And now the purple dusk of twilight time
Steals across the meadows of my heart
High up in the sky the little stars climb
Always reminding me that we're apart
- From Stardust by Mitchell Parish and Hoagy Carmichael
He was curled into the fetal position naked. Not really scared, more like baffled yet resigned. Memories were of soft daffodils swaying in the breeze. And Popsicles.
Nothing made sense. Least of all his own life. Bob the pronoun he. He was afraid to unwrap himself and stand. What if there were people about? Bob realized his eyes were closed. So he opened them. He saw voices. He saw them trail upstream from the pit of the mountain top over to the empty room where his heart beat.
"Bob?" A voice finally asked. Bob felt his eyebrows furrow. A tear formed somewhere and dropped on Bob's cheek.
"Bob? Bob!" The voice was female and it was insistent. But soft. But strong. He liked the voice Bob did.
"Why won't you answer me?" The lovely pleading voice asked.
It was a good question. Just why hadn't he answered?
"Please, Bob." There was a hint of desperation in the voice now. Bob really didn't want to let this woman down. She sounded nice. A little sexy even.
Sex. There was something Bob could remember. A pleasant feeling. The word 'orgasmic' came to mind. It sounded like a good word.
Well, Bob reckoned, it was about time he said something. But the power of speech eluded him. He'd forgotten how to talk. "Aargh uck plffft," was all that came out.
"Oh Bob, thank god."
Who was this God of whom she spoke and what was he to be thanked for? Or she. This eluded Bob although on further reflection he was sure he'd heard of God before. A square yet oddly circular ethereal object who ate mountains.
"Bob? Can you say anything else?" The voice was full of hope but still a little desperate. Bob thought that he loved the voice.
(Here our story takes a strange turn.)
There was no question but that life was a struggle for Bob. He had trouble tolerating other people. They were forever doing things that annoyed him. It seemed that every time he looked at someone they were picking their nose, or chewing gum or talking too loud or making an inane comment. He hated inane comments, particularly those that were passed off as pearls of wisdom. Stupid, stupid people thinking themselves sagacious when they were just more rabble. Every time Bob heard someone say: "it is what is" he wanted to scream.
Bob was thus perpetually unhappy. To his few intimates Bob would rail about the idiocy of others. Bob struggled to find the good, the worth in other human beings. Friends and family still loved Bob because, despite his misanthropic nature, he had a good heart and would help anyone in need. Bob also boasted a wonderful sense of humor, which, despite his views on humanity, he rarely directed at other people. Indeed many of his jibes were self directed. Bob had no enemies, never had. Few people had ever had much to say about Bob.
Bob was a market research analyst. Consequently much of his work day was spent alone. There were weekly meetings and encounters with co-workers in the lunch room and that water cooler, but for the most part Bob was a loner. Still, he got on well with everyone and was regarded as a nice chap, if not a particularly interesting one. Bob liked the solitude of his job, though he looked forward to the infrequent interactions with colleagues. The job paid well and Bob desired neither promotion nor a different position or different employer. He was fine.
Home life was serene. There was his wife of 18 years, Rhonda and their teenager daughter Elizabeth who Bob, but no one else, called Lizzie. Lizzie was a straight A student with a tame social life and few interests outside of school, reading and films. Rhonda too was quiet and shy and it seemed perfect to all who knew her that she was a librarian. What else could she possibly be better suited for, friends said. So for Bob, home life and work were smooth and easy. It was the rest of it that was such an awful bother.
Commuting was at best irksome and at worst infuriating for Bob. People jostling, pushing, making noise, emitting odors and saying the stupidest things. Oh the comments he overheard, the ridiculous conversations, the insane opinions. Day after day Bob thought his head would explode from any further exposure to rude, pushy people. He would just absolutely bloody scream if he had to hear one more ill conceived remark or banal observation. Oh and the whistlers and hummers and people who tried to sing and then there was the noise from ear buds, all so irritating. Just got right under Bob's skin. Rhonda once politely suggested that Bob see a therapist. He scoffed at the idea. Imagine. Talking to some idiot who just wrote notes and stroked his beard. Telling them about masturbating or wetting the bed or dreams. Utter rot. Nope, Bob would continue to just face life head on and make the best of it. He'd made it to 45 with no trouble so he figured he could manage the rest of his life without help. Meanwhile there were the idiots on busses and subway cars and on the streets and in elevators and everywhere else. Most of the giant pains in the ass.
