The snow spun down in sporadic sprays, and if the wind was howling, making it blow zigzags across the sky then I didn’t know it. I was bundled in my coat with some slow piano nonsense blasting me home, incongruous with the charging train in my head and the way I was seeing the snow. I wanted to turn off all the noise but it was too damn cold. I got distracted by it all and too late noticed it was slippery and I had walked past my place. Less and less cars were passing and more and more trains were chugging between my ears. There was the sound of someone dropping a large pumpkin onto a grand piano and I kept walking, too distracted by the way the snow and the train and the piano in my ears were grating against each other to be jarred by the now crushed-by-a-pumpkin piano. But the sound hit me a couple of blocks later when my slow piano came to a halt, and when I turned around to look for what house it may have come from I slipped and landed in a snow bank. I looked into the white light that poured down on me and thought about how stupid people were who thought they were seeing heaven when clearly any dream state or conk on the head could conjure up such a thing pretty damn quick. I laughed to myself. It wasn’t funny enough for me to laugh out loud because I never did laugh out loud unless other people were around because I didn’t want to seem rude like I didn’t think the things they were saying were funny because I usually did but my laughter hid inside that’s all.
A white van drove up beside me then, the reflection of its white lights on the white snow making my eyes feel hammered inward, and they left the damn lights on while they got out of the car and tried to help me. Your lights I kept saying, your lights, as they grabbed under my arms and got me to my feet but then one of them fell on top of me in the process and by this time I was shouting and he was pretending not to hear me. He got me up again with the help of his sidekick, who he had in fact given a swift kick in the side to on his way down to landing on me, flailing his legs like an upside down can-can dancer. They seemed to know me but I didn’t know them and they turned off their lights for me finally and let me sit inside the car to get warm. They gave me a sandwich and a drink and asked questions that seemed irrelevant like how was my day, how was I doing, was I cold, where did I live, and that sort of nonsense. I laughed to myself at their bumbling madness, their scripted singsong call and answer, making assumptions when I didn’t, couldn’t, answer right away because my head wasn’t where they wanted it to be. Ketchup mustard and mayonnaise, that’s what I was thinking. About drinking a bottle of ketchup, mixing it with mustard and then chasing both with mayonnaise and maybe that should be considered a well-balanced liquid diet. Maybe that should be my best effort at creating the abstract masterpiece of pumpkin falling on white grand piano in my mouth and then more ketchup for the blood on the hands of the little twerp that did it, that ruined another priceless piece of shit, that got whipped like a murderer behind the old barn and fell face first onto shards of glass that had been smashed by her mother when found by her father, cursing and crying as he made her do it, watching over her and making her throw every bottle against the barn and the rain came down loud and sparkly while granny pounded Beethoven on the white grand piano that wasn’t dead yet and I looked out the window and cried.
I looked out the window of the white van and cried but I didn’t even feel like I was in a van until it started moving and I hadn’t asked to go anywhere. I wanted to ask where we were going but the radio was on and I could still feel wet on my cheeks but I didn’t know if I was still crying or if it was snow from outside or wet from my hair from the snow or, and I didn’t really care except that I tried to imagine the wet I felt drowning the train in my head. Like maybe it was just a little mechanical train doing all that damage, ripping up the roads in my brain that were not meant for trains, and that the wet could put a stop to if there was enough and it hit the right wires to short circuit, but how did I know it wouldn’t blow up anything else in the process? The car seat felt like a big black towel so I fought off my clothes and rolled myself around in it to get off all the wet so I wouldn’t blow my head off. The two guys were screaming in the front and I thought they knew so I started screaming too until I knew I wasn’t wet anymore and I put back on my clothes and everyone stopped screaming. I asked to be dropped off and they asked why, and I said because I wanted to leave now because I was dry, but they said it was too cold and I didn’t think they got to decide how cold it was for me. They locked the doors then and got too quiet and I told them to go phone the police on themselves, to call in a 4024 on their own stupid heads. They drove faster and I thought the next thing I was going to see was water under me while we crashed into an ocean or a lake or a pond or a swamp or a bog or a river or a puddle. I wanted no water below me, no last look of black death swallowing me whole like the way that priest said my parents went downdowndown to a watery grave. I wanted soil in my grave, dry, hard, compact, even a little bit sandy kind of soil like from a desert please but not one where there has been oil discovered because you never know when that could spout up out of nowhere and then people will want to set it on fire so no one will die from wanting it so bad.
