Thursday, June 01, 2006

The Syringe

I wrote this from a prompt I was given with my online writing group. Enjoy!

The Syringe


The clanging and din grew stronger. God, someone please stop the pounding! Lisa felt her way along the short hallway to the bathroom in the dark. Not bothering to flip on the light switch, she made her way over to the sink by rote and flipped on the small 20-watt night light in the plug. Briefly, she opened her eyes, catching a glimpse of her pinched face in the mirror. Big mistake. She thought she’d been coping alright until then. She saw the face of desperation staring back at her. Her brows were furrowed deeply, lips pursed, eyes squinting to keep out the ngihtlight’s mellow glow, keep it from assaulting her and driving the pain up another level. She’d waited too long, apparently, to take care of this and had thought she was being so brave. Idiot.

Bending over, she dove down into the undersink cupboard, pulling out appliances, make up bags, feminine products, extra toilet paper, cleansers. Oh, God, where could it be? Frantically, she reached in and tore out all the extra odds and ends that were left in the very back, as if at the end of her rummaging she’d find what she was looking for, but either it was invisible or it wasn’t there.

Shit. What was she going to do now? Where’d she put it? Opening the narrow cabinets, next to the sink, she reached in amongst the clean towels and sheets and began pulling everything out. Her hands began to shake as her head swelled with pressure. She felt each blow of Thor’s hammer as it rained down in painful blows on her tender brain. Felt Medusa’s fingers squeezing every nerve ending until she was certain, even wished, they ‘d pop from her constrictions. But, they didn’t. It never ceased to amaze her just how much pain she could tolerate, before passing out.

It wasn’t there. She stepped back, staring at the deep, dark blank space in front of her. The shelves took on an eerily ethereal quality right before her eyes as if they were endless, the bleak darkness of each shelf stretching on forever. Maybe it’s way back there? Maybe the shelves did go further back and she’d hidden it far back so that she wouldn’t be tempted to use it more often than absolutely necessary. With that thought came another, perhaps she’d hidden it from herself. Perhaps she’d even thrown it out. Oh, God, please, don’t let her have thrown it out. She’d never be that foolish, that cocky, would she? But, she knew it was possible on a good day when she felt like herself, or on a bad day when she was sick of the whole bloody game, she might’ve gotten rid of it. She tried to remember the last time she used it. It was recent wasn’t it?

In a flash, she was stumbling through the house on wobbly legs, her breathing ragged. She puzzled over her own body’s response to the pain that worsened, deepened exponentially by the minute. If she didn’t find it soon, she’d die, wouldn’t she? Surely, this kind of pain, if it got much worse, would kill her one day, wouldn’t it? She wasn’t sure whether she hoped it would or was simply curious. A few years ago, she would’ve thought that she’d die from the level of pain she was now feeling and yet, the invisible bar that measured her pain tolerance level just seemed to increase each year, moving the ultimate relief that much further beyond her grasp.

She stumbled down the stairs from her porch and into her yard. It was dark and the air was bitingly cold. She welcomed the shocking cold that assailed her bare skin, whipping through the silky shorts and lacy camisole she wore. It was a too brief respite from the pain that had descended like a cloud surrounding her with fiery tongues lapping at what was left of her ability to reason. She had one purpose and one purpose only. Find it. She wasn’t even sure at this point what IT was. She had an image in her mind of a black case, leather she thought, but what was in it she couldn’t remember. She only knew that she needed it and needed it like yesterday.

Tearing the lid off the rubber can at the edge of her driveway, she dove her hands in amongst the cutting glass of broken bottles, old chicken fat and skin from dinner four nights ago, fish bones, whose eyeballs lolled sightlessly in their dismembered heads, staring at her accusingly from a sea of scales, wide jeering smiles on their faces.

“Oh, you think this is funny, do you?” she yelled at the yellow eyes. If those heads weren’t already dismembered.... Her fingers dove further down into the mush and goo of apricots, mangos and bananas, pureed into baby food, breakfast, lunch and dinner over the past two days. She didn’t notice the trail of blood her hands left as she flung waste and garbage, old bills and used tissues onto the pavement like a neighborhood dog might’ve done. Lights and colors swirled and flashed before her eyes and yellow and blue spots danced in her vision. Pretty soon she’d pass out. Pretty soon she’d get the relief she needed, even if it were for less than thirty seconds, it was still thirty seconds without pain and what she wouldn’t give for that right now. She’d sell her body, her soul, her house for just thirty seconds of relief. The pounding worsened and the cacophonous engine roar, like an old train rumbling through her head at top speed with it’s horn blaring, stymied her briefly as her legs gave way under her and she sank down to the grass next to the military green rubber can. It wasn’t there. Dammit, it wasn’t there!

