out of business, for what that’s worth.

The thing was, Lester was never violent or aggressive with these acts, and every time he attempted to conceal his penis from view. Whatever voyeuristic pleasure he gained from the act, Lester never came off as dangerous, just deranged in a sad enough way to be viewed as entertaining.

And this is how the mystique was born.

Suddenly, people had a scapegoat. A reason to talk shit on the town without having to mention their own personal failings or lack of an attempt to leave it. Lester was the hero Rosedale deserved more so than it needed, one that allowed residents to laugh at and hate themselves without being aware of it.

We all need outlets.

Lester never really got the help he needed, as far as I know. He was fined a couple of times, spent a week in the slammer, but was always thrown back onto the streets. He had nowhere to go and no one was really keen on helping him. It wasn’t until the “downtown brown” incident of two years ago that Lester was looked at as a real problem. This was when he shat a load so huge upon the floor of the twenty-four hour laundry mat, the owner was convinced it came from a diarrhea-stricken stray dog.

Security footage revealed the truth. Lester, grinning like a rosy-cheeked child on Christmas day, had waltzed into the laundromat in a calculated strike, and, in all of his glory, laid his goliath dookie right center in the floor, never once breaking stare with the security camera.

Unlike you and me, this man will be remembered.

I forget what happened to Lester after that incident, but he was “sent away,” whatever that means. Some optimists in town believe he is finally getting the help he’s always needed, while others, who also fashion themselves as optimists, perpetuate the story that Lester is still out there, mysterious and elusive, pissing freely like a sasquatch with a bladder problem.

Some questions are best left unanswered.

I think about Lester as I walk out of the hospital into a cold spring day, the sky milky gray and overcast. Lester is the unofficial mascot of Rosedale, a town so rural and downtrodden he’s still the biggest talk of the area, only the omnipresent rumor of a new Taco Bell occasionally taking the mantle.

Rosedale is the central hub of Wayne County, an area so isolated that some folks have to span fifty or so miles for basic goods and services, including medical care at Rosedale Memorial Hospital, the only real option they have.

See: up shit creek.

See also: without a paddle.

To put Rosedale’s situation into perspective, my ass wiping job, currently starting at 10.15 per hour, is one of the highest paying jobs available in the town.

See: The American Dream.

Did you know the suicide rate in small towns is twice the rate of that of urban centers?

Does that surprise you?

I walk down the sidewalk, uneven and filled with cracks so deep they can masquerade as potholes. I pass the park,where children as young as five play unattended, their parents uninvolved, uncaring. These children are dirty and foul-mouthed, and I hear a series of swear words as I walk by.

The good thing about Rosedale is, as a town devoid of culture, expectations, or standards, it’s okay for parents to neglect their children. It’s always okay for people to be exactly what they are.

Nothing.

Okay, I’m being a bit of a downer. I shouldn’t be so judgemental. I should focus on myself. But I am out to accomplish something. I’m not talking about murdering patients; I’m working towards something on a much larger scale. Something that will not only wake this town up and give the people a newfound appreciation for life and opportunity, but also cement my legacy and ensure that I will be remembered forever.

We all want a taste of immortality.

Even if it’s a knock-off brand.

I walk onto my street and head towards my home. It is the eleventh home I have lived in during my life, though all have been in the Rosedale area. It’s dilapidated, so small it appears to be cowering on it’s own weed-strewn lawn. The windows are dusty and cracked, and the gutters overflow with water, leaves, and a buildup of muck.

I think about Rebecca and her idea of representing on the outside what is within.

The door is unlocked but I have to crank the knob a few times to get it to open. I walk by three of our eight cats and step over a few piles of clothes and an overflowing garbage bag and into the kitchen. There Mom sits, obscured by the towers of unpaid bills and old magazines, mail and junk piled upon our dining table without rhyme or reason. Every day the size and location of the junk towers change as we readjust and move them to make room for our dinner plates.

Mom is drinking wine. She’s also crying, puffing on a cigarette between each sob. This isn’t an unusual scene for this early in the day and I greet her with my standard level of avoidant enthusiasm.

“Hey Mom,” I say.

“Trevor,” Mom cries. “I’m sorry, Trevor. I failed you, I’m so sorry.” She appears nearly hysterical and I see a bottle of pills near her slippered feet.

“Sorry for what?”

“I…I…” she heaves. “I should have been…been there for you. I should…I should have loved you more. Oh God, my baby boy!” Mom wobbles in her chair and for a moment it appears she’s going to topple.

Mom has her moments.

Most of them involve rehashing the past.

“Don’t worry about it, Mom,” I say. Sure, there were the times when she left me and my brother unattended. And yes, she passed out plenty of times because of drugs. And certainly, it sucked eating Cheerios as my only sustenance for four straight days, but the past is the past, isn’t it?

I mean, we all make a series of mistakes.

Most of us every day.

“Come back to me Trevor,” Mom rasps.

“I’m right here, Mom, calm down.”  

“Trevor..”

“Mom I’m right here.” This seems to get through to her. Mom’s eyes pop open and she smiles through the tears, revealing her coffee and cigarette stained teeth.

“Why were you gone so long?” Mom asks, her words slurred. Her hands move and fumble with the cigarette maker, hastily packing in wad after wad of tobacco as she slides the wrapper into position.

Did you know that an estimated 25 million people in the United States suffer from some form of substance abuse?