So it was that one day it all became too much.
First someone on the subway platform holding a cup of coffee bumped Bob, spilling some of the beverage on Bob's pants. Then on the sidewalk there was an idiot rushing to catch a bus who nearly knocked poor Bob over. Next, as he entered his building, Bob had to listen to some blowhard pontificate on the economy and every word he was saying dead wrong. Finally on the packed elevator he was stuck next to a moron loudly chewing and popping his gum while standing in front of him was some idiot who evidently had bathed in aftershave and was humming some tired old show tune. It was more than any man could be expected to take. Bob cracked.
(And now our story reveals itself.)
"Bob! Try to speak. Say something. I know you can do it."
That sweet, sweet voice again. Bob thought he must be in love with it and the person who it belonged to. He felt duty bound to give it what it wanted. Words. "Urf. Blapstch. Kondulinkister." These weren't words but they were all he could seem to manage.
"Help is coming Bob." The voice assured him.
Then I must stand Bob reasoned. And so he did.
Bob was aware of his profound nudity. Not what was profound about it, just that it was. He was also aware that he had an erection. A hard proud one that was pointing straight ahead. Bob swayed to and fro and felt like fainting. But Bob did not faint. He righted himself and looked into the eyes of a tall beautiful woman who was regarding him with sad deep blue eyes. She was Mona. His secretary.
"Bob, people are almost here. They'll help you. Just hang in there."
Bob realized -- or thought he did -- that he loved Mona very much and probably always had. This was, Bob further realized, hardly the time for such a realization, what with his profound nudity and accompanying erection. Then again, maybe it was the perfect time. Time, what an odd concept. There really wasn't any. Not at all. It was all just a big blob. Bob swayed some more.
Outside the door to Bob's office, people were standing about whispering trying to see and trying not to see, wondering what had happened, pretending to be concerned for Bob but mostly just curious. Finally men in uniforms brushed them aside and entered Bob's office. Mona moved to a corner.
Bob held a thought in his mind. Squeezing it. But what it was he couldn't see. Articulation of complex ideas seemed impossible. Other than his love for Mona. But, Bob wondered, aren't I married? And why is the room so radiant? Why is the ceiling falling sideways and why is my desk smiling? Bob felt sure that he should be frightened, but he was mainly just curious.
The firemen were talking to Bob, calling him sir. One wrapped a blanket around him. Bob thought the men to be gorgeous. He could never remember feeling that way about males before. He also thought that Mona was both behind and in front of him and that she had crawled in through his belly button and possessed his mind. He could see her here in his brain. How odd, Bob thought. No, he decided, that's perfectly normal. How delightful, Bob thought.
Finally Bob was helped into his clothes and put on a stretcher and taken out of the room and into the elevator. Where was Mona now, he thought. Realizing she wasn't with him on the elevator, Bob let out a loud and terrible scream that briefly terrified his rescuers. Bob's scream lasted for as long as he could maintain it. When he could no longer make a sound and was being put into a vehicle, Bob felt just fine. It was wonderful to have taken flight and to be at all places forever and ever and to be able to see the creation and talk to God and nestle against the sun. It was all so very grand. The scream had allowed every bit of it to happen. The scream had opened a big door that Bob's purple brain had bound through. He'd have to remember to scream again sometime. Wow, remembering, it sounded nice.
The hospital was a brief distraction. So were the doctors and the pills and Rhonda's visit. All were distractions. Like the questions he kept being asked that he could in no way answer. They were nonsensical, not that he cared. He didn't care about anything. Not with the transcendent whirlpool chanting his name while swirling above him. It was beautiful.
When the last of the distractions was over and it was dark and quiet, Bob descended deep into his mind, where for the rest of his days he could do as he pleased and dance with Mona and never talk and always laugh at the tall green and orange tree that spoke softly and caressed his mind while he was somewhere else. Nothing to bother Bob. Blissful shining angels tapping on his heart creating magical peals of hot bells. Yes this would all be fine.