She wanted to cry, but knew from past experience that would make the pain even worse. While she sat there, trembling, her vision almost completely clouded with lights and hallucinatory disturbances, she wondered how much actual damage she could possibly do if she were to just pound her head on the ground. Certain that it would make her pass out quicker and of course, the whole name of the game was pain relief, escape. Just get her the hell out of this pain, dammit! She just wanted to be out of pain. Thirty seconds. Was it really too much to ask for, God?

Then God spoke to her from somewhere far above her, or, at least, she thought it was God. “Uh, do you need some help?”

What the hell? Hadn’t he been fucking listening? “Yeah, I need some fuckin’ help, whatdya think?”

God cleared his throat, shifting his weight and suddenly came into sharp, clear hyper-focus for her. He had longish curly black hair and dark skin the color of suntanned caramel. His eyes were almond shaped, dark black holes that if she allowed herself to fall into, she was sure she’d never find her way back out of them again. He wasn’t smiling with his naturally red lips hiding under a short mustache that surrounded them like a square ring with a short beard. His face was grim and brooding as he stared at her, but she wasn’t embarrassed to be sitting in a pile of filth in her night clothes, bleeding from the cuts covering her arms, because there was only one thought mercilessly consuming her pain-befuddled mind: Find it.

“What can I do?” God asked in the gentlest voice she’d ever heard. It was so tender she almost cried the instant she heard him speak, because instinctively she knew that God would know where IT was.

It took a great deal of effort to speak, to form a coherent sentence in a language that resembled as closely as possible English. It was hard to think with the nerve-shattering jackhammering going on under her scalp. It was hard to speak when every movement, no matter how miniscule, even simply moving her jaws, sent shooting pains like icepicks or tiny poisoned spears into her brain.

“I need...I...need...help me, please.” She was begging God to guess at what she needed. She couldn’t stay focused long enough to remember what it was called or what she needed or even why. If only this damn pain...if only the damn hammering would just...just fucking shut the hell up, dammit!

“Were you looking for something?” Well, God was good at asking questions at least, though she’d expected alot more from him...like a miracle maybe? Couldn’t he see that she was in pain? Why didn’t he do something...anything?

“Yes. I need....kit.” Would God think she’s a lost cause, a complete idiot, because she couldn’t speak coherently?

“You’re looking for a kit?”

“Yes.”

“You think it’s in the garbage?”

“No. Not there.” She’d looked there, already. God, why didn’t He know this stuff? Couldn’t He see that she’d transferred every bit of garbage and waste from the can onto her driveway before He deigned to show up?

“Where do you think it is? I’ll get it for you.”
Finally, a practical suggestion. But, where was it? And then, like a miracle from the hand of God, Himself, she remembered. She’d hidden it from herself in the closet, on the shelf above the hanging clothes, in her bedroom. So, she told him, her words stumbling over each other in her excitement and desperation. “Hurry!” she yelled after Him as God ran away and disappeared into her house.

She knew she was in bad shape. Her whole body was trembling, her brain was constricted in the worst pain she’d felt since the last time this happened, about a week or so ago. She was both on fire and bathed in ice at the same time. She didn’t feel any pain from the gashes scattered jaggedly in no set order or fashion from her wrists to about two inches above her elbows on each arm. She watched, fascinated as the blood dripped from some of the more garish wounds, mingling with the yellow and blue polka dots in her vision. She saw the blood form into polka dots, too, and float away like brilliant crimson bubbles in the night sky, toward a streetlamp in the distance. If only she could wrap up this searing pain, this blindingly life-stealing pain in a bubble and send it up to the stars, just like the blood-bubbles. If only...

And then God was beside her, opening the small black pouch and withdrawing a syringe.

She glanced at him, briefly, hoping he could read the thankfulness in her eyes, because she had no time for pleasantries as she grabbed the syringe out of his hand and pulled a needle and two small vials from the bag. She fitted the syringe with the long, micro-thin needle. No small feat as her hands shook so hard it took several tries, a gasp of frustration, a roar that came from god only knew where in her own body, (she could feel it’s rumblings, like magical molten lava, defying gravity, as it flowed upward from the depths of her belly to her lungs, through her esophagus and out through her voice box and mouth). That roar gave her the magic impetus, effectively calming her tremors briefly and she was able to fit the needle onto the syringe. But, now she faced the daunting task of filling the syringe from the two small vials she’d retrieved from the little black bag. Just sustaining a realistic image of the items despite the hallucinations was challenge enough.