“I was working a double,” I reply.

“I worked today too, you know,” Mom says, swearing under her breath as the cigarette wrapper crumbles in the maker. Tobacco spills out the sides and joins countless other strands decorating our table.

“Yes, I know.”

“This…this thing…it’s…a piece…” Mom losses the word. “A piece of shit,” she mutters, slamming the cigarette maker onto the table.

That children of addicts are significantly more likely to develop addiction themselves due to genetic and environmental factors?

“How was work” I ask.

“It was tough,” Mom says. She wobbles in her chair and as she moves her arms to steady herself she knocks the bag of tobacco to the floor. It spills out and Chester, one of our cats, rushes over to gnaw on it.

“Damn it,” Mom says. “Oh well.” Her eyes return to me. “Work sucked. It was…hard…a rush. There was this..fat…fucking…slob who wanted a refund.” Mom’s hands scramble to pour more wine into her glass. She does this with a trained precision, nary a tremble to her hand as she tops off her glass.

That these children also have an increased risk of being physically and sexually abused?

And developing depression?

Mom slurps down the wine and it’s gone before she’s even a few sentences into her story. A thick splash decorates the right corner of her shirt, but she doesn’t seem to notice. Her words and story are incoherent, but Mom’s hands are as focused as ever as they pour another glass of wine. She rambles on, saying something about “wanting to slap the grease off of that inbred hog’s face” and wanting to “tell the manager to shove it straight up his narrow ass.” She then shares with me a particularly salacious rumor about her manager which she told me last week, and I take note of her vicious tone more so than the content of her words.

“People who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones,” Mom rasps, chugging the last bit of wine. She takes a long draw of her cigarette before coughing, smoke billowing into my face. “I don’t know how I put up with all of this bullshit,” she mutters.

I feel like I’m fading. Mom collects the tobacco from the floor, shooing Chester off, and I become distant. I’m not sure if it’s the exhaustion from the work day or another oncoming round of disassociation, but I don’t feel like I’m there.

My head hurts.

Everything is going black.

I hear the screech of the brakes, and then, a shrill beeping sound.

“Trevor? Trevor?” Mom snaps. She coughs again, this one wet and throaty. “Are you there?”

I snap back to it. I can feel my body again. I feel blood in my veins and for a moment the sensation is foreign.

“I’m here,” I say. “Just exhausted. I think work is getting to me. I have to get to bed; I have another shift soon.”

Mom looks skeptical. “Oh…fine…fine then. No time for your mother, even after I’ve had such a hard day.” She drinks from her wine glass but it’s empty. “It’s always work, work, work, with you, Trevor.”

“Well, we have rent to pay, you know.”

“Oh screw you,” Mom belts. “I damn well know we have rent to pay.”  

“Has Jeff pitched in for it?”

Mom lets out a snort. “Oh don’t start this again. You always take an opportunity to harp on him. He has it so hard you know.”

Jeff is my younger brother. He has not held a job since high school and is currently twenty years old. He spends his days listening to music, playing video games, and getting high, usually on marijuana but he will occasionally switch it up with by taking some acid, OxyContin (often borrowed from mom), or shrooms.

We all have our hobbies.

“It’s not fair that…”

“It’s not fair that you pick on him you asshole!” Mom barks, waving her wine glass at me. “He got kicked out of high school, right off the baseball team too. You know how much that hurt him. How much he was traumatized.”

Traumatized.

“Nevermind, forget I said anything,” I say. “I’m just tired. I have to go lay down.”

“Pfft, you and the rest of us,” Mom says. “ Fine, fine then, get to bed. I see where your priorities are.”

“I have a shift at seven. I’ll see you before I go,” I respond.

Mom waves me off, focusing on the cigarettes once again. “Yeah, yeah, I made chicken for dinner. Make sure you eat some before you go. You’re losing so much weight it looks like you’re falling through your own asshole.”

“Thanks Mom, I will,” I say as I walk out of the kitchen, Mom’s haggard coughs chasing behind me.

There’s a certain difficulty that comes with my mother and brother but I can’t stay mad at them for long. I suppose this comes from a place of understanding. A twisted sense of solidarity, perhaps. They have their vices, but don’t we all?

We’re all addicts in some way.

Or at least we want to be.

You have to wonder if the Devil is real or just the absence of completion in our own hearts.

I walk towards my bedroom. I hear my brother blasting music from his bedroom, the door rattling on its hinges as a heavy bass riff thunders outward. My brother is screaming, short of breath as he dishes out some type of freestyle rap. He records them and posts them on Facebook. I hear a snippet of the latest effort as I get to my door.

“Uh! Yeah! Your rhymes are from the bottom of the barrel! My rhymes are from the core. Bone Marrow. I come in like motherfucking Jack Sparrow. And yeah motherfucker I will wear a sombrero cause I don’t even care-o!” There’s a pause as my brother stops the music to listen to what he’s recorded. It’s short lived as I hear him smack his hands together and say, “oh shit! This is ill!”

I close my door behind me but the music still radiates through my walls. I’m long past the point of arguing with Jeff over the volume of his music. I sit at my desk, looking over the paperwork, eyes lazily listing over the schematics, the steps, the plan of action. In my weariness I feel accomplishment, a warm caress of purpose.

I’ll finally have a chance to make a difference.