The van stopped. I called out 911 a bunch of times hoping my voice would find its way to a phone that knew what I wanted. The van started and stopped again and I think it was dead but I hadn’t heard any pumpkins falling on its white roof, but I wasn’t really listening, I was too busy yelling 911 so maybe I missed it, but maybe I did it while I was yelling and I didn’t even know. These snot-fucker guys got out of the car and opened my door and three other snot-fucker guys came down and helped them bring me inside through a white door to some white walls and I thought this place was a new dimension waiting for someone to throw up all over it and make it real. I threw up all over it and made it real and I felt better and they swooped in and fluttered around me like seagulls and I hate seagulls even though I like birds, but seagulls were more like hawks than birds and hawks were not really birds because they were hawks. They gave me some small white circles to eat and I threw them down and told them Any Other Colour! Any Other Colour! so they gave me blue. I put the blue in my ears to stop their seagulling and then there was a stabbing with one of their seagull beaks and I don’t remember anything else except I woke up with all you swine staring at me and asking me dumb shit questions like how did I get here and why did I wake you up, when you’re the ones who woke me up and I remember now what comes next. I remember what happens after the little girl gets whipped like a murderer behind the old barn and falls face first onto shards of glass that had been smashed by her mother when found by her father. She wakes up here. She wakes up here.
The cot creaks like the old rusty door of an abandoned house when I try to get off it, even though it’s shlumpy sunked in the middle and trying to eat me for breakfast. I gotta piss but I don’t know where the can is so I start jumping on the cot asking where is the can but no one is listening, like they don’t even know who the hell I am. I’m like Your Messiah kids! Here to heave you out of this sorry white oblivion – but that last part doesn’t come out. Just as the “I” in Mess”I”ah, the loudest bugle of my proclamation hurtles out, the springs snap, all weak like chicken bones under my feet, and I fall through and my toes touch the ground but all caught in the sheet and I slip and slide back and the cot snaps shut on me like a mouse trap. I feel my warm piss stream down my leg and I don’t even try to hold it in and I don’t mind the weight of the cot on top of me for a while. But then my head starts to hurt like someone’s trying to saw it open and I have to push the cot I’m caught in away, but it’s heavy so I try to wriggle out instead and I wonder if this is what being born feels like but I don’t remember my birth except maybe I do and that is why I wonder because inside somewhere I know. I free one arm and reach up and feel no more hair just metal lines on my head like a row of ants colonizing my skull. When I look at my hand it’s all red like they bit me but it doesn’t look like blood so I lick my fingers and it is blood. Then I hear sawing sounds and I start pushing you swine around trying to find the saw, find out who’s trying to saw my head open, and I see two giants that are dressed like the snot-fuckers and they’re strong and grab my arms and tie them behind my back while the blood from my head drips into my eyes and down my face and it feels like I’m crying again but I’m not. They cover my face with a white cloth like I’m dead but I can still say Any Other Colour! Any Other Colour! but this time they don’t give me blue. They wipe my face with the white cloth to make it red then they put it on my head like to replace my hair. I start to wonder what they did with my hair and if it’s going to come back to me once these ants get the fuck out of my skull. I hope my hair is all together like in a big happy clump all fluffy like and not scattered about willy-nilly. It would be cruel to separate them after the trauma of being expelled from their home.
I start to feel very sleepy so I let the snot-fucker-giants do whatever they want with me, which is putting me on a rolling bed and hurling me down a hallway. If I was allowed to do whatever I wanted with someone I would put them on a rolling bed and hurl them down a hallway too so I don’t blame them but I’m too sleepy for human bowling ball to be fun, it just makes me feel like throwing up again against more whirring white walls and I brace myself for when I’m going to knock down all the bowling pins, and then the sawing sound comes back again but I think I’m dreaming now because things aren’t white anymore.
