La-Tonia Willis

REQUIEM FOR A DEAD MAN






John
was completely taken by surprise. It had been nearly fifteen years
since hed seen her last but she was still the vision of loveliness
he remembered. They'd been quite the item back then and the consensus
at the time was that the two of them were definitely bound for
marriage. Nothing much had transpired in his life since college,
nothing good anyway. In fact he felt himself a complete failure in
every way. Contrastingly, there was something about her appearance
that told him shed made it. Maybe it was the glow in her eyes or
the way she held her head up in confidence, that screamed success.
Marisol,
you look great.
It
was all he could manage on so short a notice. He hoped against all
odds that her coy half-smile signified he was still in her good
graces, even after the breakup.
John-John,
I cant believe its you, she said, and ran her fingers
lightly over his face. He was flabbergasted that she still cherished
the pet name shed given him while they were a couple. It gave him
a slight relief to think that perhaps the cruel fates that had taken
away so much were perhaps now giving him a final chance at some
semblance of happiness.
Oh
John-John, its been a while. She threw her arms around him and
for a moment he was transported back to college, in the burgeoning
days of his youth when life seemed much simpler then. She was the
lovely aspiring Latina actress and he was the weird Anglo psychology
student that everyone pitied. No one had expected the relationship to
happen, much less succeed, and in its waning days it wasn't the
beginning that he'd focused on but the despicable ending. While they
were a couple he'd spent an insurmountable amount of time being
driven insidiously jealous. As someone bound to the principles of
logic inherent in his would-be profession he should have known
better. As a man driven by an irrational compulsion it wouldnt
have mattered.
Oh
Marisol, I dont know what to say. What can I say?
She
let go of him and took a step back the way she always did whenever
something important was to be said. She cleared her throat and looked
out to him with an unbelievable candor strangely inherent in a woman
who went to Hollywood to be a movie star.
Dont
let the past hinder you John. I havent. Weve survived all the
troubles and thats all that matters. Ive moved on. Im
married now. My husband and I are very happy. I look forward to a
wonderful future and so should you. Esta
es mi vida. Muy buena.
He
loved when she spoke slivers of Spanish to him, just enough for him
to understand. Hed tried to learn it himself when they were
together but he could never get past the onerous task of all the verb
conjugations. It was a beautiful language but it did not please him
to hear such a declaration of satisfaction in her voice. Someone had
finally stolen the girl of his dreams away. He wanted to wish her all
the luck in the world. He wanted to say all the right things one said
when reuniting with an old flame. Truth be told, he didn't share any
of those obligatory feelings. In fact, it would have pleased him
more if she'd graced his ears with the lament of a vapid and tortuous
existence as a character actor, or an insignificant fill in the
blank, rather than reveal her current state of fortune. He still
loved her of course, but it was the kind of love that grew more
despotic and degenerative as time went by.
That
day they ended up at one of New Englands old historic coffee
houses. The atmosphere was serene and Marisol was primed with
questions about his life after college and current state of affairs.
How could he tell her hed done nothing but contemplate ending it
all the last couple of years? Or that he'd lost most of his savings
in a corporate Ponzi scheme, and later his therapist license? What
would she think of him if she knew that every night he cried himself
to sleep?
Why
are you so quiet John? Did I say something wrong?
Well
he said softly. Its kind of embarrassing. Ive had a hard
time coping. Nothing has turned out like I imagined. After you left
me senior year I went all to pieces. You know, sometimes I think my
mind plays tricks on me.
She
paused for a moment, and when she began again it was with a deeply
sympathetic tone.
John,
Im sorry to hear that but surely there must have been some bright
points. My dear John-John, life never gives you anything all bad or
all good. We have to find our way through the madness to get to the
balance. Si?
She
placed her hand in his, and let it lay there for what seemed liked
hours but was only a minute or so.
"I
always hoped that one day I would have the chance to say I was sorry
for all the pain I caused you those last days, he said.
Her
eyes fell below. He reached out and touched her chin lovingly.
"If
I could take it all back I
And then, as if recognizing his defenselessness, something inside
of him rose to the top. It was the monster he'd fought so hard
against and struggled to keep subdued; it was like a burning flame
itching to break through all the mindless platitudes. It was then
that he looked at her and felt a sense of dread.