I roll up the schematic and place each paper in the appropriate pile. I walk to my bed and lay down, closing my heavy eyelids. All my worries fade as I focus on my plan. They, like Jeff’s music, become background noise, and as I drift towards a welcomed slumber, I hear only one thing, a faded sound, distant yet booming.

Tick.

Tick.

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Terminal Chapter 2

Chapter 2 of my novel Terminal, soon to be sent to editors by my agent. Refer to the prologue and chapter 1 to get caught up to speed. Warning: Intense graphic content.

                                                                                  2

His dick looks like a swollen eggplant.

That’s one way to start a chapter.

I’m serious, though. His schlong is engorged. So bloated with blood it’s purple, skin stretching beyond proposition like a water balloon ready to burst. His veins race like serpents up on the length of his shaft, looking ready to tear through the veil of his skin.

I hold 414’s ankles down, securing them to the bed. He’s letting out breaths in rapid heaves, his face thick with sweat. A nurse secures his arms while another confers with the doctor, getting him the proper medical equipment.

I’m eye level with his dick. Head to head staredown. I have to make sure he doesn’t move or this operation could be disastrous.

Cue dramatic music.

I’m thinking Ennio Morricone’s score from The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The patient has maintained an erection for hour ten hours. The medical term for what is happening is a priapism, which is when blood is trapped inside the penis and isn’t circulating. This is why his cock is a slowly-dying-purple instead of the pasty pinkish hue of the rest of him.

Viagra commercials warn you about this type of thing.

Because they’re super concerned about your health, after all.

Blood that doesn’t circulate cannot carry oxygen to cells, which then die. This results in severe tissue damage and the potential loss of the penis itself.

The man had been rushed in as a medical emergency. They shoved him down in the first bed they could find. Apparently there wasn’t enough time to get anesthesia going, because he’s going to be awake for this “operation.”

He’s been told to close his eyes like seven times.

But could you do it,, knowing what was coming?

Dr. Sherbrooke is using a butterfly needle, a particularly thin instrument used to administer shots to infants. They gave him a pill for the pain but there’s no way it’s going to suffice. There’s a panicked look in his eye and he wiggles as the doctor draws near. Sherbrooke says something, it’s reassuring, I’m sure, coming out in a docile, complacent sort of professional voice. You know, the voice that cares because it’s supposed to, the tone thinly veiling the fact that the current situation is a major pain in the person’s ass.

You get it.

At least I think you do.

The man is panicking. He swears. Horrible things, the worst you can imagine. He calls the nurse a few choice terms I dare not repeat. It takes all I have to hold his ankles in place as his legs attempt a frenzied dance. He’s wiggling and squirming as the needle approaches his swollen dick.

Then it happens and everything becomes slow motion.

The needle pierces his skin and 414 thrashes to the side. I stumble forward, nearly face-planting into his balls. His body is stabilized but then a nightmare charges my way.

There’s no avoiding it.

The spray.

Like a punctured water balloon his cock squirts, sending a rush of blood straight into my face with the fury of one thousand super soakers. As engorged droplets of the mess cascade down my face, the errant cock taunts me, dancing with the epileptic shakes of those inflatable tube men outside of car dealerships.

It’s at this point you should really question if this book is for you.

The others respond to the man’s needs. I sigh, take a step back, and walk over to the counter. The man is thrashing and shouting, but the doctor and nurses have control of him. His cock is withering and there’s the rich taste of iron on my lips.

I grab a hand towel and wipe my face. I decide to get back to my rounds.

I don’t tell you this sort of thing to gross you out. Sure, puncturing bloated dicks may seem unusual to some people, but this type of thing is every day life for others.

Just last week, an ER nurse had to help the doctor tug a six inches long by four inches round Yankee Candle (scent: Seaform Breeze) out from the rectum of an obese forty-eight year old man. He insisted he had fallen on it, even though the waxy nightmare stuck out of his asshole wick first. It was rammed up there with enough force to tear the lining of his anus and cause internal bleeding. Eventually, they had to take him into surgery to dislodge the item.

True story.

It ended up in the hole bin – a plastic container in which we store unusual items removed from the orifices of patients. Children’s toys, hair brushes, eating utensils, power tools, and even unopened pickle jars have found their way into the bin, recovered from this, that, and the other place.  

I’m not kidding.

Seriously, look this stuff up.

On second thought, please don’t.  

What I’m getting at is, being around this type of thing constantly warps your perspective. Makes you see things a little differently.

Have I given you that impression?  

The hallway is cramped and cluttered, discarded medical equipment lining the walls like loiterers. I’m about to transition back into my rounds when I start to hear the ticking. Soft at first, but then louder, booming, the rhythm steady and unshakable.

Tick.

Tick.

The Taos Hum is a phenomena reported in the town of Taos New Mexico. It’s estimated that approximately two percent of people who live in/visit Taos report hearing a constant humming sound in and around the town. Those who have heard the Taos Hum report it to be a low frequency rumbling sound, similar to a droning hum or distant diesel engine, which is heard both indoors and outdoors. While there are scientific theories abound, including biological as well as environmental causes, the true nature of the Taos Hum is still unknown.

I don’t hear humming. I hear the ticking.

Tick.

Tick.

Like a clock in an otherwise silent room.

Now, unlike the Taos hum, I know the origin of the ticking. I’m aware it’s inside my head. It hasn’t been my whole life either. No, after I received some news, the ticking began.

Tick.

Tick.

Time’s running out.

I’m fading back.

I hear the blare of the horn.

The hallway in front of me begins fade away, a ring of darkness clouding my vision. I lose sensation in my body, feeling as if I’m floating, literally exiting my body and going back in time. I hear the screech of the brakes and the hallway becomes the back seat for just a moment, before I clench my fists and shake my head, snapping the scene away.

I can’t go back there.

With a pop I’m back and it’s alarming to feel again, the warmth of my body surprising me. I shake my head as Linda, a respiratory therapist, mutters a comment under her breath while sidestepping me.

Rude.

Disassociation is a medical condition whereby an individual, who has experienced past trauma, feels detached from themselves, literally as if they are not who they are.

If you haven’t already guessed, there’s something going on with me.

Shocker, right?

Disassociation results in emotional and physical numbness, and in severe cases the odd sensation that a person is “beyond” themselves, feeling as if they are floating above or near their bodies, watching their interactions like a spectator. Disassociation is often linked to clinical depression and posttraumatic stress disorder.

I’ve seen some shit.

And I’m not talking about the ass-wiping I have to do as part of my job.

Well, not yet anyway.

When a person experiences a traumatic moment in their lives, it’s easier for their mind to detach and dissociate, as to not deal with the crippling reality of their situation. Therefore, when stressed or worried, individuals who have disassociated in the past may do so again.

Your body’s coping mechanism.

We all have our ways of dealing with stress.

Some of us better than others.

A pain lingers in my skull after the event and I have a fairly good idea of why. There’s a reasonable explanation as to why my mind keeps fading back to that day and place I want to leave behind.

We’ll get to that later.

Probably.

The ticking reminds me of the time I have and what I have to accomplish. This all reminds me of something greater. I try to push it all from my mind as I walk back to perform my rounds. The business with eggplant dick was spur of the moment; a diversion from the normal routine. Most of my day and actions are structured, all part of that rinse and repeat existence.

I enter the room of 409, a fossil of a woman in her 90s who always smells like a strange mix of rotting fruit and cat piss, and my thoughts shift from the ticking to something much more disgusting.

Bedsores.

I scratch my back. I feel imaginary bedsores. I feel the need to turn in my bed. I feel helpless and unable to. It’s a strange sensation and I wonder if I’m disassociating again.

Bedsores form due to a lack of oxygen from limited blood flow. Without this oxygenation the tissue in the affected areas becomes necrotic and dies, literally rotting away. The signs of this are progressive, with redness and mild swelling showing as an early sign of the process while putrid rotting flesh craters develop as the result of long term inactivity. In advanced cases, the decaying flesh can be pulled from the body in chunks.

This is why we turn patients.

Standard procedure dictates that all patients be turned every four hours. There’s no need to do this in the case of physically able patients. Critically ill or elderly patients, however, often lack the faculties or awareness to do so themselves and must be turned to prevent the development of these festering ulcers.

Now you can walk away from this experience claiming you’ve learned something.

I get to the side of 409’s bed. She has an NPO sticker slapped to the foot of her bed. NPO stands for “nil per os,” a Latin phrase which translates to “nothing by mouth,” and indicates a patient is not to receive food or medicine orally. This can be due to the medical condition, current dose of medication, or due to the need for surgery the next day.

Hey look, you learned something else.

I place 409 on her side as gently as possible. One time, another aide was so tired that he turned a patient without paying attention. He didn’t notice the elderly man’s arm was wedged under his body at an awkward angle. Some nurses said they heard the pop of the dislocation from the other side of the floor.

But you can never really know who to believe.

Some people just like to be part of the story.

I turn 409 without an issue, but then she stirs from her sleep. She delivers an elbow to my groin with far more power than I thought she possessed.

See: occupational hazards.

I let out an “oof” and check to see if everything is in place, hoping 409 doesn’t misinterpret this motion as she squawks at me. She complains that she doesn’t need anyone touching her at night, and that she can turn on her own. Her final bold proclamation is that me and the rest of the lowlifes that work here don’t know the difference between proper medicine and our own assholes.

I agree with her and wish her a pleasant night as I walk out of the room.

The official title of my job is CNA, which stands for certified nurse’s assistant. In order to become certified, a series of coursework and a certification test are required. In my case, however, since I had college courses under my belt, I only had to take the certification test. Being certified as a nurse’s assistant is not even a requirement for hire at my current place of employment, nor does it come with a salary bump. Instead, anyone with a high school diploma can be hired to care for the wellbeing of your seriously ill loved ones.

There’s something to think about.

As a kid, you kind of figure that the people who do these types of jobs are competent. That lives, for example, are in good hands. The older you get the more this illusion fades. Kind of like the idea that you can achieve your dream career or find true happiness.

I’m just kidding about that second part.

Well, sort of.

I am currently working the night shift, which runs from eleven to seven. However, I am scheduled for a double, meaning I’ll be turning, feeding, bathing, and wiping ass until three in the afternoon, with my next shift starting again at eleven that night. This kind of schedule makes the days and details blend together, like a song on repeat or a movie marathon where they play the same film over and over.

You’ve seen the details a thousand times but you still forget them.

I’m walking towards room 410 when I see Rebecca in the hallway. Her outline is nothing more than a slit, the bright white lights of the hall casting her as a slender shadow. She’s thin, with sunken cheeks and liberally applied mascara. Her bright green eyes are emeralds shining out of a black abyss. Combine this with her hair, dyed a vibrant red with streaks of black highlights, and the array of pink scars running up the lengths of her arms, and she’s someone who doesn’t fit your typical mold of a nurse. She’s two years older than I am, and we’d both starting working at hospital three years earlier.

