Read [Part I] HERE
Read [Part II] HERE
A bright searing white light shatters the darkness. There are no walls. The ceiling is merely suggested, as is the floor. Infinity. Perhaps even outside thereof. All items are the crispest of white. A grid of cafeteria tables is set off to one side, a row of chairs set two-together then a side table, repeated and repeated as a long pattern, at the other side. The in-between is vacant.
The silence holds for an uncomfortably long while. The audience should be made to believe that maybe they heard something but then made to realize it was their own anxious shifting. Their own heartbeats. Someone nervously swallows. Another person coughs in a muffled manner. The bright white light should force them to turn away and only be able to peek sidelong at the stark setting.
[Footsteps. A chair slides slightly in a faint tilted greeting.]
Sam is in a white hospital gown.
The orderly is in white pants and a white shirt.
ORDERLY: [Sliding into the cafeteria table opposite Sam, flatly.] Did you sleep?
ORDERLY: Breakfast. [Passes a white food tray across the white table. On the tray, a smaller white plate sits atop a larger white plate. A white mug sits elsewhere on the tray. A white paper napkin. A very small disposable paper cup, white.] You should eat. [The small paper cup is handed to Sam.]
SAM: I’m not hungry. [Empties the paper cup into his mouth, swallows.]
ORDERLY: We’re understaffed. I need to take your vitals. [No movement.]
ORDERLY: They look okay, but I’m worried about your sleep. [Sam remains seated as the orderly walks off.]
Sam maybe slept. It was hard to tell. His room was so bright, so quiet. He remembered hearing his own pulse, his own blood coursing his own veins. He had expected the sounds of dozens of others’ sleep. Nothing. Not a radio in the faint distance nor an unseen television. Neither a snore nor a mumbled word. The workers did not chatter amongst themselves. He, in fact, saw no other workers. The orderly had welcomed him to his room. Maybe. He couldn’t recall. He couldn’t recall how many nights he maybe had not slept.
The orderly was a small man, clean-shaven, almost baby-faced. Spoke shortly but not in a brusque manner per se. There was a kindness there that maybe Sam wanted or hoped to detect. He did not feel unsafe. Sam found himself thinking about food. His stomach felt flat, not empty. The pills sat in there dissolving all alone. Occasionally throughout the day, water was made available to him in a white conical disposable cup via the hand of the orderly. The hand was very clean. The nails gleamed from fresh cuticles. Wrinkles only occurred at the hand’s joints but they were crisp, decisive.
There was a voice on rare occasions and Sam knew it to be his own but he could not always make it out fully and often it sounded vaguely unfamiliar. Transmitted remotely. Sometimes it sounded like an announcer so clear, articulate, and Midwestern. The more clear it was, the harder it was to understand. And silence. It was a far different silence than when holding the bloodied claw hammer. This silence was further away. That silence wrapped itself around him. This silence was not warm. The water was cold and sharp. Warm water was rounded and soft (Cheryl). This silence was cold water cutting. Yet not threatening.
ORDERLY: Sam, I just spoke to Dr. Jadot. He is concerned about your unwillingness to talk. I think it might help if you talked.
SAM: I don’t want to talk.
ORDERLY: You talk to me. I think it would help if you talked to Dr. Jadot.
SAM: [Accepts the small disposable cup, pours its contents into his mouth, and swallows.] What are these pills?
ORDERLY: I don’t know. They come from Dr. Jadot.
SAM: Who is Dr. Jadot?
ORDERLY: Oh, Sam.
Sam was not opposed to talking but it was difficult in a physical way. He was tired. Not so much tired as heavy. His voice sounded odd in his own head, as we’ve already elaborated upon, and again his words were hard to distinguish with any certainty–not to mention the words of the orderly. Who was Dr. Jadot? Sam did not recognize the name. There was no face attached to it. No recollection. There was no recollection when asked yesterday either. Was that yesterday? How many days?
SAM: How many days?
ORDERLY: You should eat. Lunch is soon.
SAM: How many days? [Agitated.]
SAM: HOW MANY DAYS?
His legs. Where were they? He rose and fell to the white tiled floor and his hip sharply-searingly pained him. He searched for his legs with blurry eyes and saw them. His toes. His ankles. His shins. The scar on his knee from jumping a rickety ramp on his too-heavy bike when he was ten. When he was ten. His beard was itchy under his chin when he craned his neck. His arms sank to the cold white tiles after he felt a needle enter his left shoulder. He looked at his left arm. There it was, to his immediate left. Sam slept.
To be alone is not man’s natural state. As such, it never lasts long unless militantly enforced. Sam’s recent antics proved he was in no shape to be militant. Physically, anyway. One night (maybe) he realized he needed to fight militantly for his sanity. He could think of only one way and that way was not an upstream way. He befriended the orderly. Their visits increased and their communications did as well. It tired Sam more than greatly but he needed to fight. This new world was a small world with no options presented.
One afternoon, or at least it seemed…
ORDERLY: I appreciate your opening up recently, Sam.
SAM: [Nods. Accepts the pills in the familiar disposable tiny white cup.]
ORDERLY: Do you remember anything yet?
SAM: We already talked about it.
ORDERLY: Do you remember anything else?
ORDERLY: Are you able to sleep?
SAM: I can’t tell.
ORDERLY: Your vitals are good. [No movement.]
In a faraway Chicagoland voice, Sam told the orderly of sleeping. But it was long ago and far away and perhaps even once upon a dark and stormy night. It was the tale of many a night, so one of them, at least, would have for certain fit that bill. Sam was maybe ten. He could only sleep if completely ready to be at once awake. He lay in his bedroom in his small bed fully dressed and holding a small transistor radio talking to him about sports. Baseball mostly. Sam liked baseball. He remembered that.
One time, and then thereafter, the orderly sat alongside Sam instead of across from him. The orderly had a strong scent of nothingness and spoke in a quite similar but friendlier than before manner. They’d play games sometimes. “Is it bigger than a bread box?” Sam asked for a book and a pen and some paper which never arrived, but the pills kept coming. They kept coming more and more often Sam thought. It was hard to tell.
They exchanged stories of long ago. They grew up at about what seemed the same time but some distance apart. Sam told the story about Hebrew School and becoming a Bar Mitzvah. He liked it almost as much as baseball but he was never brought back to shul. His father bore a grudge. He was not a Bar Mitzvah. His father, Sam’s grandfather, was very poor and could not afford it. On Sabbaths, he said often, the Orthodox would tell him to do things for them (turning on or off lights, say) when he walked past, so they did not break the commandment themselves. He was also very sick. Sam’s father? Sam had to think and he could not.
Sam continued to ask for G-d. Silently. The orderly was nice, though. The orderly smelled of white soap now. Sam realized it was the only scent he remembered for how many days? There were no windows. How many days? The plates were always empty and he was never hungry just not full. A veil he could not pierce was always sharply-coldly present. He always squinted. It was so very bright. He never dreamed. His hip stopped hurting, he supposed. It was hard to tell.
ORDERLY: [Passes Sam a small white cup, disposable, full of pills.] Have you ever loved anyone?
SAM: Yes. [Gulps pills.]
ORDERLY: I don’t feel that I ever truly have.
SAM: Do you love G-d?
ORDERLY: We’ve never met.
SAM: How many days?
SAM: Can I speak to Dr. Jadot?
SAM: Maybe he can help me.
ORDERLY: Sam. You killed Dr. Jadot.
Sam slipped away into a small room, cozy and full of plush patterns such as plaid and paisley. “Would you like to work on the puzzle?” asked the orderly. They were across a wooden coffee table from one another, on their knees, and on the table laid a somewhat worked-on colorful jigsaw puzzle. Sam could make out mountains and part of a cabin amid a copse of autumn trees. The orderly excitedly found a corner piece in a pile and placed it triumphantly. “Now we’re cooking, Sam.” A television spoke in the near distance, “That double play really got them out of a heckuva jam and we move onto the fifth with the score tied at two…”
Sam now could only feel, not see, that glaringly bright vacant white of before. But he felt it constantly in him. The orderly handed him a cup of coffee. Cream and sugar. Just the way he liked it. He sipped from it and fell into it and all was gone again, more deeply-so than ever. The shag carpet was soft but he understood that the white tiles underneath were not.
::: very :::
Read [Part IV] HERE