Monday, June 20, 2011
an excerpt from The Professional Donor (a working novel)
It's been three days since we last saw Finch, and everyone's got their theories. When he told me he thought he was having a heart-attack, I'll admit, I was somewhat skeptical. He hunched over the table balancing his head between his arms; complained of dizzyness and chest pains. All the while, his cigar teetered between his fingers when he wasn't puffing furiously at the filter.
"Do you want me to call the ambulance, man?"
"Nah. Not really. I'd like to just die to be honest with you. But I want this pain to stop first."
Last night, I dreamed he had come back to the house and in my REM-induced imagination, I conjured up a fictitious conversation in the living room between Finch and Ian.
"Where's my orange lighter?! It was on the dining room table when I left."
"I don't know man. I haven't touched it."
Ian was obviously nervous-pacing back and forth through the intersecting hallway in avoidance of confrontation. The lighter was safe in my pocket.
"Bullshit you fucking thief! I know you got sticky fingers! Empty your pockets right now!"
Although I awoke to no such conversation having transpired, I knew it could easily veer in that direction had Finch come home during my nap. But that was Finch; desperately clinging to every facet of his menial existence. The smaller things have so much precedence. A lighter. A JW Little King Cigar. A bowl of spice. A bottle of Sierra Mist. Everything that meant something was trivial and clamped between his swollen mits; while "the bigger picture", as some call it, eluded him and his otherwise apathetic disposition.
I started thinking about his laissez faire attitude towards his impending demise, and how he clung to the pain and I wondered if maybe he hadn't mentioned his death wish to one of the nurses on duty upon admission and she hadn't in turn, referred his "case" to an inhouse social worker who asked Finch:
"Are you being serious when you say you want to die?"
And he had answered yes, immediately granting her the authority to place him under a seventy-two hour suicide watch in the psych ward upstairs.
Yes. Finch has a tendency to focus on the less important aspects of his life and thus negates the presence of more pressing matters at hand. Then again, this is all merely speculation-bordering on a classic case of self-projection and we, the tenants of the house, have other theories as well.
We are learning to pay close attention to detail; finding pleasure in making it up as we go along simultaneously. Ian is busy flushing anything worth saying down the toilet or barking at the empty walls of his tiny room once the lights are out. We still haven't spoken, save for our coordinating the phone call to 911 a few nights earlier. Benny seems to think it may have had something to do with Finch's spice intake.
"He buys that shit off of some guy he works with and there's no telling what they spray on there. I tell ya, acetone may be the least of his worries."
Benny had heard some of Finch's conversation with the paramedics. As it turns out, Finch had a history of cardiac distress and a stint placed in his heart around six years ago.
"You smoke that shit and it makes your heart beat real fast and there ya' go. Not to mention all those cigars he smokes, the nonstop walking with his job, the heat! Just asking for problems with all that if you ask me."
Finally, Mrs. Just disspells the rumors on collection day; informing us all that Finch did indeed have a heart-attack, and that he was recuperating accordingly in the county hospital.
"He fine. Finch is fine. I speak to him a couple of days ago." she explained, as she taped the eviction notice on his door. "He is two weeks behind now. And now he is eh...not whowking. So I don't know what to do. All the time, he is here and nevwah says hewhoah when he sees me. You know? He is here slamming the doors and spraying bug spway everywhaire. We are not kids and there are no bugs. Maybe Finch have lice or something. I don't know. But there are no bugs. So...eh, Finch must go. I have nice married couple, like you and Lisa, who need the womb."
Mrs. Just was still justifying her decision as I trailed off for the bathroom. To my unamazement, sitting on the back of the toilet, was another dirty spoon.
A few more days passed and then Sunday, there he was in his old seat at the ceremonial round-table. Sulking. Alone. There were multiple puncture holes in his left arm; where the i.v.'s had once been attached...where his blood had been checked. The exact points of insertion glistened, fresh scabs beneath the ray of an L.E.D. flashlight dangling from the wire over his head. The fly paper swung in the breeze and so far, had mostly been successful at capturing debris from the trees in the yard. Very few insects were attracted to the scent. Finch had bought the roll some time ago.
"They (paramedics) didn't believe I was having a heart-attack. They thought I was having some kind of drug reaction or some shit. 'Kept asking me if I was sure I wanted to go to the hospital." An empty vial of X-Pressions "potpourri", a glass pipe and a rusty nail (THE RUSTY NAIL!) sat in front of him. I got the impression he had been sitting there for a few hours before I happened along. His head wobbled back and forth on his shoulders. He spoke uncharacteristically slow...
"Say do any of you guys happen to have an orange lighter?"
'You guys?' I thought, just before turning to my right and finding Ian's silhouette lonesome. Sullen...in a chair next to the neighboring fence.
"No. I haven't..." A train rumbled along the tracks of the boxed-in night; making his reply indiscernable.
"What about you Anton?"
"No. I ain't touched it man. I got this one, that I bought in Albuquerque last night. Still has the sticker on it."
"I had one sitting on the table with my smokes when they took me. The cigars were in my room when I got back, But no lighter."
"Hmmm. That's weird. How'd your cigars get in the room? Who put them there? Were some of them missing?"
"No. I had everything but the orange lighter."
"Who would just take a lighter man? That's just weird."
"Ah, who cares? Just forget it."
"Shit man. I was curious. Lisa and I have had some things come up missing lately."
An awkward black silence seized us, as I looked up between the branches and past the gutter of the house. The moon looked like the tip of a bright yellow finger, pushing...no pointing its way through a black ironed sheet; which had collected dust mites or stars. Finch lit one of the three JW's he had left in the pack.
"It's sposed to get up to around 108 degrees by the end of the week."
"Oh yeah?" I replied.
"Yeah. 'Gonna be a hot one for a while I suppose. Fucking sucks. I 'gotta get some things together, talk to some people. I guess I 'gotta find a new place to live by the end of the week...talk to the title people 'bout my car and go back to the hospital at some point."
"Did they set you up with another appointment?" I asked.
"Well, I have to go back and see the damned doctor so I guess that's an appointment. It's whatever. I'll either have to go back for that or another heart-attack one. Whichever comes first, I guess."
I felt as if he were searching for some source of empathy; digging amongst darkness and relative strangers.
"Doc said I have 80% blockage in one of the valves. Don't remember which one. But, it's just a matter of time before round two."
"They 'gonna do surgery?"
Finch shrugged, which made his head rock slightly. "I doubt it. I got no insurance. I tell you, I think they gave me some kind of radical drug treatment," he squeezed his arm in the light, "that turns fat cells into piss or something. I lost ten pounds while I was in there. I was pissing like thirty liters a day and I wasn't drinking nothing you know? So, I wonder..."
The ember began to falter on his cigar-due to his inconsistent drags throughout the conversation. Finch picked up a red lighter and re-lit the little king. "Yeah. You need to eat healthy, workout, and quit smoking." He pointed to the roll-up in my hand. "I mean, you can look at me as an example if you want." he chuckled. "Quit now, while you still got the chance." He stubbed the cigar on the edge of the table. His head dropped. He closed his eyes and didn't speak again.
Ian's shadow was looking in his direction. He had been listening intently the entire time. Even though it was hypocritical, today, it seems like some of the most sincere and mindful advice I ever received. I still smoke however...