Somebody Waits for Me ~ A Short Story by Allen Kopp
I was standing at the window. Inside it was still winter but outside it was spring. The sky was blue, the sun was shining and birds were singing. The woman with the hanging mole on her upper lip came up behind me. I heard her shoes squeaking on the floor and then smelled her perfume.
“You shouldn’t be wandering the halls,” she said.
I ignored her but as she walked away I turned and looked at her and she turned into a puff of blue smoke.
I went back to the room that I had come to identify as my own and lay on my back on the bed and looked up at the ceiling. I knew there was something wrong with me but I couldn’t remember what it was. I couldn’t even remember what place I was in. Oh, well. If it mattered at one time, it didn’t matter any more.
I heard somebody coming and picked up a magazine and opened it and pretended to be reading. I wanted to look busy so they wouldn’t ask me questions or try to engage me in conversation.
It was Theo, all dressed in white as usual. If I saw him in any other color, I wouldn’t recognize him.
“Where’s Miss Deloite?” he asked. “She said she was coming in here to help you with your bath.”
“I’m perfectly capable of taking a bath on my own without a female present, thank you,” I said, not looking up from the page.
I should probably have told him I just turned her into a puff of smoke but I would have to let him figure it out on his own. He should be lucky I didn’t do the same to him.
I crossed my ankles and wished I had a cigarette, and in came Louie from next door. He was wearing a lady’s red kimono with white dragons. I didn’t like Louie and I let him know it.
“What makes you think you can just barge into my room any time you feel like it, Louie? I’m supposed to be taking a bath.”
“I already took mine.”
“I’m so happy for you.”
“Do you have any candy?”
“If I did, I wouldn’t give it to you.”
“That’s not very nice.”
“Shouldn’t you be having your nails done or something?”
“I’m going to tell Miss Deloite you were snotty to me,” Louie said.
“You’ll be telling it to a puff of blue smoke.”
Before Louie could annoy me any further, I raised my eyebrows and turned him into a little spider. I laughed as I watched him run on his touchingly small legs across the floor to the wall. He crawled up the wall to the ceiling and looked at me.
“You’re a medical phenomenon,” I said.
I was thinking about taking a nap, for lack of anything better to do, when Theo came back, bearing clean towels.
“Since Miss Deloite is temporarily not to be found,” he said, “I’m going to help you with your bath.”
“I already told you I don’t need help with a bath,” I said.
“Stand up now and take off your clothes, or I’ll do it for you.”
“I don’t want to take off my clothes for you any more than I do for Miss Deloite.”
“Do you want me to go get Stan and Sylvia?”
“Oh, please! Not Stan and Sylvia! I can’t tell them apart. Oh, I remember now. Sylvia’s the one with the mustache, isn’t she?”
“Cut the comedy now. Stand up.”
“Theo, I don’t like your tone of voice!” I said. “It’s not a polite way to speak to a man who isn’t well.”
He came at me with the intention of pulling me off the bed by my arm, but before he knew what was happening I raised my index finger at him and turned him into a blue jay.
Now, I had always though the blue jay a most attractive bird, even though people said he was mean and liked to eat carrion.
Theo flapped his blue wings a couple of times and flew up to the ceiling and ate the tiny spider Louie in one gulp. Louie didn’t even have time to try to get away.
“Good boy!” I said.
He flew around the room a couple of times, bumping painfully into the walls until I stood up and opened the window for him. He didn’t have to be coaxed to fly out and then away over the treetops.
“Be well!” I called to him.
I lay down again. I did not want to take a bath and would be just as obstinate about it as I needed to be. I recalled the good old days when the decision to take a bath was mine alone.
Before I had time to draw another breath, Nurse LaPeezy was upon me with my meds. I eyed the pills suspiciously.
“What if I don’t want to take that stuff?” I said.
“Doctor’s orders,” she said.
“So you’re saying I don’t have a choice?”
“I could call Stan and Sylvia if you like.”
“Oh, no! Not that!”
She handed me a cup of water and I pretended to take the pills. I put them in my mouth and swallowed but I held them under my tongue. When she bent over to pick something up off the floor, I spit them into my fist. The hand is quicker than the eye.
As Nurse LaPeezy was leaving I felt a strong dislike for her. I flicked the little finger on my right hand at her and she turned into a mouse. Realizing she was a mouse, she scurried across the floor the way mice do and disappeared into a conveniently placed mouse hole in the corner. I envied her because I knew she’d find her way to the kitchen where she’d have plenty to eat and find lots of other mice to keep her company. How sweet the life of a mouse must be! Much better than that of a nurse.
The next time somebody came in to help me take a bath, I was going to tell them I had already taken it while everybody was occupied elsewhere. I wanted them to know I had been taking a bath on my own since I was three years old and didn’t need help from anybody.
I was almost asleep when a slight change in the air currents around the bed made me open my eyes. Dr. Felix had come in silently and was standing at the foot of the bed looking at me.
“Sorry to wake you,” he said.
Dr. Felix wore glasses and looked like Franchot Tone. His hands were folded in front of him. I looked at his hairy wrists and his expensive wrist watch so I wouldn’t have to look at his face.
