Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sometimes I Wake Up Questioning My Sanity by Sally Weigel

Sometimes I Wake Up Questioning My Sanity
by Sally Weigel

Sometimes I wake up questioning my sanity. Like the other day, for example, I awoke from a dream where giraffes were dying their fur brown while carrying machine guns in their hand. And yesterday, I dreamt that I was on death row, looking to my second grade teacher to confess my innocence. I sat in the electric chair, without a single drop of sweat running down my forehead. Instead, I concentrated intently on an itch that strained all mental capacity. It sat right on my back, with no potential to scratch. I woke up more tired than when I had gone to bed, worrying about my mental state.

It’s not just that. There is an intense pain in my right index finger that sends a vibrant shock up to my shoulder. Every time I walk upstairs to do laundry, my hip feels out of junction with the rest of my body. And sometimes, I find myself completely lost in my Montana home even though I have never moved. The kitchen table has been set with flowered china, and there are always dishes piled up in the sink. I try to close my eyes and breath in the feint smell of a cooked dinner but it’s just not there. I turn the lights off and avoid the room completely, stubbing my toes when I go in to get a glass of milk from the unfamiliar fridge. Suffice it to say, I think I am dying.

So the other day, I sat down in my living room, staring out the window at the Montana emptiness. Holding a pen in my left hand afraid to strain my index finger, I made a list of the things I want to do before I die. It was a short list, mainly because I knew there was not a whole lot of time.

1 – Cheese fries. I want to try cheese fries.
2 – Meet a politician cop that I can respect.
3 – Find the best piece of literature ever written.

The next morning, I called my friend May Atwood, whose husband owns a motorcycle. “Haven’t seen you since mass last Sunday. What do ya say we get together?”

“That sounds great. I’m completely free today.”

“Jim owns a motorcycle, doesn’t he?” I felt myself blurt out the pointed question. “Say, let’s give it a spin. When’s the last time we took a trip on that thing? I haven’t seen the sun set at Mount Douglas in years,” I pleaded, although knowing quite well I just needed a way out of this town if I wanted to get my hands on some cheese fries.

Being the doll that she is, May agreed and picked me up. She rolled up in one of those bikes with handlebars real high, and I hopped on while we set off in the wind. I felt just like Peter Fonda in “Easy Rider” except that May and me were two aging women with grey hair and a helluva slow metabolism. For the first time, I took a long inhalation with a fervent desire for the air to touch every one of my dying cells. I decided not to look back, just straight forward at the unchanging terrain.
“I wouldn’t want to be driving through any other place,” May yelled to me with a yelp. If she had looked back at me, she would have seen a feint look of disagreement in my face. If we weren’t in this barren land, we would have seen a burger joint in no time. Instead, there was flat land that tempted me, yelling for me to take my clothes off and dance with May underneath the starlit sky.

Two hours into the ride, I saw a rundown diner with two pickup trucks in the drive. I tapped May on the shoulder asking, “You hungry? I sure am.”

I got off the motorcylce real quick and walked straight into the greasy fast food joint. A teenage boy resided behind the counter, as he flicked his bangs out of his eyes when looking up at me. My legs weak with anticipation, I asked him slowly and clearly, “Have any cheese fries?”

“Cheese fries?” he asked while squinting at me, “No, I’m afraid not. But we could melt some cheese and put it with your fries.”
My heart sank.

“Oh there is no need to do that,” I said, turning around before May walked through the door.

“I thought you were hungry,” she remarked.

“Oh this place is trash,” I said because if I was going to do this then I was sure as hell going to do it right. We hopped back onto the bike and drove on ahead, crossing into Wyoming .

“Think we should head on back?” I ask May as I see the shadow of the sun start to lower.

“Hell, I could keep going for days.”

“May, I think we should go back. We can’t just keep going and going.”

“Oh, I could” she mumbled but her words got lost behind the muffle of the bike. I continued to focus on that teenage boy behind the counter with his indifferent glare. What was I thinking, looking for cheese fries? Maybe I was going about this all wrong. Life is not a checklist. Still, I decided that I must carry on.

And that’s when I saw it! A car sitting still in the middle of the highway between north and south bound traffic. Its lights were off. A gold star painted on the car’s white door twinkled while catching the sun’s glare.

“Hey, May, why don’t we see what this baby can do!”

She revved up the engine, and I glanced at the speedometer as it read 98 mph as we passed the cop car. Sure enough, the police officer, presumably giddy after spotting someone speeding, raced after us, turning the sirens on loud. The siren’s pitch fell flat in the empty valley. May pulled over, not the least bit flustered. I sat with uncontained anticipation, even more than when I had walked into the run down, disappointment of a restaurant. I thought for sure this was one of those fated signs that make you feel small and hopeful.

May lowered her sunglasses at the officer.

“Miss, do you know fast you were going?” he asked in a stern voice. His uniform hung tightly on his belly. He had a handsome face, with the dark-featured look of a young Marlon Brando.

“Oh for god’s sake, we’re in the middle of nowhere,” she said. “I haven’t seen another car in thirty minutes.”

“Miss, I’m going to need to see your license and registration.”

She stares at him without speaking. “For god’s sake, officer,” she repeated, “I left it at home.”

“And where is that?”

“In Montana.”

While May gave the young man her information, I sat quietly in the back. I wanted to ask if he had children that he would cut off a leg and arm for. I wanted to know if he was a man of literature or collected old records or stopped working his work shift to watch the orange tempestuous hues of the sunset.

“I’m sorry miss but I need that license. I am going to have to right up two tickets. Consider yourself lucky. I could be writing you up for three, seeing as you’ve crossed state lines.”


You know what most people mutter under their breaths? Well, May says them aloud. I swear, she scared the shit out of that goody two shoes, play by the rules, son of a bitch.

“I hope your grandmother’s dead and gone,” she remarked. “I hope she’s in heaven, watching you write up two elderly, law-abiding, tax paying citizens for having a little fun. For feeling the breeze and not harming a single soul in the process. I hope she’s watching.” He gave us the tickets real quick to quiet May up, and sped toward Wyoming, getting home quicker than we came. Saying goodbye, I gave May a kiss on the cheek and realized we did not say much at all on our excursion.

“Hey May,” I call to her from my porch, “Remember when we met behind the bleachers at high school football games? Remember those awful boys we had crushes on?”

“I sure do. I can’t believe it took us so long to realize how tiring it was to listen to those boy’s horrible jokes. Finally, we realized our nights were better spent inside painting our nails and listening to beach boy records.”

As I watched May leave, I realized no one can come close to someone whom you’ve known your whole life. To someone whom you see and the smell of nail polish resonates. To someone who knows your mother and your family’s only dog. To someone who knows that deep down, you’ve always wanted to be a musician even though you’ve never picked up an instrument. To someone who knows and understands and will remember.

I waved to her as she rode off in the dark ahead, and I sat on my porch enveloped in the silence that follows me most days. Night had fallen. It’s the kind of night so dark a light bulb is only glimmer, so silent the crickets make a melody, so cold that no one would know its summer.

“Goodbye May,” I whispered to myself knowing she is long gone. Sure, the trip was a bust. No cheese fries. No respectable cop. As for the best piece of literature, I would definitely have to say it would be this one. Its really okay, though because you know what? Not once did I feel like I was dying and that’s the hardest way to go out.

Author bio:

Sally Weigel currently lives in Chicago, IL where she spends her time as a student, hoping to disprove her parent's theory that a bachelor's degree in English will leave her unemployed. While in the city, she enjoys reading Nelson Algren, brushing her teeth, and riding her bike. Her most recent work has been published with Unlikely 2.0 and Apt.

No comments: