Curtains parted (dearly departed). Had expected The Nurse. Demand she explain about the Night Visitors, launch a “formal patient’s complaint.”
Saw Mother instead. Smoking the same cigarette. Her mortal last? Can take ‘it’ with you? Whatever ‘it’ is you love?
“Look at you, poor baby. You’re a mess.”
“The Condition,” I said.
“Yes,” she sighed. “The Condition has humbled you at last.”
“What is this Condition?”
She sucked deeply on her cigarette.
“Bad blood. Bad to the bone-marrow. You almost died before you lived. I remember you, less than a year old, lying on that cold table, needle in your tiny arm. So many transfusions. Every day another unit of blood, no bigger than a sandwich bag.
“What’d they use to transfuse me, a syringe?”
“Ha, ha. Ho, ho. Hee, hee,” exhaling ectoplasmic smoke.
“So many transfusions? How many transfusions?”
“Twenty, twenty-five, thirty. Who remembers these things?”
“Shit. Why the hell didn’t you tell me I had this ‘Condition?’”
“You never asked. But then came the medicines and blessed remission. Those tiny pills you took every morning of your childhood. Remember? We used to call them your ‘vitamins.’ A regular, healthy — dare I say ‘happy?’ — childhood. No invalid treatment for my little man. But then you stopped taking them, I assume, when you went off to The University. Why did you stop taking them?”
“I thought I was done with all that. I thought ‘The Vitamins’ were just…vitamins, a kid thing. I was strong and healthy. I was a runner for god’s sake. Most of these guys with ‘The Condition’ don’t make it past twenty. I was doing fine.”
“The Condition will be with you always. You were born with it, and you will die with it. Or of it.”
“Who knows? You have a remarkable body. It adapted to The Condition like none other. Perhaps you’ll go on to thirty-five, even forty!”
“Or maybe I’ll go into ‘blessed remission’ again and pretend this nightmare never happened. Croak at a respectable age. Seventy-five, eighty. Or is that greedy? Sixty-five, seventy. No?”
She smoked a bit, watched TV. I recalled my eight-year-old Me cross-legged on her bed after school, watching celebrities of her day complain on talk-shows about their hectic lives as she chain-smoked menthols.
Lights flashed. The machine. Battery dead. Or fluids low. Or wire tangled, or something.
“Why now? I was fine for years. What the hell happened?”
“You must have gone into remission just long enough to dapple the halcyon days of youth with music and sunshine. Play-time’s over. You’re out of remission and shit outta luck. The Grinning Reaper knows as well as you and I that you were born to work behind a desk, not lug ‘buckets’ of water all over town.”
“Grim Reaper, not ‘grinning Reaper.’”
“My son the scholar. Have you ever met him?”
“No, thankfully. Can’t say I’ve had the pleasure. Yet.”
“Don’t talk about things you don’t know. Listen first, then talk — but only if you must,” her motto.
“What about the old medicines? My ‘vitamins.’ They worked once.”
“‘Put away those childish things,’ Mother said, pretending to quote some bearded, Down-From-The-Ages old grease-bard. Always quoted, rarely read. Words, phrases glommed from TV, Radio, maybe recalled from college revised and reissued as her own.
“You’re in a new phase of The Condition. With each new phase in life we require newer, better drugs,” she said.
“What, you’re a spokeswoman for TKI Pharmaceuticals now?”
“Just telling you what is and what is not,” she said. Added, “Maybe you should have sent a check to the God-man when that TV show offered you the chance.”
“All I need. Bounce a check on The Creator.”
“I would imagine He’s insured,” she said.
We watched together like years ago my young Me, my very young Me, helped Mother forget her pain.
My bed now, my pain.