I recall the first time I spoke to her.

I didn’t speak to many nurses. They just weren’t my type. But Rebecca was different. There was just something about the way she carried herself throughout my first few days at the hospital.

Oh, and the scars.

Yeah, she had a multitude of them running up and across the length of her arm, like a do-it-yourself flannel pattern. Some were pink and faded while others were crimson, so fresh they were still scabbing. As far as I knew, she had been working at the hospital for three days and no one had broached the subject with her.

People like to leave most doors unopened.

I walked up to Rebecca at the beginning of my shift, as she stood studying a clipboard in her hand, put on my finest shit-eating grin and asked the question that had to be on everybody’s mind.

“So, why do you cut yourself?”

“Well, nice to meet you too.”

“My name is Trevor,” I offered.

“Fuck off.”

It’s estimated that between two and three million people habitually cut themselves yearly in the United States alone. The true numbers are difficult to discern since many cutters hide their habit out of fear of social stigmatization.

“I’m sorry…”

“No you’re not,” Rebecca interjected. “You’re a snide little punk ass is what you are. I’ve heard about you, Mr. Doom and Gloom.”

“Is that my nickname?”

“Does Fuckface sound better?”

“Kind of, yes.”

Rebecca sized me up. “Do you really want to know why I cut or are you just being an ass?”

“Are those things mutually exclusive?”

Although there’s evidence suggesting an increased risk of suicide among those who cut, it’s inaccurate to categorize all who cut as being suicidal. Self-harm via skin cutting is often a symptom of underlying conditions, most commonly depression.

Rebecca tilted her head. “Isn’t it obvious why I cut?”

In many cases, cutting is an unhealthy coping mechanism, a way for individuals to release stress by focusing on physical pain rather than their emotional suffering. Studies indicate that such behavior can be psychologically addicting, and individuals can develop the belief that they need cutting as a coping mechanism and cannot function without it.

“If it was so obvious, I wouldn’t ask,” I responded.

“Smartass.”

“I thought I was Fuckface.”

“Are those mutually exclusive?”

Treatment options for cutters include a psychological evaluation to determine the risk of suicidality and therapy in conjunction with whatever medication may be prescribed to assist in treating the underlying condition.

“I suppose not,” I say. “But I’m actually curious. No one else has asked you, but you don’t seem to be hiding it, so I figured why not ask?”

Rebecca wore an assured smirk.  “The answer to your question is simple. Do you know why people get tattoos? Why they sully their skin with unnatural images?”  

I thought about it. “To feel expressed,” I responded. “People want to express themselves and represent who they are, the ideals they hold dear.”

“Ah,” Rebecca said. “To feel expressed. So you’d say it’s fair to say they want to represent what is inside, on the outside?”

“Yeah, or at least what they hope is there,” I replied.  

“So my question to you is,” she said, her smirk growing with a twitch, “is why don’t more people cut?”

“What do you mean?”

Rebecca played with her scab, picking at it and drawing blood. The sound made as it detached from her skin reminded me of children eagerly unwrapping presents on Christmas morning.

It’s strange where our minds go.

“We all feel so incomplete, so torn,” Rebecca explained, blood streaming down her arm. “I’m just expressing how I feel, like a dagger is cutting into my soul. So why not represent it? Isn’t that authenticity the closest we can be to being whole?”

As she stood before me, blood staining her porcelain skin in a zigzag pattern, I found I was drawn to this woman.

What does that say about me?

“Physical mutilation as genuine expression then,” I said. “You choose not to hide how you feel from the world.”

“I choose to be what I am on the inside: cut, bleeding, broken. The triumph and tragedy of human life is that we feel.”

“Poetic,” I said.

“Realistic,” Rebecca responded.

“You’ve been through a lot, haven’t you?”

“Haven’t we all?”

“And like marble, each chip away from us moves us closer to becoming a work of art,” I said.

Rebecca stared at me for a moment before laughing. “Are you calling me a beautiful work of art? Is this your attempt at flirting, strange nurse’s aide?”

“My name is Trevor,” I said. “Or Fuckface, whatever you prefer, but no, I’m not flirting. I just think that those of us who have endured trials in life have the potential to become unique and beautiful in ways others cannot.”

I often wonder why I said these types of things to her. I guess I identified us as two birds of the same feather, each broken in our own way. And it’s better to be broken together than broken alone, certainly.

Right?  

“You might be onto something there,” Rebecca said with a smile. “ My name is Rebecca. It’s a pleasure to meet you. Maybe we should be friends.”

“Yes,” I said, letting a smile grace my face. “We should.”

A beautiful friendship blossomed.

Beautiful is a subjective term.

Now, as I approach Rebecca, she’s slouched against the wall, face dropping downward with her expression. The years hadn’t been kind to her spirit, and this setting, with its sterile white walls, constant buzz of conversation and machinery, and consistent odor of death had worn away at her.

Life will do that to you.

“Hey there,” Rebecca says. “406 went, how about that?” In the hospital we use the term went as if they are hotel guests checking out.

I suppose in a way they are.

“Really?” I say. “He wasn’t in such bad shape, that’s a shame. At least he’s done with this place.”

