In Country 14
Ka-plickity plick plick.
Kap-plicity plick. Ka-plickity plick. Ka-plickity plick. Plick. Plick. Plick.
Ka-plonk. Plonk. Pickity plick plick. Plickity plonk ka-plonk ka-plick.
As we sat there parked, the clouds poured over us, and hail began to fall. The white silo became obscured bit by bit by the gradually growing curtain of white shimmering and swaddling bits of falling ice.
Ka-plickity plickity plickity plickity Wash.
And then like a wall it came down like a rant from some other heaven. I started the windshield wipers and turned to look at Merc. I expected him to be listlessly staring off into space. Instead he was looking straight at me.
"What's the significance of this place."
"It's my World Trade Center."
"You were raped here?"
"I don't know what happened. I don't remember what happened. I just know that something happened."
"Surely you remember."
I shook my head back and forth.
"No. I don't. Or I don't remember anything specific. I wish I had something clichéd and Freudian, like being inside it as it burned down, or watching it fall over. Or even just a memory of the act itself that I could point to. But I can't. I don't. Maybe even now, I need, to remember. I never knew, or forgot it so soon after it happened as to be a ripple on a lake."
His eyes drilled down into me, his double eyebrow, a single dark line across both his eyes, darkened as it furrowed.
"You'll have to tell me the story."
"I will give you the fragments, because I don't have a story. After the tornado took our house, not far from Ulyssess Kansas, I was sent up here to live, it was with a distant relative of my father. Not that distant really, second cousin. But anyway. He was a gaunt man, with a full head of white hair and a mustache that he kept meticulously groomed. He lived here, in Levant. As you can see, it is s tiny grid of a hamlet, a parking lot almost for a feed store. We lived here for a year, and then moved to Manhattan Kansas for a year, and then moved again to Topeka. After two years my parents were back on the feet enough that I could rejoin them."
He turned around in the chair a bit trying to find some comfortable position, and gradually rested his weight on his elbow, hands locked together.
"An what makes you so sure that something happened. And why here?"
"He always went around calling me his 'girlfriend.' Though he only let that slip to others once, and in such a way that it sounded like a joke after I had complained about something in that way that a girlfriend might."
"That's pretty damning."
"There's more. These kinds of people, they have stores and places that cater to them. You know those young girl stockings that you see? The solid colored ones. Like Brownies wear."
"Well he got me thigh high versions of those, with floral bands, and a slight hint of laciness. He got me panties that are like adult panties, with lace peek-a-boo. He got me undershirts that were like tank tops, not enough like bras to be suspicious, but enough. He had several dresses that he kept. I learned how to walk in high heels. I can remember him sitting at a yellow plastic kitchen table, on a plastic seated chair, and have me sashay past him, my hand on my hips, over and over again."
"That's getting worse alright. But not yet conclusive. You seem so sure. Tell me why you seem so sure."
I swallow hard.
"Two things. One is so banal that it hung in my memory without me realizing it."
"The smell of surgical things, of Vaseline, of latex. I've had that kind of scent in my nose so much as a nurse that it was easy to blur that that wasn't where it first entered my life as an eery day part of my sensory world. It was here. Vaseline. Latex. Alcohol. Medical style detergents. Bleach."
"I remember waking one time, my panties soiled. Did I mention the night gown? And there was the overpowering odor of Vaseline petroleum jelly It was smeared on the sheets. The satin sheets, I might add. And on me. I went to the bathroom and took a bath."
"I remember coming out, and have him stare at me. Stare, stare, stare at me. Finally he reproved me, told me that my towel should always cover my nipples."
"He didn't let me change the sheets until the next day."
Te sheets of hail are coming down and down, but are beginning to grow tenuous. I stop and scan the sky for wall clouds. But there is no twister. I flick on the radio and search out the station that plays the weather here. Thank god it is still the same one after all these years. We pause and listen.
"… golf ball size hail and a severe storm warning in effect for Thomas County, Rawlins County and Logan County until 3 PM, and in Decatur, Sheridan and Gove counties until 4pm. I am sure there will be more rolling East from there. They've updated the warnings in Cheyenne, Sherman and Wallace Counties until 1 PM. The National Weather Service is telling us that they are on the look out for super-cells or any signs of tornado activity. For all your sakes people, get out of the rain, this one isn't any place to be driving around in."
I could hear what he meant to say, what he would say if he were telling you in person, and not on the radio, "For God sake." Yes, that's what he would say, "For God Sake."
And if there were a tornado, he'd say "God help the person in the way of this one." And if it were just men he'd say "we are taking it up the ying yang."
He Merc looks straight at me as I search in every direction, straining at my seat belt. I turn and face him, because I can't stand the feeling of someone's eyes on me.
"So why here, right? Why here?"
"I remember it all to well."
"This is right on the exit. It could just be that you've passed it too many times."
"It is the second thing. The second thing."
"On the inside of that silo, and I can see it. There is a mural picture of jesus, a hear in front of him, his robes swirling back behind him."
"You could have been inside innocently."
"I know there is no such picture there, it is a manufactured memory. I looked in when I was in the community college here. I was so happy that I checked carefully, and then triggered the grain fall, so that it came down on my like a hard hail of golden kernels, and I danced in a slow spiral. My arms out stretched. At the time, I thought it meant it was all imagination, that he was just creepy and had a thing, and was lonely, but nothing had happened."
"But there is no such picture there." I concluded.
"How does that prove anything?"
"Later that year, he was found by the side of the road. He'd been drinking, according to the coroner, and probably had gotten out to pee. A car or truck struck him, he fell into the ditch and died. They had me identify him."
"They pulled the sheet back. And it was him. And there was a tattoo, that exact image of Jesus that I always Remember on the Silo wall, that I always remembered even then."
