My Face is on Fire: Part Five (A Novella)
Before Dr. Sigmund had come into his life, the Fugitive was all upside down turned around. In other words, he didn't know which way was up.
One morning, for example, he had stepped out of the shower, put a towel around his waist, lathered his face and proceeded to shave. At first everything was alright. The reflection in the mirror was his own. With lather on its face and the straight razor at his cheek.
But then it wasn't him. It was Mildred in the mirror. With shaving cream on her face and the straight razor at her cheek. She then became fully interactive with the world of three dimensions. She swiped at him with the razor, her arm coming through the mirror without damaging it.
He jerked back and closed his eyes. When he opened them the menace had vanished. He, nevertheless, decided to forego shaving for the time being. He went to the door for his bathrobe. As he was cinching the belt he noticed that something was scrawling down the walls.
Two words kaleidoscopically materialized around the bathroom: "Hello, Meat," written in blood. This set off a nervous peripatetic fit within the Fugitive. Which caused him to step on a bar of soap on a slippery spot on the floor. Which deteriorated into a series of trippings and slippings. Culminating in crashing his midsection into the windowsill, crashing the glass. The momentum carrying him up and over.
Sending him naked, pricked up, and bleeding out the window.
As he hurtled to his death, he wondered which would hurt more: the impact with the street; or that truck that was coming right for him. Which would happen first? Splashing on the street or getting run over by the truck?
Another variation of the waking-dream, or dreaming-wake, saw Mildred on the other side of the door, as he left the bathroom. She says, "Hello, Meat"; and shoves him across the room, with inhuman strength, out the window to his death, as he wondered if the truck running over him, or the impact with the street would hurt more.
He awoke just before the moment of truth, as usual. In his bed somehow. Alive but with a pain in his stomach, as though someone had struck him a blow there.
One time he was having dinner in a restaurant. Alone because he was too unstable to maintain a relationship. He was having the fish. And that is relevant because of what happened next.
He saw something take place that he knew, at the time, was not happening. He maintained the presence of mind not to react to it, because he knew it was not happening. Nobody else saw it happening.
His fish did not ward off his knife and fork. His fish did not stand up and look at him with contempt. His fish did not subsequently give him the finger, turn his back to him, fart, and walk off the plate.
He knew this was not happening, even as the events unfolded before his deluded eyes. It was all he could do to keep himself together. To keep himself from running down the street after the fish, yelling, "Stop! Help, my dinner's getting away!"
One time he was making a snack in the kitchen. The ball game was on. He was alone. He had few friends. None he'd actually had over to his home. Nor had he visited their homes. After all these years.
He hadn't become that brand new person, with the brand new life he had envisioned, as he had planned to murder two people, fake his own death, and disappear with a bunch of money. All that blood had amounted to so little progress.
Anyhow, he had his long roll and sandwich fixings all laid out along the counter. Preparing to assemble a "Dagwood" special. Ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise; he would have none of it. He suspected he was the only person in America, uniquely attuned to abhorrence of all condiments.
First on the bread went a bed of lettuce.
Slices of cheddar cheese.
Tomatoes, thinly sliced.
A bed of salami.
Slices of gouda cheese.
He would tackle that monster. Lubricating its passage down his esophagus with a ghetto-sized 40oz. bottle of Budweiser. What the hell, it was his day off. Whenever he felt especially vulnerable, he stuffed his face.
He had a kitchen vice to mash the sandwich flat enough to get his mouth around.
He took a bite and chewed. As he chewed, he wondered why it was so crunchy. What was this in his mouth? It tasted metallic.
He spit it out. It was a ring. Upon closer examination, he saw that it was actually his wedding ring, from long, long, long ago.
Now the sandwich did not look like the sandwich he had just made. It appeared to be a hand sandwich.
Hand not ham sandwich.
After going through a cycle of agitation about this, he threw the sandwich away, and decided to start over.
Bread, no hands.
Lettuce, no hands.
Chicken cutlets, no hands.
Slices of cheddar cheese, no hands.
Thinly sliced tomatoes, no hands.
A bed of salami, no hands.
Lettuce, again, no hands.
Slices of gouda cheese, no hands.
Tomatoes, no hands.
Prosciutto, no hands.
A squeeze with the kitchen vice. A big, defiant bite. It was crunchy. It tasted and felt like he was eating bone. But he kept chewing, determined not to give into the delusion.
He gave up, though, when he found himself spitting out his wedding ring again, in addition to a bunch of fingernails.
They were evidently his own hands he was eating. But that was impossible, since his hands remained at the ends of his wrists. And he only ever had two of them.
One time, in yet another waking-dream or dreaming-wake, he was taking a shower. He was all lathered up with a luxuriously fragrant, moisturizing body wash.
He smelled something burning. He came to the realization that it was himself. He was burning. His skin was actually cooking. The rich body wash had been replaced by something else. Something red. No, not blood, his or anyone else's.
That something seemed to be... barbeque sauce!
But now that he was under the tender loving care, the merciful ministrations of Dr. Sigmund, all was well. He was feeling a lot better, more integrated.
Of course he was!
End of Part Five.