“Unlike us,” Rebecca says. “Maybe he’s the lucky one. People don’t think enough about how life isn’t necessarily a good thing. That’s why I get confused about babies.”

“Babies?”

Rebecca stares at her fingernails, picking some grime out from under them. “Everyone celebrates them like they are the greatest thing ever when babies are just a game of chance. That sweet little bundle may just end up as a rapist, serial killer, or the next Adolf Hitler. How will everyone feel about their celebrations then?”

“I get what you’re saying, but I think kids are just an opportunity for most people,” I say. “That chance to leave the past behind and make something worthwhile.”

“You’re right,” Rebecca muses. “I just wonder how many parents are disappointed in what they made when those hopes don’t pan out.”

I feel a stab of emotion and look away.

What does that say about me?

“We should talk about this stuff more, get coffee soon,” I suggest.

“Oh smooth,” Rebecca says with a sort of disinterested laugh. “Are you asking me out again? It’s been almost a year.”

I shake my head. “Just for conversation. I wouldn’t wish the burden of my romance upon anyone. Plus, I don’t know how much longer I’ll be around.”

Rebecca’s eyes widen. “You’re quitting?” This is asked in the hospital, in some capacity, at least a dozen times daily.

“Something like that. Never know what tomorrow will bring.”

“Way to be vague, smartass,” Rebecca says. “You’re the one leaving riddles around the floor, aren’t you?”

“Riddles?”

Rebecca throws me a sideways glance. She reaches into her pocket and removes a slip of paper. She hands it to me and I read.

What am I, what am I?

You can see me but never hold me

You can fear me but never avoid me

I am the shared experience of all man

What am I, what am I?

The paper is creased, folded, and wrinkled, only about the size of a napkin. It’s the type of thing you’d expect to find next to a trash bin, or left lying on a park bench somewhere.

“Do you know the answer?” I ask.

“Is it love?”

I shrug. “How should I know?”

Rebecca rolls her eyes. “You’re something else. I have to get back to a patient. As for the coffee, maybe Tuesday, keep in touch, champ.” She gives me a pat on the shoulder as she walks by.

Tuesday. I strain my mind thinking of what day it is. In the hospital business, it’s always the same day, the same dredge of a stretch with no holidays or weekends to take advantage of, the same fluorescent lights shining down the same downtrodden group of people.

Never ending.

Stuck on repeat.

I already made that reference, I’m sorry.

I’m losing track.

Rebecca was right; I wrote the riddle. I scribble them down and hide them in various locations during my shifts. Sometimes it’s under a patient’s covers, other times it’s under a coffee mug in the break room, the potted plants, toilet paper dispenser, nowhere is off limits. Sometimes I hide them so well they aren’t found until months after the fact.

Or never at all.  

So what do you think the answer is? I’ll provide it at a later point in the novel.

Now there’s a reason to keep reading.

I turn 410 and get some water for 411 before walking down the hall en route to my next task. The call bell is ringing for 413 and I’m hurrying around the corner to their room so fast I nearly collide with the person coming the opposite way.

Mark Rubino.

Do you know what they call the person who graduates at the bottom of their class in medical school?

Doctor.

“406 just went,” Dr. Rubino says. His hair and stubble are dark but coated throughout with a smattering of gray. He glares at me from behind his wire frame glasses. His eyes are light blue, what many would describe as a soft blue, but their stare is always harsh, accusatory.

I nod in an absent sort of way.

“Did you fuck something up?” he growls.

“No,” I reply. This is an honest response; I’d accomplished what I set out to do.

“Are you sure?” he says. “You barely look like you’re aware enough to be here. Are you high on something?”

“I’ve passed every drug test while employed here,” I say before tactfully adding, “sir.” This was also true. I simply failed to mention two occasions when I’d used someone else’s piss.

He shakes his head. “Well let’s see if you can keep that up. If I find out 406 was your fault…” he trails off, assuming I can conjure up the horrid consequences.

As if termination scares me.

As if release from this position wouldn’t be liberation.

As if the fear of death is nothing but irrational.

Dr. Mark Rubino has it out for me. Most of the time, these grudges are all in someone’s head. It isn’t that people are out to get them; it’s that they are misinterpreting situations and intentions. It’s that they haven’t clearly communicated with the other party and there’s a misunderstanding.

This isn’t the case.

Dr. Rubino had made it clear on several occasions that there was a reason why “people like him” were doctors and “people like me” wiped ass for a living. The funny thing is, I agree with him, but for entirely different reasons. Dr. Rubino views himself as a “success,” someone who used the indomitable force of his sheer will to work hard and achieve where others had failed. In Dr. Rubino’s opinion, he earned everything he had while others wasted the opportunities life afforded them.

I disagree.

Dr. Rubino was born with two doctors as parents. He was raised in an upper middle class setting. Food, safety, and security, were never concerns. Dr. Rubino was given everything he needed to succeed in life and had only made it this far. Despite his parents being excellent practitioners, he had graduated last in his class from Temple, and for this reason he found himself working at this low-level hospital in the middle of nowhere, Pennsylvania.

He had two failed marriages under his belt.

A DUI conviction.

He once filed for bankruptcy on a doctor’s salary.

And he is judging me?

The audacity.

Dr. Rubino should be one of the top medical experts in his field, saving countless lives, publishing valuable research to make a positive change in the world, yet here he is before me, a sad excuse for a doctor in a go-nowhere town, the ultimate representation of good genes and care gone to waste.