"It was on his cock and lower torso."
"Don't you understand Merc? It was on his cock and lower torso."
We sat there as the hard hail turned to hard rain. Finally he nudges me. We wordlessly change seats without leaving the car. He takes over driving.
"You know," he begins, "Mabye we need to bury the past on this trip. If we are ever going to have a future."
"Do we have, that, I mean, a future?"
"However long we have. But this is a nation besieged by enemies. Both from without and within. And so is any chance at love. We've got one enemy we haven't thought about much."
"I'd prefer to think of him as your soon to be ex-husband."
"I haven't made that decision yet."
His jaw tightens, and then relaxes.
"How can you tell me about what your marriage is like and not want to get out of it."
"I haven't really. I mean, yes, there was that one long conversation in Baghdad."
"The one where we found a small place that had good coffee and breads. God their prices where outrageous."
"But you took me there any place."
"Well. After that incident with the woman cut in half. I knew two things. One was that you deserved a break."
"And the other?"
"What do you, think? The way your hips moved, the way you could stride through a situation and issue orders. The way you looked straight through me, your blonde locks framing bright blue eyes."
"My eyes are green."
"They looked blue to me that day."
"Your eyes are blue."
He adjusted the steering wheel shortly. The storm was beginning to recede behind us, though, of course, it might catch up with us again. The sun was overhead, and there was still a great deal of Kansas left to cross.
But he picked it up.
"You must have known."
"Oh I knew from soon after we met. I knew the first time I caught your eye. Strange time."
"I don't know many nurses who can grab a falling scalpel out of the air."
"Jesus yes. That nurse was more a tech than a nurse."
"It's endemic, and it is hitting our profession too. Soon healing will be gone, and everyone will be a drug dispenser or button pusher."
"Healing is always a fragile art."
"Never more so than now."
I nodded in agreement with that.
"It is just as bad in the private world."
"Of course, how else are you going to bring people in who don't have a calling, and get them to work out. But all the same, it makes me angry."
"Every day. I can't remember how many times I had people assigned to me who only wanted to know which knob to turn, or what to look for on the screen. No feel for it."
"So right there, I was interested in knowing you. And you could quote Keats in the middle of it."
"My mother drilled poetry into my head."
"You've got more of a gift for the written word than you think."
"No, you do. I have saved all your emails. I go back over those first ones.
"I didn't think at all when writing them. You are just being sentimental."
"Maybe, or maybe you just have to compete with Hampton's little blurbs. Probably written between scores with other women."
"How many have their been, do you think?"
"I know of at least 10, from credit card slips and other things."
"There have to have been more. He was juggling two when I was in Baghdad. One native, and one Bulgarian woman. He stayed away from English speakers."
"He might be more charming lost in translation too."
"He had it something bad for this one woman. In the lingo of the guy population of the Green Zone she was a 'Fatima,' very voluptuous with big breasts."
"That's his type if he can get it."
"So I was led to understand."
"This the woman he got pregnant?"
"Yes. That's also part of the slang. Fatima was the daughter of the prophet Mohammed. So a woman that a soldier gets pregnant can also be one."
"The sub-cultures that these things make. Will we ever straighten everything back out again?"
"No. We're just going to decay in place."
That left me quiet. I looked back and forth over the near unchanging landscape, this was, I knew, to some extent and illusion. The interstate followed the valley and the rolling hills that you would see from driving north south were simply part of the far background, and expressed only as a gradual sense of going down, to subtle to be noticed, but so pervasive as to be inescapable.
I felt the pull in another way, and finally, spoke.
"Is it all so cliché?"
"It is so so so cliché for a woman to see her whole life through the lens of being abused, molested. Whatever happened."
"First I am not sure that it is. It is the hidden thing in your life, but that does not mean that everything you are is because of it."
"I'd like to believe that."
"It is a very common thing. My father, was a judge. He liked to say that 90% of the people who cause trouble in this world were either whacked or smacked before the age of 11. Violence or sex, or both, targeted against children."
"Makes me wonder whether George Bush was whacked or smacked."
"There are somethings, I do not care to speculate on."
"It is irresponsible not to speculate."
"Where have I heard that before."
"From all the people who wanted us to go to Iraq."
"Oh, I know, it is a line used by so many of my friends. Well ex-ex-friends."
"What do you mean?"
"What I mean is I got off this binge of one wargasm after another. And not all of my friends decided it was time to stop it as soon as I did. Most of them have come around. But it was lonely for a while."
"Was that when you met me?"
"2005? Yes, that was the pit of it. No one wanted to talk to me, except a couple of full bird Colonels who had seen the worst."
"Like Col. Beck?"
"Oh yeah, he was earlier of it than I was."
"He seems like he's, blessed or something."
"He's on the fast track. They wanted to make him a perfumed prince, send him to DC where he would push papers until well up the line. But he isn't that way."
"So you reached out for me out of loneliness as well as want."
"I'm never lonely, not the way you get lonely."
"I think that is an echo of what happened. I am sure my neediness comes from what he did to me."
"He wanted the Girl Friend Experience with his abuse object. Naturally you see and feel that role."
"I'd love to get rid of it. It's let me go down some awful roads. I've put up with so much from so many people because of it. I can't describe what it feels like. When the man I am attached to, I won't even call it love at this point, seems like he even might leave. It's like something is ripped out of my chest and stomped on the floor. I can't bear the thought of it for even a moment. It's agony. My whole inside turns to jello."
"And then what."
"I'll do anything to be close to him. Absolutely anything."
"What kinds of things?"
Oh if I only I could tell what kinds of things.
But I will soon. I can feel the need to tell them beginning to itch below my surface, and coming close to erupting out of my lips and into his ear, like the vicious soft hot wind in country, that goes into you, not over you.
End of Book Three