She
interrupted by covering his mouth with her fingertips. Her eyes said
it wasnt necessary for him to continue, that she was doing him a
favor by not having him relive the pain and hurt that consumed him to
this day.
Ive
made my peace with it all. John, believe me. I learned a long time
ago not to let irrationalities of the past determine what happens in
the future.
Irrationalities
of the past? What had she meant exactly? Was she trying to say that
loving him had been an irrational behavior? And to think he had just
tried to apologize earlier. He was suddenly beset by two opposing
urgesone involved an uncontrollable need to grab her and smother
her with kisses. The other a tempestuous desire to bounce her off
the walls.
I
met my husband while I was set to star in one of his films. It was
only a small role but it would be another credit to add to the
resume. Anyway, it just so happens that he was looking to redo some
elements of the story and asked for my input. Well, turns out I made
an even better writer/producer. He loved my ideas. I helped him
co-write the script and a year later we were married. Now, I'm
co-owner of a production company catering to films from a Latino
perspective.
Wow,
that's great, just wonderful, he said, because his rational mind
told him to do so.
The
point is my beloved Esai made me see another talent within myself
that I hadnt tapped into. So you see John-John, there is hope.
Theres always hope.
Is there? To me hope
always seemed like something rather puerile to believe in. I think
that's why I failed at being a therapist. My patients had looked for
solutions where I only saw failure.
Better to be without it than to be forever in its snare.
She
laughed. Oh John-John, you don't believe that. You couldn't.
They
were so engaged in these moments of nostalgia? regret? that neither
noticed the long tall slender gentleman in the dark suit and top hat,
until he was standing before them.
Mrs.
Ortega? Mr. Ortega requires your presence over at Langley Studios,
said the man after removing his top hat.
John-John, meet
my chauffeur, Raymond. He has a tendency to find me even when I dont
want to be found.
Nice
to meet you Raymond, said John with his hand out.
His
acknowledgment wasnt exactly met with warm appreciation. In fact,
the austere chauffeur seemed very protective of his employer and his
discourteous actions bestowed a feeling of great displeasure about
the entire engagement. Sensing the awkwardness, John immediately
withdrew his hand.
Marisol
turned towards John to the chauffeurs dismay. John here is my
oldest and dearest friend Raymond. I suggest you be nice to him.
Entiendas?
Yes,
Madame, of course. I meant no disrespect, said the chauffeur,
unconvincingly.
The
pompous chauffeur had mocked him. He had already made up his mind
about John's character and discerned he was not a suitable match for
Marisol.
Marisol
tried to break the ice. John, did I tell you we're on location
here in Vermont filming? It's an interesting little movie, she
said, glancing over at the chauffeur, and then back at John. Would
you like to know the name of the project? I'll tell you, its a
new feature called Persistence
of Memory,
the title is taken from the famous painting by Dali. It's about
an artist who is being haunted by his doppelganger. It's a
psychological thriller, part horror kind of thing, but dont
tell anyone. Im not supposed to release any information to the
public just yet, she said, And Raymond, dont you dare tell
my husband I said anything.
John
thought about what had happened. She'd revealed all of this to him
just to spite the chauffeur. It was a textbook comment on
master-servant relations. She'd even coquettishly dared the chauffeur
to say anything to her husband about her breach of confidence.
Ostensibly, the chauffeur seemed at ease with his boss's management
of the situation, but John knew better. You never really get used to
the power someone has over you.
Madame
please, we must go, reiterated the chauffeur in a thick British
accent.
Just
as she stood up from the table John grabbed her by the arm. This
appeared to make the chauffeur very uncomfortable. In fact, he was on
the verge of voicing some form of disapproval when Marisol stopped
him with her eyes.
Look,
can we talk later? I know youre busy and all but I really would
like to speak to you again, said John.
Oh
John-John, yes. I would like that very much. I do have an extremely
busy schedule tomorrow but the day after is open. Here, call me and
well work it out, she said and handed him her business card.
That
night he didnt get any sleep at all. His mind was crazy with
thoughts of reconstituting the fragments of a past romance. He didn't
want to think about the other stuffall the compulsive arguments or
the nocturnal spying forays that had succeeded only in turning
Marisol against him. The day she walked out of his life was the day
he stopped living, and he blamed her intensely.
When
the day came for her visit, he found himself not bothered by the
pretense of putting on a good show, but rather, curious about
his intentions which had not even revealed themselves to him, yet.
Marisol arrived dressed in a black and white pants suit and white
stiff collar shirt that made her look like some kind of superhero.
Does
that chauffeur know your whereabouts?
No,
but my husband does, she said sternly.
And
he trusts you?
Completely.
He knows he has nothing to worry about. I dont lie to him. Ever.
John-John, I'd like a drink, please. Red wine if you have it.
She
was testing him. Overtly telling him he had no chance while
clandestinely presenting herself as a possibility. He poured a
glass of wine for her and then himself, and they adjourned to the
couch.
Im
glad you're here Marisol.
Did
you think I would not show?
I
counted on it.
Oh
John-John, you always were the hopeless romantic deep down.
Everything is so dramatic to you, it's you who should have taken up
acting, she declared and took a sip of wine.
He
held his wine glass up in affirmation. She was right, it had been him
all along who was the intense one in the relationship. He bore the
scars to prove it. Unlike him, she'd always managed to love without
giving of herself completely; it was what some referred to as a
lightness in being. Even during sex, she'd wait until he'd
exhausted himself in one position after another before coming to
climax in a manner that suggested she had something better to do. It
had tortured him relentlessly that she might not enjoy his fucking as
much as he needed her to. But, true to fashion, she had never
mentioned or registered the slightest concern about their carnal
affairs.
She
touched his arm and cleared her throat.
John-John
I have something to tell you that I never meant for you to know.
After the break-up I told myself it didn't matter anymore but now
Like you said before, maybe
some things should stay in the past.
Please,
just listen. Running into each other again, and us here now, it just
seems like we've come full circle. My dear John-John I now see it as
a sign that its no longer right for me to keep this secret from
you.
He
closed his eyes and clinched his lips, and the thoughts came pouring
in. Why couldn't she just shut up? Why couldn't she let him have this
moment? Didn't she understand that if given a choice between the
facade of a happy ending, or a disastrous outcome, he preferred the
lie each time? She was beautiful and talented, she could afford to
embrace reality. People who have so much in their lives fail to
understand what it means to be plagued by loneliness and despair. How
could he make her understand the depth of his pain? How could he
possibly make her feel what it is like to have the highlight of your
day be a trip to the supermarket, or the return of a video to the
local Blockbusters?
He
put down his wine glass and moved closer to her. She smelled like a
bouquet of roses. He would have given anything to lose himself in
that scent for the rest of his life, instead of face the upcoming
rotten aroma of what her revelation most undoubtedly would bring to
the senses. Is this all she had to offer him now? A cliched hapless
reunion?
Marisol,
Ive pretty much made a mockery out of my life. All I want now is
to live again. You give me life. Without you I'm weak. Without you
I'm that simple little boy from Wisconsin you could pluck out of any
Norman Rockwell painting. But there's no heart in that image. Not
heart at all.
The
monster deep within seethed as he issued this proclamation of defeat.
Indeed,
it was a Hail Mary effort if there ever was one, and truly unbecoming
for a dignified person but then again, dignity and pride weren't
concepts he felt he could afford to invest in anymore. He kept
telling himself how much he loved her and wanted to be near her. If
ever there was a chance, the moment was ripe for one of those
Hallmark presentations you see on the Lifetime
network. Yet his under-mind kept reminding him people didn't behave
that way really. The Oprah-fication
of relationships had deceived everyone into thinking that women were
universally supportive of one another, and that the right man would
understand the talking points and fall in line. However if there
was one thing he'd learned from the Comparative Literature course
he'd been forced to take in college as a condition of his
graduationit was that the true nature of relationships, of
humanity, had been canonized by the Greeks in ancient times in their
many tragedies. One need look no further than the wretched House of
Atreus generational curse in which love, hate, death, and fornication
were woven blissfully into a timeless operatic masterpiece of
degradation, degeneracy, and despair. What could Marisol possibly
have to tell him that could compare to this legendary tale of woe?