“Here, let me.” God took the syringe & vials from her tight grasp. She didn’t want to let go. This was her only salvation. Didn’t He understand that? God, what was He waiting for? Why didn’t he reach in and grab the fiery ball of pain out of the center of her brain and throw it as far as the east is from the west? She thought God could do anything. After all, hadn’t she been taught that from her youth? God is great and mighty and able to do exceedingly beyond what she could even imagine. She’s sure she’d heard those words spoken in church to a congregation of gullible fanatics. Suckers. Well, God’s right here and he’s not doing a damn thing, just sitting there waiting for her to collect her thoughts long enough to tell him how to fill up the damn syringe.

“Y-you j-just t-take it and stick the n-needle into the v-vial, right here.” Was she going into shock? Her teeth were chattering uncontrollably and she hugged herself tightly with her bloody arms. They felt slippery, sticky, next to each other, on her cold, damp bare skin. She was sweating profusely. She felt the sweat running down her forehead, down her face in rivers, washing her eyes and dripping onto her dry tongue, tasting of salt.

She watched greedily as God filled the syringe as she’d directed. Then, He took the other bottle and held it up for her inspection. “Should I do both of them in this one needle or do I need another needle for this?”

“Both.”

He filled the syringe again. As soon as the vial was empty, she snatched the liquid-filled syringe from his hand, ignoring his startled outcry and the wide-eyed protest in his face. She jabbed the needle into her thigh and pushed on the syringe, emptying the burning solution into her leg. She waited, trembling, teeth chattering, sirens wailing in her head, as she counted, “One-fucking-thousand, Two-fucking-thousand, Three-fucking-thousand....” she didn’t know whether or not she was counting aloud and didn’t care. She only knew that by the time she got to four-fucking-thousand she was going to feel something besides pain for the first time in more than two days.

Sulfuric-like flavoring burned her tongue and left a bitter taste in her mouth as her body shuddered and she sighed as she felt the pain ooze like yellow vapor from her fingertips, from her toes, rise like steam from the top of her head and evaporate into the ether. No longer trembling, her teeth no longer chattering, she slipped into blissful night, gathering about herself nothingness. She floated down toward the earth and that’s when she felt the hand of God, gently easing her head down onto the grass. She could smell the grass, the dirt, even, she thought, the dew on each blade as she closed her eyes, allowing herself to feel the blessedness of feeling nothing. The pain was gone, little more than a nightmarish memory.

“Thank you, God,” she told Him and sighed with pleasure. The constricton, the pounding was gone and she was enveloped in stillness and silence. Wasn’t there some scripture about an old prophet who looked for God in the tornadoes and earthquakes, but didn’t hear from him until things had settled down? She had a fuzzy recollection of that story and wasn’t the least surprised when out of the silence she heard God’s voice talking to her.

“Lisa. Your name’s Lisa Green, isn’t it?”

“Mm-hmm.” She agreed. If he’d asked if her name was Hermen Labinsky, she would’ve agreed. It was so easy to be sweet and agreeable when she wasn’t in pain. Man, she didn’t feel a damn thing right now. Just blessed relief and a feeling of floating. Just floating, Man, floating.

Opening her eyes, she was surprised to discover that God was Indian. He looked alot like her new neighbor in fact. What a funny coincidence. She’d have to tell Naveen when she saw him. He might think that was funny. She wondered if Naveen believed in God? Probably. He probably believed in lots and lots of Gods. She remembered seeing a giant Kali, with her many arms, carried into his house the day he moved in.

“I think it’s time to go to bed, Lisa, don’t you?”

Whoa. Now, this was big. If only she could write, right now, she’d write in her journal, ”Wednesday night, January, 2006, God told me he wanted to take me to bed.” No one would believe her.

“Sure. Take me to bed.” She said blearily. God was hot!

She heard God laugh softly as he lifted her in his strong arms. No one would believe that, either, would they? Well, they might believe that God had the arms of a carpenter or a Navy SEAL. She didn’t know He was so strong. But, of course, this was the first time she’d ever really met God, so how could she have known?