I know when I’m awake again because there’s white. My head feels like a balloon and I wonder if the ants are having a birthday party in it. My eyes are open but I don’t feel like I have a body anymore except I can see some of it so I know it’s there. I try to feel around and see if my head is a balloon, if the ants have expanded their empire and there are kingdoms in my chest, but my arms are stuck and I get tired trying to lift them. The white goes away for a while. But the sawing. I need to tell someone to get it to stop but my mouth won’t open and they’re all snot-fuckers anyway and I don’t want to give them any clues as to where I am in case they have the saw.
So I board the train in my brain that the ants have invaded and the saw is chasing down, chugga grate, chugga grate, chugga chugga grate grate. I don’t want a train, I want a teleport so I don’t have to see anything I don’t recognize along the way. No trains that snatch little girls off farms when everything is dead and they only hear echoes of words from before that make them think there are still people but the train says no. The train takes them away where other people pretend to be their parents but give them pats on the back that rattle their lungs and split their spine in two so now they’re cracked, all cracked up. There were train tracks around the whole world and I just kept circling it up and down and seeing everything different and the same and being quiet and loud and the rumble made my heart hurt and my head pound and the heaving wail of the whistle was the same sound I made when granny turned grey and stopped making the noise herself. All the time I made that noise, her noise, until the slap that swept me out the door after my mothers nails gripped the back of my neck because we were all sad and not just me and I wasn’t being fair. The train went too fast and I knew we would crash into the barn even though I didn’t know where I was.
I open my eyes to white again and all the snot-fuckers have turned into pretty ladies, trying to trick me into letting them saw me open so they can steal everything. But their eyes are the same so I can tell what’s what. They have nicer voices and gentler hands but they ask me about my head right away, like I’ve given them permission to dig right into it, but then two of them stand over me and talk about staples instead of stitches and they are doing their best and I am going to be fine but of course they would say that if they’re the ones getting away with sawing me open. I want to get up so bad but they won’t let me. I need to stop falling asleep so I can get the straps off my hands and run away from the sawing but I can’t feel the train in my brain anymore and I wonder if they’ve already stolen it.
There is an Indian woman in the bed next to me whose face I can’t see. She spouts You Can Do It, You Can Do It like a broken record, except with her accent it sounds like You, Conduit, and then, Yukon-twit. And the white of the Yukon is back, all around me in this place, and I wait for the polar bears here, the glaciers, icebergs, criminal cold. Where the train that snatched little girls off farms ended up, where pretend parents waited with heavy coats for heavy hurts, where the train stopped and everything else began. I saw polar bears everywhere but shot into nothing, the cold white nothing of nothing. The Yukon keeps me up at night.
They must’ve conked me on the head again because I wake up to a different white with different ladies and I don’t care that I can’t move my arms or legs. I can feel my head isn’t a balloon anymore and the train is back but going slower now, away from the polar bear fear. A sad looking lady comes over and says some things about medication and calming me down and she looks so sad about it all that I smile and try to say it’s all going to be okay so she’ll feel better. I even try to laugh out loud but I only make the quacks of a drowning duck. I feel slobber dribble down my chin and I try to wipe it in my shoulder like I’m some handicapped imbecile not that handicapped people are imbeciles but I am both handicapped and an imbecile in this moment of drooly blubbering. I don’t want the lady to get more sad because of how I’m not able to wipe my own mouth, so I try to slurp it up with my tongue instead but then the residual wetness feels cold and ticklish on my skin and makes me itchy so I’m back to rubbing my face against my shoulder in no time, which makes the lady’s brow crease like an accordion. I think she might cry but instead she undoes my arms and legs and I am free. I want to scratch my face and jump up and down and throw my arms around her and shake her like a can of paint except I’ve gotten heavy. They must have filled me with polar bear heads so I couldn’t go anywhere. I try to go anywhere anyway and don’t do so good. I forget how to walk for a while and think they’ve ripped my legs off and put rubber hoses there instead. And all of a sudden I remember the sawing and it takes me three and a half days to get my hand to my head and feel that the ants are gone, but there are grooves where they dug in and burrowed through to my skull. I have some tiny hairs back but nothing like before.
I lie down on the cold floor and try to scratch through the tile to get to the ants. I don’t know if I should thank them for leaving or give them a stern talking to for coming in the first place. But I want to see them. I want to see them and tell them I know what they did.
(Photo by Tee Schneider.)