I’m no winner myself, but at least I know it. I come from a different background. Generations worth of white trash DNA compose my being, with experience to boot. Single parent household, drug addiction, abuse, living off of food stamps and twenty thousand dollars a year.

A place where expectations are up, up , up.

No one in my extended family had ever considered college; most didn’t graduate high school. But I did. In fact, I lasted two years in college before dropping out. By this standard, I’ve gone further than Dr. Rubino ever has. A person in my situation was supposed to fall to the wayside, become an addict, a leech on the system, have more kids than he can afford, and continue the cycle. But here I am, college credits under my belt, working in a professional setting, contributing to the majority of my household’s bills.

I’ve risen from my parents and he has fallen from his. So really, I’m the success and he’s the failure.

Right?

“Are you proud of your life?” I ask.

“What did you say?” Rubino snaps.

“Are you all you dreamed you would be when you were a child?”

He puts on a scowl. “Don’t be a smartass.”

“So the answer is no, then?”

“Oh this is rich,” Rubino scoffs. “The ass-wiper trying to taunt me. You better watch your mouth and do your job or I’ll make sure you’re out of a job and that you and your low life mother will have to sell her extra pills to pay the rent.”

“Quite a threat.”  

“A promise, one you best remember you little pion,” Rubino remarks, walking away as if he’s won.

“You never answered,” I call. “Are you what you’d dream you’d be as a child?”

Rubino’s laugh is that of the schoolyard bully, somehow as directive as it is dismissive. “And what did you dream you would be? An ass-wiper? Making eleven bucks an hour cleaning up piss and shit and giving baths? Please, indulge me.”

I shrug. “It’s better than what my mother said I’d be.”

Dr. Rubino narrows his eyes. “And what did she say you’d end up as?”

“Nothing.”

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On Grief

Here is something I decided to share with my friends on Facebook. I think it has value for others as well. 

Goodbye car insurance, it’s been real. Phone and internet, pack your bags, you’re next. I may be going dark for awhile, friends. I wanted to take this moment to get some things off of my chest. This is the most candid I’ll ever be on social media, and I’m already suspecting I shouldn’t even be sharing this many personal details on Facebook. But, at this point, I really have nothing to lose.

I don’t think I ever let myself grieve over my father’s death. I’m grieving now, both over the loss of him and the feeling that I’ve failed him. I realize this feeling is self imposed, and that my father wouldn’t see me as failing him, but the feeling still lingers. I suppose the feeling is because I took it upon myself to help the family and hold things together when he past.

 

And now I’ve failed.

 

I made a very pivotal decision last summer. I was offered a job as an insurance/real estate agent. This was not something I saw myself doing in the long run, however, it would help pay the bills and stabilize my family’s financial situation. I was accepted into my masters program, and this employer did not want me doing it – he wanted my focus solely on the insurance business. I wanted to follow my passion and in my eyes, make a difference in the world, so I chose to go with grad school. Although I’ve learned so much and enriched my life, meeting wonderful people along the way, that decision has proven to have repercussions.

 

I’m halfway to my masters but I’m also halfway to losing everything. In a lot of ways I feel like I’ve already lost everything. I had a relationship that spanned five and a half years. Through all of the stress my family situation put on me, this relationship was my rock. This was the one thing going right, the one thing I had absolute faith in, and the reason I got out of bed every morning. This was my future – the romantic in me knew that this love so true was destined to last forever. Our life together would be bliss, and I’d be proud to be able to provide for the love of my life after I earned my masters degree.

 

It was all I wanted. It was why I strived to be a better person daily.

 

Then it was gone. I’ve touched upon how this has felt on Facebook in the past, but I’ve never done it justice. The hollow feelings of emptiness, hopelessness, and worthlessness were all encompassing. All of a sudden I was not worthy of being loved or worth fighting for – and I took this upon myself. It destroyed my worldview, and drastically altered what I thought about my future.

 

Then my car broke down. Then I had to take out more school loans to afford another to keep getting to class. Then I sideswiped a telephone pole with that car. Then my mother broke her wrist and lost time at work. Then, after I have dumped over five thousand dollars into paying the mortgage and back bills to keep our home and life situation, everything is still lost.

 

I’ve failed.

I’ve had a great deal of successes. I’m a standout student in my graduate program, which I am incredibly passionate about. I’ve earned a graduate assistantship, which will allow me to get by on my own next semester. I’ve published a novel, I’ve matured and grown as a person more in the last few months than the previous few years. I’m proud that I’ve been able to overcome so much.

 

But some days that just isn’t enough. Some days you remember no one loves you like she did and she’ll never love you like that again. Some days you feel so ruined by what happened that you don’t think you can love again. Some days you’re faced with the fact you’ll have to drive uninsured and risk devastation. Some days you see that your novel really isn’t selling well, and few people actually care you wrote one. Some days you realize that your current living situation is not manageable and it’s highly likely you’ll lose your home and your mom will have nowhere to go. Some days four years of dealing with the loss of your father, the constant financial burdens, the dangerous habits and behaviors of your brother, becomes too much. Some days you’re supposed to care about the multiple fifteen plus page papers and research assignments you have for class when you barely have the emotional strength to drive 40 miles to class.