She
put down her glass and took him by the hand.
John,
when I left you and transferred to UCLA I was pregnant. I dont
know how I did it but I finished college as a single mother.
She
took a deep breath, and waited for his reaction but he had none.
I
know its hard for you to understand why I didnt say anything
before, but you had turned into something ugly those last months.
Forgive me John but I had ended up hating you back then. No, I'm not
sure hate is a strong enough word. I loathed you. Everything we once
had seemed so disgustingly ugly. I was devastated. It's taken me some
years to get to the place I am now. You have a son. His name is
Daniel Joseph, and I want him to know his father. So you see, it was
kind of like serendipity running into you again.
She
explained it so beautifully. It was so ridiculously careless of her.
A
son?
Yes,
su
hijo.
Daniel
Joseph was his father's name. She didn't know it but he hated his
father.
A
son . . . he murmured in a daze.
She
took his pulse to see if he was still breathing. He was, barely.
I
know it sounds treacherous but please, understand?
He
did understand. He understood that she was a lying, conniving, little
bitch who'd stolen from him the possibility of any lasting moments
for redemption. Even in her treachery she wanted to play the victim.
Damn puta,
he wanted to scream. He squeezed her hand to let her know he was
still there. The only thing is, he didnt stop squeezing. Before he
knew it hed grabbed her arms, and then her throat.
John-John,
no . . . Her voice trailed off as he continued to apply pressure
to her larynx.
Her
muffled cries reverberated through his mind and cavorted into a dirge
of joyous lament, as she begged and pleaded with him to let go over
and over again.
The
next thing he knew two nurses were pulling him away from his
clutching pillow.
Mr.
Casey? Mr. Casey? Stop! yelled the head nurse.
Oh
my God, hes convulsing. Sir, can you hear me? Everything will be
all right sir, just calm down and breathe slowly, implored the
nurses subordinate Elizabeth, a much younger nurse who appeared
supremely frightened at the sight of the patients erratic
behavior.
Wheres
Dr. Ortega with the tranquilizer? asked the head nurse, just
before the patient sat up and delivered a right punch to her hip,
causing her to tumble over sideways.
Are
you all right maam?
The
head nurse collected herself.
Okay
Casey, you want to play hardball? I can do that too, she said, and
then punched him in the groin.
Maam?
Wha!
Shut
up Elizabeth, I know what Im doing. Give them an inch and they
take a yard.
John
fell back on the bed in excruciating pain. His groin area was on
fire.
Just
a little shot to bring him back to his senseswhatever is left of
em anyway.
Soon
after, the doctor arrived, and sedated his unruly patient.
Dr.
Ortega had spent the last few years of his tenure presiding over the
patient known as John Reginald Casey. Casey was loosely diagnosed as
being a schizophrenic psychopath. He barely spoke, would often slide
in and out of comas, and his experience with violent nightmares often
fueled his tortuous rages. The entire staff remained on perpetual
alert.
Was
it the same as before? asked Dr. Ortega
Every
bit, doctor. Right before the convulsions he called out her name and
then went into shock. Thats when Elizabeth and I came running and
grabbed him. He was ferocious and tussling with his pillow like
always, and then he socked me in the hip.
Elizabeth
looked over at her supervisor to see if she was going to finish the
story and reveal her retaliatory actions. Any sort of abuse towards
the patients was strictly prohibited.
It
takes a lot sometimes to keep from bopping one of these nutcases
something proper when they get like that, said the head nurse,
maintaining her defense by denial.
Now
nurse you know that reprisals are not the answer. We take defensive
measures only if there is a clear life threat of endangerment.
Of
course Dr. Ortega, said the head nurse. Of course.
She
then turned away and went off but not before giving the young nurse a
castigating look that conveyed everything.
Later
that night Dr. Ortega gave the orders to have John removed from
solitary confinement and placed back into the main population of the
ward. His bed was located next to that of a tall slinky man in a top
hat.
John,
youre back, old chum. Where would you like to be driven today sir?