“If you don’t mind, doctor,” I said. “I don’t really feel like talking to you today.”
“Anything wrong in particular?” he asked.
“No. It’s just that I’m here and I don’t know where here is.”
“Here is where you need to be at the moment.”
“I must have a home somewhere, even if I can’t remember it. I want to go home.”
“Everybody feels that way sometimes.”
“I’m going to increase your antidepressant medication again.”
“You doctors think drugs are the answer to everything, don’t you?”
“You’re spending far too much time alone. That’s not good. I’m going to assign you to some group activities.”
I groaned and closed my eyes. “Don’t trouble yourself,” I said. “I won’t be here.”
“Are you planning on going someplace?”
“Well, you never know,” I said.
He chuckled in his knowing way and turned to go. As he started to put his hand on the door to open it, I blew out a little puff of air in his direction and turned him into a cockroach. He ran under the door and out into the hallway. One of the nurses would see him and scream and step on him and then take a Kleenex out of the pocket of her uniform and pick him up and throw him in the trash can. How fitting is that for Dr. Felix?
Before anybody else had a chance to come in and annoy me, I dressed in some clothes I had been hiding in the bottom of the closet. It was a uniform the maintenance men wore that I had stolen one day when I was exploring in the basement. In the uniform and with the brown cap pulled low over my eyes, nobody would recognize me. Also hidden away in the closet I had some ninety dollars and a pack of cigarettes, which I stuffed into the pants of the uniform.
I took a good look at myself in the mirror over the sink and went out into the hallway. Everything was quiet and nothing out of the ordinary. I made my down the stairs to the main entrance.
The receptionist at the front desk looked up from the magazine she was reading and then looked away. I knew she didn’t know who I was. If she had known, she would have been screaming for help.
I walked out the door into the bright cool air and down the steps, wanting to run but not running because I didn’t want to draw attention to myself. I followed the concrete walk to the driveway and along the edge of the driveway a quarter-mile or so to the main gate. I saw nobody and nobody saw me.
I turned right at the gate out of the place, which seemed to me a better choice than going left, and began walking. I walked for many blocks and saw nothing that looked familiar. I might have been in a foreign country or on another planet, for all I knew. Still, it felt good to be free and on my own.
Checking my pocket to make sure the ninety dollars was still there, I remembered the cigarettes and how long it had been since I had one. I lit one up and as I walked I puffed out a cloud of smoke behind me.
I stopped at a bar that looked inviting and had a beer and a hamburger and after that I kept walking deep into the city. It was a big city but I didn’t know what the name of it was and I didn’t know if I had ever been there before. I saw many people but they seemed to not see me, which altogether suited me.
After what seemed like hours of walking, I felt tired but pleasantly so, and I felt good about the distance I had put between myself and the place I had left behind. When I came to a faded old hotel with a sign that said Clean Rooms and Cheap, I decided that getting a room was the most logical thing I could do.
The desk clerk signed me in without asking for identification or money in advance. He gave me a key to a room on the tenth floor and I went up in an elevator that must have been a hundred years old.
The room was clean and pleasant. There were two windows, a bed, desk, dresser with a large mirror, chair, closet and tiny bathroom. I liked the feeling of being up high. I opened the window a couple of inches to feel the air and to hear the traffic noises from the street, which at that distance I found soothing. After checking the door to make sure it was locked, I lay down on the bed and fell into a deep and restful sleep.
I spent two days and nights in the room, sleeping a lot during the day and walking around the city at night. Nobody ever approached me or bothered me or seemed to find my behavior in any way out of the ordinary. I couldn’t remember ever feeling so free and unencumbered.
More than anything I wanted to go home, but I knew that was never going to happen. I had developed a smoking habit and I preferred tea instead of coffee, but those were about the only things about myself that I knew for sure. My past was like a slate on which nothing had ever been written.
Did I come from a small town or a city like this one? Did I grow up in an apartment in the city or in a house in the wide-open spaces with a big yard and a view of the mountains? Wasn’t it likely that somebody, somewhere was wondering about me, waiting for me to come home? A mother, maybe? A wife? A lover? A son or daughter? Whoever he or she was, I could feel them and I knew they could feel me.
I also knew the people from the place I had left behind were going to come for me. I had done some bad things, including turning my doctor into a bug. I didn’t see how anybody was going to forgive a thing like that. They would take me back and probably never let me go free again.
On my third day in the room, I had the window open as high as it would go to let in the warm breezes. At any one time, there were as many as five pigeons on the ledge outside the window. They cooed and danced and seemed happy. When I got close to them, they weren’t at all afraid of me. If I had had something to feed them, they would have eaten right out of my hand.
I sat on the bed, looking at myself in the round mirror on the dresser. Wait a minute, I thought. I don’t have to go back to that place or any other place like it. I can do to myself what I did to the others.
I pointed at my reflection in the mirror and turned myself into a pigeon. I flapped my wings on the bed to try them out. From the bed I jumped to the floor and then to the window ledge. There were three pigeons already there to greet me. They knew I was somebody they had never seen before, so they were curious about where I had come from. After introductions were made, they were all eager to show me around the city.
Copyright © 2016 by Allen Kopp