She noticed that the jouncing she felt, riding limply as she was in God’s tender embrace, didn’t cause any pain to shoot through her brain. Her head almost felt as if it had been lopped off. If only, she thought wryly. If only it were that simple. The jouncing stopped and she felt herself falling. How could He just let go like that?

She threw her hands up and grasped at the dark curls and screamed, “Catch me!”

God grunted. “You’re ok, Lisa. You’re not falling. I just put you in your bed. Please, let go of my hair.”

He was stronger than she, of course. He would be even if she weren’t stoned, which, she had to admit, she now was...very...stoned. Long fingers wound around her own, pulling them loose from his curls. It was highly likely that all of this was a figment of her hallucinations induced by the copious amounts of drugs she’d just plied her system with. But, whether God was a hallucination or not, she didn’t want to know just yet. She didn’t want to be alone.

She had a vague notion she may have taken just a little too much of the pain killing medication, since she forgot to check the amount as she injected it. She was so intent on gaining relief as she injected. She didn’t care how much of the drug she shoved into her veins at the time. But, the consequences could be, well, permanent. But, she didn’t say a thing. She couldn’t say that. If she did, she’d end up at the hospital and alot of good those bastards would do her.

They’d pump her stomach and pull out all the pain relieving medication. Then, they’d write a report and send it to her doctor who would never prescribe the pain killers for her again. Then she’d have to live the rest of her life in complete and abject horror from pain and end up killing herself. No, she’d just wait this out, see where it went. Besides, she didn’t want to think about any of this just now. She just wanted to get back to the business of floating. Floating in God’s arms.

Her eyelids fluttered open. Weird, she’d thought her eyes were already open. What was all that stuff she’d seen? It got even weirder. With her eyes open, the view was exactly the same as it had been, only she felt wet. She looked up and God was looking at her body as he tenderly ministered to her cuts with cotton swabs and hydro peroxide. It smelled dry and acidic at the same time. She tried to lick her lips, but her tongue was so dry it felt like she was wiping sandpaper over them instead.

“Hang on,” God said as he leaned out of her field of vision for a brief moment. “How’s this?”

Feeling a tiny poking at her lips, she opened her mouth and sucked on the stick, which turned out to be a straw. The cold water shot through her mouth, freezing the back of her throat. Taking another gulp, she swished it around in her mouth, feeling the icy liquid swishing over her teeth and rolling it on her tongue. It felt indescribably good, better than anything she’d ever tasted.

“Thanks.”

“There you go. That should do you,” God pronounced as he wrapped the last bandaid over her last cut and it sounded like the last thing he was going to say to her.

“Please, don’t go.” She was begging God to stay just a little longer. She wanted to talk to him and had many questions she’d like to ask, but just couldn’t remember even one of them right now. When the fog lifted a little, she’d be able to remember what they were. If only he could stay a little longer.
“Don’t worry. I’m not going anywhere, except maybe over to your dresser. Do you think you could dress yourself? You’ve got blood and...stuff...all over your, uh, what you’re wearing there.”

She nodded, yes; not at all sure she really could since she wasn’t sure her appendages were even attached to her body anymore.

She must’ve closed her eyes, because God disappeared and she was only vaguely aware of the sounds of wooden drawers being opened and closed. Then, she felt her arms being tugged. What do you know? They were still attached to her body after all. She tried to move them herself, but couldn’t. She was floating, stop bothering her. Who cared if her clothes were dirty and she smelled like the inside of a garbage pail? Where’d he think all those cuts came from, anyway? More tugging, this time at her legs. But, all Lisa wanted was to float away into the darkness rapidly enveloping her. Into the silence she’d craved for hours, no, days, before the injections.

It was weird that she could find peace and quiet, complete rest and relaxation, in a tiny vial of clear liquid. When she was a little kid, no one had ever told her that in order to find peace all you’d need was a prescription from you doctor and a syringe-with-needle. People sure were going to be surprised when she told them that the truth of the matter is you don’t have to be good and do what’s right all the time. You just have to have a good health plan to cover the out-of-this-world expense of the injections. Suckers.

The things that made me nervous about this piece were: did the franeticism and pain come across right? Did the character's desperation come across clearly enough? What do you think?

2 Comments:

Blogger Angel said...

Wow, this was amazing! You write incredibly well.

6:25 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

Thanks, Angel. And thanks for checking out the blog, too!

Jess

12:26 AM  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home