 

This is one of those days. This is a day where I’m feeling overwhelmed, isolated, and hurt. I have my fair share of responsibility for how things have turned out. I also have the ability to better my life situation and emerge from this a stronger, more capable person. I am not denying myself this opportunity to become wiser, more aware, and better suited for life’s challenges.

 

But this is just one of those days. On a day like this, none of the positive stuff seems to matter. On a day like this I don’t even want to keep going on living. And the sick thing is, it’s not all sad feelings. It’s an overwhelming exhaustion, the feeling that I’ve been kicked so many times I don’t want to get up anymore. It’s the feeling that my views that love can conquer all if you put your heart into it, and that good things will happen if I keep trying my best were naive and misguided, and have left me more broken down than if I never had them at all.

 

This isn’t the stuff people are “supposed” to talk about on Facebook, but you know, I don’t care. I’m a person, I have complex emotions, and so what if a random jackoff I haven’t talked to in seven years sees what I’m going through? We’re all people.

 

After I lost my relationship, I said I’d never be scared of anything again. In my mind the worst had already happened – the woman I loved and devoted myself to simply no longer felt the same. That level of devastation for me, could never be met. And it’s true, I’m not scared of the future, but in a sick way I feel too tired to get there. I’ve been doing very well over the last month or so, being positive, learning life lessons, and becoming stronger. I kept thanking God for these hardships because they were making me a tougher person.

 

But today it feels like I’m carrying too much. Today, after hearing about the bill situation we have, I just want to lay down and never get up again.

 

I don’t want pity, and I’m not asking for sympathy. Everyone has their life struggles. Everyone goes through hardships, and plenty have endured much worse than I have. My life is still within my hands and what has happened to me is no one’s fault or responsibility but my own. I’ve had choices this entire way.

 

I guess I just want to be understood. I want to have a moment where I can express what’s really going on rather than being the typical fun loving, positive Dave Bright so many of you see. Because some days it’s just too much. Somedays I don’t want another tomorrow.

 

I want to take this moment to thank all of my dear friends who have supported me in all my times of need. I have wonderful people in my life who have lent their shoulders and earns, and have opened their hearts. You have been a source of strength and inspiration for me.

 

I also want to take this time to apologize to anyone I’ve hurt in the past. I apologize for any selfish actions, any times i’ve disrespected you, or any harm I’ve brought upon you. Thank you for your understanding.

God Bless,

– The Dave Bright

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Fun with Harbinger

 

Harbinger is so good, it’s addicting.

http://www.amazon.com/Harbinger-David-J-Bright-ebook/dp/B00JXC0O2K

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May 23, 2014 · 2:50 am

Latest review

Latest review

Check out what the buzz is about!

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May 13, 2014 · 3:47 pm

The Older I Get…

…the more I know that I don’t know. The more questions I answer the more questions are posed. The more I learn the more I realize I can never learn it all. To some this is daunting, and indeed, it’s a great deal to process. The more answers we seek the more aware we become of just how little we know. 

Socrates and many eastern philosophies have touched on this extensively, and I believed I understood it for a time, but my understanding was purely on an academic level. Experience truly synthesized the theoretical with the tangible, and as each day goes by there’s more principles and thoughts I have to reconsider, rethink, or even abandon entirely. We’re students of life forever. 

And that’s a magnificent thing. You see, wonder never has to fade. There’s always more to know and experience. There’s more realizations to be uncovered, countless personal truths to be found, and amazing people out there to form meaningful relationships with. The fact that I will never know all the answers does not scare me – it fills me with a sense of adventure, because truly, that sense of wonder and excitement will never fade. 

So blaze your trail, for, no matter what paths end, there’s always countless more to explore. 

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Life Unedited

A thank you to those who have seen me through my darkest days. 

 

I’ve finally gotten to the point where I can say something about it. You know, after all the financial and family hardships I’ve experienced in the last year, hearing that the love of my life no longer loved me nearly broke me completely. The one outlet I had, the one person I aspired to have a life with, no longer wanted that, and for a short time I didn’t think I had the emotional capacity to go on. At perhaps the worst possible time I lost the motivation that truly kept me going and achieving, my dreams for the future were shattered, and I never had felt more devastated alone, or worthless. Nearly six years of my life and what I devoted my spirit to was suddenly gone. On top of every thing else, why should I go on?

But, life has its challenges. Although the situation still hurts me, I know that I must continue to be myself, love myself, and strive to achieve. I have done wonderful things in my life and will only continue to do more. This adversity has been an opportunity for unparalleled growth, development, maturation, and insight. Accepting this opportunity and accomplishing these things continues to be difficult, but I have learned more about myself and the world during this time than perhaps any other moment of my life.

From the lost of my father to the hellish family situation that followed, and now to this, I’ve run the gambit. I don’t fear anything in life anymore. There’s no reason to; the worst has truly happened. The horizon is open for me and I shall explore it. Because life isn’t fair; the world is never what we want it to be, but in such lies the beauty of existence. We can’t control life, we can never completely figure it out, but that’s why wonder will never fade. There are always new paths to forge and adventures to be had. There’s always more potential for personal growth and insight and there are always amazing people out there to meet.

Finally, I’d like to thank my dearest friends for being here for me in my most dire time. You’re love and unconditional support has kept me pressing on and I truly love you all for it. I’ll never forget every act of kindness (large and small) you’ve offered me. All I have accomplished is not solely on my accord, but is also due to the contributions and love so many have offered.

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