Im the chauffeur to the stars, I am. Im in his dreams you know.
We all are. Characters in a madman's world, quipped the tall
slinky man.
Sir
Langley, not now. Mr. Casey needs his sleep, replied Dr. Ortega
Then
I shall take this matter up with the Queen of England, good doctor.
You are preventing me from performing my duty.
Just
then the young nurse entered. She approached Dr. Ortega at the
bedside.
Doctor,
I know Im new here and it takes some time . . . but it's hard, you
know, to adjust to these people and their sickness. Its just that
sometimes I feel like theyre never going to get better and it
seems so futile to care at all.
Working
with the criminally insane is not an easy task Elizabeth. Its not
for everyone, he paused, Its Casey isnt it?
Poor
man, the nurses say there's no hope for him. These conflicting
horrible nightmares about the night he killed his wife Marisol, and
tried to take his own life, just keep getting worse. And he's
practically in a catatonic state most of the time. It's like he's
really a dead man and his physical body just doesn't know it yet,
she said.
Tears
began to swell up in her eyes. He offered her a handkerchief. He
didnt know if he had much else.
My
dear, you must never forget that there is absolutely nothing wrong
with Casey's physical body per se and that it's the mental anguish
and dream recall, and imbalance that triggers physical
manifestations, such as the periodic seizures. John Caseys descent
into madness started during his collegiate years. Later the madness
matured even though he didnt. He became completely obsessed with
the idea that Marisol was leaving him. He even convinced himself that
she'd taken his child away but in reality she was barren. That
neurosis still eats away away at the very core of his being, and
delivers him into these nightmarish dream fixations.
She
looked down at John Caseys bedside. He was asleepor
unconscious. When someone lives in a perpetual state of chaos its
hard to tell sometimes. According to Dr. Ortega Casey's physical
illness was psychosomatic, and it was his mind that refused to allow
his body to heal. Yet she found no comfort in this medical analysis,
and didn't see any reason Casey should either. She used to believe
that discipline and strength were the ticket to the eventual
restoration back into normal life of many of the patients residing at
the Vermont
Psychiatric Institution For the Criminally Insane. However,
since then the Casey case had made her wonder if indeed any of the
inhabitants would ever know peace.
Dr.
Ortega took his emotional colleague lightly by the forearm and
maneuvered her over near the corner of the room. He could feel a
slight tremble in her body.
For
these people, its either here or in a standard prison. At least
here they are treated like individuals with a certifiable psychosis
in need of real medical attention. Yes, theyve committed
atrocities but I believe their mental illness prevented them from
making discernibly viable choices.
She
dried her eyes. Do you believe in miracles Dr. Ortega?
He
had to think for a moment. It wasnt a question presented to him
often.
Im
not a religious person if thats what youre asking. Yet, I have
been witness to inexplicable recoveries. I guess you could say I
believe there are many factors that go into healing the mind.
Subconsciously, John is struggling with what he perceives to be the
evil in his life. In the dream he is at odds with Marisol over the
threat of a romantic adversary. He believes me to be that adversary.
Suffice it to say, I never even met his wife. He constantly counters
his thoughts of her magnificence with the thoughts of her infidelity
and deceit. It is my hope, through rigorous psychotherapy, to help
him understand that the jealousy fixation that caused him to strangle
his true love was born out of his sickness and not anything remotely
tangible.
Like
Othellos contempt for Desdemona?
Very
good Elizabeth, thats a perfect example. Its hard to preserve
sanity if pain and irrationality cloud your judgment.
Yes,
doctor. I think I understand, she uttered softly and gave him back
his handkerchief. She rushed away before he could say anything else.
He
stood motionless for a moment, contemplating. Hed seen more than
one young nurse fall victim to the demands of a career in behavioral
psychology and psychopathology. She was young and impressionable; he
saw her as a glimmer of hope amongst a brewing maelstrom of psychotic
personalities. He promised himself hed work hard to make sure
nurse Elizabeth Crowley didnt end up in a panic room of her own.

 

 

All rights belong to its author. It was published on e-Stories.org by demand of La-Tonia Willis.
Published on e-Stories.org on 01/04/2010.

 

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